Dec 30, 2010

First look at the WLS rover solar array

The first look at the WLS rover's solar array comes courtesy of our newest team member, John Walker, an engineer who's decided to chase his dream of working in the space industry.

Jump to the end to see the solar array pics

Six months ago, John was working throughout Canada as a consulting engineer, machine designer and project manager in the railroad, lumber and food production industries.

Now, after attending the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France, he he's been tasked with designing the rover's solar panels and modelling the optics of the camera system,under the supervision of Kazuya Yoshida at Tohoku University's Space Robotics lab.

Welcome to WLS, John. First up, why the move into the space industry?
As a child I wanted to go to space or at least help send people and things into space. After graduation in 2005, I was offered a "normal" job and did not pursue the space industry. I never stopped dreaming about it though, and when I was given a chance to attend the International Space University this past summer, I did not hesitate to go. It's an exciting time to move into the space industry; private companies are gaining new capabilities every day and making space more accesible.

How is working at WLS different from what you've done in the past?
It is fantastic working on something that I am passionate about, and I learn something new every from the people in different fields that I work with.

Are you just with us until the end of your internship? Where do you hope to end up with this change in career path?
I plan to continue working with WLS after my internship. Right now I am applying to positions in the industry as well as aerospace engineering graduate programs.

Are there any special considerations for solar panels that need to operate on the lunar surface?
Yes, there are several aspects of the design that need to be optimized, but they are in conflict with each other. Weight, power output, panel position and radiative cooling ability are parameters that "fight" each other. In addition, the parameters behave very differently at different times of the lunar day.

What about the camera system? What kind of problems do you have to overcome?
We are developing models to simulate the 360 degree panoramic image now. It looks like it will work very will without moving parts. The problem we are solving right now is the exact placement of the main camera and camera mirror. We are using the camera to see the rover itself as well as the landscape. There are trade-offs between visibility of these two things, and between the rover's field of vision and pixel density. Fortunately, we have freedom in the mirror design to give a large field of view, that is also high-resolution in key areas.

UPDATE from John
The camera height and solar panel size have been optimized, and the detailed design of the solar panel mechanism is underway so that prototype panels can be manufactured in spring.

Simulation of the 360 panorama view from the rover's camera, before processing

The solar panels in stowed configuration (for flight)

The solar panels in deployed configuration

Dec 14, 2010

Good for SpaceX, good for all

In a big year for space exploration, the first ever successful return of privately owned spacecraft from orbit has probably slipped unfairly under the mainstream media radar.

What with asteroid exploration, water on the Moon, habitable planets and solar storms to contend with, a three-hour orbit and subsequent spalshdown of an unmanned capsule might seem relatively ho-hum in 2010.

But for private space exploration companies, the success of SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster and launch and retrieval of the Dragon capsule last week could be just the spark the fledgling industry needs.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has put his money where his mouth is, and he's got a lot of it, having also founded PayPal and Tesla Motors.

He started SpaceX with $100 million of it in 2002, recognising the ability of privateers to deliver low-cost solutions for space agencies, claiming most of the savings would come from cutting bureaucratic expenses.

Eight years and $2.4 billion in NASA contracts later, Musk is doubling his workforce every year to keep up with the demand.

Obviously, it helps if you've got a couple of billion under your belt to play with, but any success of any private organisation is good news for the industry as a whole.

If SpaceX continues its run of successes, confidence in privateers grows. With that comes increased opportunities for other privateers as space agencies around the world recognise the benefits of contracting out almost every aspect of their space programs.

Confidence at SpaceX is growing, too. "This has really been better than I expected," Musk said after the retrieval. "It's actually almost too good."

Universe Today reports they're so pleased with Dragon's success that they're keen to skip several demonstration flights of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) vehicle and aim straight at the International Space Station. Their biggest NASA contract is a 12-mission one to carry supplies to the ISS as soon as the space shuttle program is wound up in April next year. NASA's reportedly a touch nervous about SpaceX's enthusiasm to get on with the job, but maybe they won't have a choice.

It's pure coincidence, but the irony of SpaceX's success at the same time the space shuttle Discovery was being pulled off the launch pad due to a string of failed attempts to fix cracks associated with its fuel tanks won't be lost on NASA and other government space agencies around the world watching on.

The success of SpaceX is exactly that - it's success. Musk's team continue to deliver while others fall by the wayside. The supply of contracts for the COTS program turned into something of a debacle, with several teams that won initial contracts - big contracts - losing them after failing to secure sufficient private backing.

In March, the other team left to share the COTS contract with SpaceX, Orbital, will launch its Cygnus spacecraft with the Taurus II rocket.

They might be the competition for anyone trying to crack the private space industry, but here's hoping they can replicate the achievements of Musk and Co. It's not like there's not enough space to go around out there.

Dec 8, 2010

Rover round-up - The $11.5m bean-bag wheels

What price a pair of lunar wheels? Try $US11.5m.

At least, that is if the rover has been ordered by the Canadian Space Agency and you been tasked to tackle the terrain of the Moon and Mars.

It's a hefty chunk of GLXP prizemoney, but this $US11.5m rover has no ordinary wheels, either.

McGill University mechanical engineering professor Peter Radziszewski and his team plan to base the wheels on a model they're calling the "i-ring".

It's a fabric wheel filled with particulate and it's caught the eye of the CSA for its ability to help rovers climb obstacles larger than their individual wheels.

It’s “like a (metal) bean-bag wheel,” Prof Radziszewski told the Star.

That also means it can travel at higher speeds than a rubber or pneumatic tyre, which bounce easily, or solid wheels, which can turn a rover over on impact.

The "bean-bag" wheels conform with shapes they come into contact with and have superior climbing ability, Prof Radziszewski said.

Dec 6, 2010

WLS lander model revealed soon

MORE volunteers on board this week at White Label Space, with Marco van Duijn, a stress engineer with international aerospace experts AOES Group BV, offering to help build a full-size mock-up of our GLXP lander.

Marco's an excellent example of the quality of volunteers attracted to WLS's effort, without which none of what the team is trying to achieve would be possible.

The model of the WLS lander will be finished within a few weeks. Stay tuned for more details and pics as soon as they're available.

Welcome to WLS, Marco. How did you come to join the team?
I know Andrew Barton since he joined AOES. I know of this project due to a presentation he gave about the Google Lunar X-Prize.

Where are you based?
I am based in AOES headquarters in Noordwijk (south of Holland).

What kind of work have you been involved in recently?
I have been involved in projects like Pal-V (FE analysis of the rotor blade connection), Fuselage Design Optimization (non-linear FE analysis, FP7-project), LAPCAT 2 (structural layout FE analysis, FP7-project) and Proba-V (thermo-elastic analysis).

What role will you play in building the mock-up?
There is no real role; we have a short consultation meeting with Aad Eggers/Andrew Barton about what to be done and what should be done in a later stage. After that we act as a team to physically build the mock-up, like drilling holes and attach panel to the structure with bolts and nuts.

What interests you most about the project?
I like to help people in general and besides that, this real physical work is a nice and welcome variation to my daily work which mainly consists of building and analysing FE models with help of computers.

When will you start building/complete the mock-up?
I have already started to build the mock-up and to my latest understanding it should be finished at around mid-December 2010 due to a planned photo shoot of the mock-up.

Why is it being built?
It is being built to show its geometry and sizing; we are then able to see how things are arranged on the inside and outside of the lunar lander.

How do you hope to stay involved with WLS after it's completed?
I hope to stay in touch with many other people involved in this project!

Dec 2, 2010

On rovers and a space-faring future

A key element in White Label Space's bid for the GLXP lies in the strength of its global relationships.

Nathan Britton's journey to becoming system engineer for the WLS rover has taken him from the University of Hawaii to the International Space University in France.

Currently, he's in Japan as a research student at Tohoku University Space Robotics Lab.

In this interview with WLS-Japan CEO Takeshi Hakamada, Nathan talks about the challenges he faces in balancing the needs of the rover and his hopes for a future in which space habitation is not only possible, but essential.

"It's pretty clear that the way we live our lives today is unsustainable," he tells Takeshi.

"It's going to require a huge shift in how civilisation works in order to become a space-faring civilisation but I think it's pretty obvious that in order for us to meet our potential as a species we need to push out and start utilising resources from the solar system - starting with the Moon."

Watch the full interview below

Nov 30, 2010

Rover roundup - Chang'e 3 gets a launch pad

Latest news of lunar rover attempts outside of the Lunar X Prize

China has set its date to land a man on the Moon.

Well, several dates, depending on who you want to listen to.

It could be just 15 years away, according academic Ye Peijan from China Aerospace Science and Technology, but China expects it to happen by 2030 at the latest.

They're taking a slow, steady approach, which has so far been a successful one.

On November 8, CNSA announced its second orbiter Chang'e 2, successfully entered a 100km working orbit.

Chang'e 3 will launch in 2013 (Xinhua)

Now it's Chang'e 3's turn. Yesterday, the project's top boffin Ouyang Ziyuan announced the mission to put China's first rover on the Moon would launch from the Wenchang Launching Base in Southern China's Hainan Province.

Prof Ziyuan is a strong believer in the possibilities offered by the Moon's mineral supplies, particularly lunar helium-3, which he believes holds one of the keys to developing nuclear fusion power plants.

Chang'e 3 is the lunar-lander and rover that he hopes will dig for and return soil samples. The rover was finished last year and will be launched in 2013.

It can transmit video in real time and travel at 100m per hour, with the ability to climb hills and avoid obstacles.

According to China's Xinhua news agency, it will be launched from a Long March 3B vehicle and land in the Sinus Iridium (Bay of Rainbows).

Nov 28, 2010

Be part of the space race: Sponsor White Label Space!

If you really want to be part of the next space race then an easy, in-expensive and rewarding way is to sponsor White Label Space.

Space has long been the domain of government space agencies, funded by tax payers, yet now is the time for privately sponsored and funded ventures to go back to the moon, explore the solar system and reach for the stars. As an added bonus, sponsoring White Label Space is a donation and therefore Tax Deductible in many countries.

White Label Space recognises that we all have different budgets, so please slot yourself into one of these affordable options:


Nov 16, 2010

Lunar Numbat's TED debut

There are few better ways to spread the word about the achievements of the White Label Space team than through a TED event.

Last month, Australians were treated to TEDxCanberra - an ideas forum based on the original premise of the Technology Entertainment and Design events that began in the US in 1984.

Lunar Numbat team leader Marco Ostini was invited to speak at the inaugural event

Scroll down to jump straight to the video of Marco's presentation

The Australian team is tasked with, among other things, developing the throttle control technology that will hopefully see the WLS Lunar Lander descend safely to the surface of the moon.

In typical TED style, speakers are given between three and 18 minutes. Marco used his to tell those gathered in the Australian capital "Why the world needs a Lunar Numbat".

(FYI - a numbat is an Australian marsupial that suffers from a lack of publicity in its home country. Marco's team have adopted it as a fitting mascot.)

In a nutshell, he squeezed in a wide range of issues, such as:

- Why space science is essential for ongoing human life and the maintenance
of life on Earth

- How space science has stagnated from where it should be, but latent
desires in many, such as those harnessed by the GLXP, can lead to a
reflowering of risk-taking and innovation

- White Label Space being the only team with significant Australian
presence and their development of one the most well thought out and credible
missions ready for actions

- How sponsoring the WLS Lunar mission would derive a lot more prestige
and marketing clout than the average Formula 1 race; and

- How Lunar Numbat hope to bring Open Source innovations to
space science by supporting WLS.

It's a great get for the Aussie team. The inaugural Canberra event sold out in 48 hours and Marco was invited to share his ideas alongside futurists, leading climate change experts, magicians and even the current Australian of the Year.

Check out the video of his speech in full below:

Nov 12, 2010

Peter Farquhar

Peter Farquhar is White Label Space's lead blogger.

A journalist with 12 years experience across newspapers, magazines and websites, his current role is Technology Editor of Australian website

Peter's first mission at News was the addition of a Sci-Tech section to ensure an increasing flow of space-related articles had a home.

"Even so, it's been hard to keep up in 2010," he said. "We've never pushed the boundaries of space exploration faster. Every day delivers an incredible new discovery."

Being able to work with the WLS team is as daunting as it is exciting for Peter.

"The breadth of experience the WLS team has pulled together from across the globe is an amazing achievement in itself," he said.

"There's a lot of stories to tell here. I'm looking forward to it."

Although he has followed the progress of the Lunar X PRIZE since its inception, Peter was particularly drawn to the strong Australian presence at WLS.

"We're lagging well behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to having any form of an official space agency, yet we've still got people determined to be at the top of the game," he said.

"Any opportunity to be show Australian kids they can still get involved in the race to space is worth pursuing."

Peter's favourite space celebrity of 2010 is ZombieSat, with a tip of the hat to US space plane, the X-37B.

You're welcome to contact him with news or feedback anytime at;


Announcing the Chief Blog-O-Naut

Last month White Label Space issued a call for a blog-o-naut, to lead our blogging efforts. A number of very good candidates responded and after much deliberation we finally selected Peter Farquhar for this role.

Peter is a journalist with 12 years experience across newspapers, magazines and websites, his current role is Technology Editor for the Australian website He will use his professional experience to help us tell our story to the world, as we look for sponsors to support our ambitious moon mission.

To support Peter, we are currently putting together a team of dedicated and talented individuals to work on specific publicity and promotion tasks including video production, social media and international translations.


Nov 10, 2010

Redaction: Test Launch Successful

After our last post we have received numerous emails from various parties claiming that they neither own or intend to use spy satellites for the purposes of spying on White Label Space.

We accept this fully & would like to state that the last post was intended as a joke & it was not the intension that the absurd content of the post be taken seriously. The celestial bodies were aligned in such a way yesterday that they induced "Moon fever" in a certain not to be named member of our team leading to a temporary loss of sanity & the pressing of the big red publish post button.

We also would also like to apologise to any parties that spent much of the night trying to track & identify our satellite in it's supposed retrograde Lower Earth Orbit.

Nov 7, 2010

Presentation at Waseda Festival

In an event today at Waseda University in Tokyo, Takeshi Hakamada, the CEO of White Label Space Japan, addressed students and members of the public about the team's Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) mission.

Below is a photo taken during the event, which was part of a Space 2.0 event that also included a talk by Japan's first space tourist, Noriaki Inami (the link points to his blog).

Takeshi Hakamada, together with other Japanese members of White Label Space, is operating a Japanese language blog that covers the team's activities for the Japanese audience.


Nov 1, 2010

Greatest Space Ads - Blackberry Brings Space to the Public

"Bringing the Space Age to the public using space age technology" - that's the message that BlackBerry gives in this ad featuring Neil Milburn from Armadillo Aerospace.

This ad is a straight-up technology brand linkage. Note also the more female-friendly segment of the add showing how the smart phone can be used for more everyday (but equally important) things.

Thanks to the X PRIZE Foundation for spotting this ad which is a great example for GLXP teams.

Oct 7, 2010

Blog-O-Naut Wanted!

Did you ever notice that astronauts are fantastic public speakers? There is a reason for that. Their nearly unique role as envoy of humankind makes astronauts the ideal medium to tell the public about the valuable and exciting work being done by the engineers and scientists in their space agencies.

Are you passionate about space?

Do you want to see the inner workings of a well-established team competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE?

White Label Space is urgently seeking an enthusiastic individual to help us tell our story. Your core activities will be blogging and youtubing using raw content created within the team. We need to keep up a steady steam of output to keep the public engaged so you will also bring to bear your skills at twitter and facebook.

If you think you have the right stuff, send us an email:

We are accepting applications until the end of October. We are interested to see any similar things you've done in the past. This is a volunteer role but with chances to move into a paid position later. All ages, genders and experience levels are welcome.


Oct 6, 2010

Whitelabelspace meetup in London - GLXP Summit debrief

Takeshi Hakamada Founder and Chief Executive Officer of White Label Space Japan, LLC met yesterday with Steven Allen Team lead of Whitelabelspace to discuss future collaboration. Amoungst topics discussed where the outcomes of the Google Lunar X PRIZE summit & new approaches to financing their global project. More news to follow after the full GLXP Summit debrief.

Oct 3, 2010

Message from the Team Leader

This message was written by Steve Allen, leader of the White Label Space GLXP Team, on the occasion of the 2010 GLXP Team Summit:

The Google Lunar X PRIZE was the primary catalyst for the formation of White Label Space but soon after the start it became apparent that this team was capable of far more than just one space competition project.

As the White Label Space team continues to grow globally, the GLXP mission has changed from a singular goal to a technology demonstrator for our team's capabilities, and today is a mere hint at where we plan to be in five years from now. Commercial space exploration is becoming a reality, no longer just the domain of state-sponsored space programs, and that's something that was unthinkable just five years ago.

GLXP will prove that a small dedicated team of talented passionate space enthusiasts can cheaply develop technology that will not only benefit the private space sector but also government space programs.

We owe it to future generations to commit to exploring the cosmos and setting up colonies on distant planets. It is a given that, at some point in the future, Earth will cease to support life as we know it and as Stephen Hawking so clearly points out, space exploration is the only hope left for the future survival of the human race.

The cost of sending exploratory missions to the nearest habitable planet are astronomical and that's why initiatives like the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition are so important for accelerating space technological innovation while driving down costs.

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a competition where in the end no one can lose. The winning team(s) will inspire a new generation of space farers and the other competitors will have knowledge/expertise that if managed correctly can be directly converted into profitable business. Space is not just the final frontier it's also the salvation of the human race.

Steve Allen was not able to attend the 2010 GLXP Team Summit but he sends his best wishes to all the competing teams and the X PRIZE Foundation.


Takeshi Hakamada

Takeshi Hakamada is leader of the White Label Space GLXP team and the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of White Label Space Japan, LLC.

He has dreamed of developing a commercial space industry since watching Star Wars in his childhood and later at University he became interested in the challenge of financial evaluation during the conceptual design phase.

He earned a Master of Science at Georgia Institute of Technology's Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory (ASDL), where he studied and researched the application of conceptual design methodologies to advanced aerospace systems. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Nagoya University.

Before joining White Label Space, he was a management consultant focusing on strategies and implementation of cost optimization for a variety of Japanese and international companies. He successfully led several projects for clients across many industries, assisting them to save costs.

He was also an organizer for the Yuri’s night Parties in Japan in 2008 and 2009.


Sep 20, 2010

White Label Space Japan Office is GO!

Tokyo, 20'th September 2010 - the White Label Space Japan Office made its official launch at the Tokyo Culture Club.

Key members of the Japan Office were present including Professor Kazuya Yoshida (pictured below), Takeshi Hakamada and Taro Asazuma. Video messages from Peter Diamandis and Andrew Barton were also played.

Guests of the event were also invited to try their hand at remotely writing Japanese characters on a simulated lunar surface (see below), inspired by the lunar zen garden concept developed by White Label Space team artist, Ayako Ono.

Japanese speakers can watch the UStream Video of the event (fast-forward to about 17:30 for the start of the presentations).


Sep 9, 2010

WLS Japan Office - Open For Business

The White Label Space team is proud to announce the establishment of our Japanese office.

Led by Takeshi Hakamada, the WLS Japan office will be responsible for coordinating the team's commercial and technical activities in Japan.

Japanese speakers can follow the progress of the new office via the Japanese language blog;

Sep 5, 2010

Leo de Bolster

Leo de Bolster is the propulsion engineer for the White Label Space team. He is a developer of rocket motors with over thirty years of hands-on experience in rocket motor engineering and testing.

He has developed a number of his own rocket designs based on non-toxic propellants including bipropellants, hybrids and solids. His developments are made in close cooperation with the Dutch Federation for Rocket Research (NERO) of which he has been a member since 1962.

After his technical school education, Leo worked for seven years in various diciplines in the aircraft industry. He then studied at the college for marine engineering in Rotterdam, after which he spent a period of six years sailing onboard various vessels. After retiring from his sailing career he founded MEROC Consultancy, a company specialized in mechanical engineering and rocket motor design, which he still owns and operates today.


Paper for IAC 2010

White Label Space team member, Juergen Schlutz, will present a paper at the upcoming International Astronautics Congress (IAC) 2010 in Prague. The paper is co-authored by a number of other team members and covers many technical and commercial aspects of the team's GLXP effort.

For those interested in attending the presentation, please follow the Session Details.

Below is the abstract.


This paper presents a lunar surface mission concept developed by the White Label Space team, an official competitor in the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The paper also presents a development roadmap for realizing the mission in a cost-effective and timely manner, as well as a long-term vision of the White Label Space team beyond the PRIZE. This work builds upon an earlier mission concept published by White Label Space members in December 2009, and provides the results of a quantitative study conducted during 2010. The quantitative study demonstrated the technical feasibility of the mission and the resulting system engineering budgets for the main driving parameters are reported. To maximize the appeal to potential sponsors and investors, the mission architecture and roadmap were designed to retire the key risks with minimum initial investments during the early stages of the mission's development. The team's long-term vision was developed to be synergistic with the latest international plans for planetary science and exploration, both public and private, thus providing an inspiration platform for potential sponsors.

Sep 3, 2010

Rover Prototype Design

A new student has joined the White Label Space team at the Tohoku University Space Robotics Lab in Japan. Jérémie Gaboriaud will be in charge of the CAD design of a prototype of the rover to be used in our mission for the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP).

The starting point for Jérémie's work will be the design configuration used for the recently completed project by Xavier Laurand on the rover's thermal design and analysis. From this starting point Jérémie will construct additional CAD models to examine different design options for the rover's various subsystems and equipment.

The rover prototype will initially be developed solely for operation on Earth. Its HD camera system, star tracker, and solar panels will provide new research opportunities for the Space Robotics Lab. Once the new test-bed is implemented, each subsystem will be assessed for space-flight readiness and suitability for operation in a lunar environment

Jérémie Gaboriaud is a French student currently studying mechanical engineering as part of a degree through apprenticeship at ICAM (Institut Catholique des Arts et Metiers) in Toulouse, France. His course requires him to undertake a half year internship in a foreign university and for this he chose to work at Tohoku Univeristy under the supervision of professor Kazuya Yoshida on the GLXP project.

Aug 30, 2010

Space Rover: Move Me With Your Touch

Andrea Gini and the Tohoku University Space Robotics Lab are pioneering the use of touchscreen technology for planetary exploration. This video of the Kaizen telerobotic control software shows the touchscreen interface in action, commanding the El Dorado II moon rover prototype on a trip through the lab.

We are already planning a smart phone version of the Kaizen software to give ordinary people the chance to take a turn driving our rover on the moon during our Google Lunar X PRIZE mission!

Credit to Kristhian Mason for the fantastic video editing work.

Andrea Gini developed the Kaizen software at Tohoku University as part of his  Masters of Science in Space Studies at the International Space University. Andrea is an Information Technology professional, with extensive experience in software design and education, working as a professional consultant and as a teacher in training and certification courses. He already has masters degrees in computer science and scientific journalism. This project was conducted at Tohoku University, the key partner developing the rover for our White Label Space mission in the Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Kaizen is a Japanese word composed of the words KAI (change) and ZEN (better). It refers to a philosophy of constant and never ending improvement in manufacturing, engineering, supporting business processes and management.


Aug 20, 2010

NASA Surveyor Programme – 1966-68 – Laying the Foundations for Apollo

In the 1960s America's NASA undertook the Surveyor programme, a series of robotic missions to land on the Moon for the purposes of science and technology development to support the Apollo program. The very first mission of the programme, Surveyor 1, successfully achieved a soft landing in an equatorial mare region of the Moon (Oceanus Procellarum). That was the very first American propulsive Lander on another planetary body and came just three years before the first human landing. In total six of the seven Surveyor missions successfully achieved soft-landings, which gave the United States a very solid technological basis for later propulsive landing missions to the Moon, Mars and Venus.

Surveyor 3 Spacecraft, Credit NASA

A large part of the success of the Surveyor programme can be attributed to the selection of a simple and reliable mission architecture that had a pragmatic and incremental approach to solving the most critical engineering challenges of the time, namely the closed-loop terminal descent guidance and control system, throttleable engines, and the radar systems required for determining the Lander’s altitude and velocity. The Surveyor missions were the first time that NASA tested such systems in the challenging thermal and radiation environment near the Moon.

Key features of the missions were the choice of wide flat landing areas, a two-stage design (the first stage using a solid motor for braking), and the use of a 'direct-descent' trajectory that did not enter Moon orbit before landing. The main advantages of this approach were the relatively simple design of the engines for the landing stage, and the fact that a complex precision landing system was not needed. In the years following Surveyor, NASA developed more advanced landing technologies building upon Surveyor's critical systems and components, as well as the lessons learned during the programme.

Embedded below is a detailed PhotoSynth of the Surveyor spacecraft at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., created by one of the White Label Space team members in 2008.

Aug 15, 2010

Lunar Numbat Leader Marco Ostini TEDx Talk

Marco Ostini will talk at TEDx on the 23rd of October in Canberra, Australia.

His talk titled "Seeking answers from spacebound marsupials" will explain how our partner Lunar Numbat is contributing to our brandless White Label Space mission, and why space science is good in general.

The abstract for his talk:

"As Project Leader and founder of Lunar Numbat, Marco Ostini is working to combine the vitality and innovation of Open Source technologies with Space Science; essential for the survival of humanity, yet floundering, generally misunderstood and inaccessible to most people. 

Lunar Numbat is a team of Australian and New Zealander volunteers using Open Source technologies and their skill to build mission-critical parts. These parts are needed to help their partner White Label Space win the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP); an international private competition to safely land a rover on the moon, travel more than 500 meters and transmit back high definition video and images.

Why go to the moon? It’s our companion world, our off shore island. Invariably when you learn about the moon, you learn about the Earth. In more ways than may seem self evident, they’re linked.
Along the way Lunar Numbat is helping the Australian Space Research Institute with AUSROC 2.5, and cooperating with others, all to further the goal of lowering the barrier to entry that surrounds Space Science, and expand the horizons of all people.

Space Science contains the answers to the questions we don’t yet realise we should be asking."


Aug 14, 2010

WLS Team Members Feature in Asia Times Article

The Asia Times interviewed two White Label Space team members, Andrew Barton and Kazuya Yoshida, for this article about how the recent plans for the joint Indian/Russian moon landing mission might impact the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP).

The image above is an extract, download the full article here: Part 1, Part 2.


Aug 2, 2010

Aad Eggers

Aad Eggers is the Secretary of the White Label Space Foundation.

Aad is an all-round engineer with extensive experience in the design/development of test facilities and test methodologies, and in the Assembly Integration and Testing (AIT) of complex spacecraft systems, subsystems and units.

In 1971 he graduated from the aeronautical engineering department of the Technische Hoge School in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Since then he has worked at a number of Dutch aerospace companies in roles encompassing many technical disciplines including mechanical, thermal and optical.

Highlights of his career have included developing the test equipment and breadboards for the European Robotic Arm (ERA), which is due to be installed on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2012 and development work on the Spacelab Airlock, a design that later flew successfully on 16 Space Shuttle missions.


Henri Kok

Henri Kok is the treasurer of the White Label Space Foundation.

Henri is the founding director of Euro Financieel AdviesCentrum, a Dutch company specialized in financial planning, mortgages, insurance, financing, pensions, (bank) savings, investments and tax advice.

He holds a Masters of Financial planning from Erasmus University and a Masters degree in Aerospace Engineering for TU Delft. Henri worked as a designer at Fokker Aircraft Industries from 1986 until 1996 when he started his career as a financial advisor.


Jul 24, 2010

Greatest (Inner) Space Ads - Rolex 50 Years of Underwater Heritage

Rolex released this video to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the deepest undersea voyage to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The 1960 deep sea mission by Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard included a specially designed Rolex watch called the "Deep Sea Special" strapped to the outside of the vessel. The depth reached during the mission was 10,915 meters (35,810 ft). At that depth the watch was subjected to over a thousand times atmospheric pressure.

But the dive was far from just a simple advertising stunt. Rolex engineers spent about ten years and suffered many setbacks to develop a watch design that could function at that extraordinary depth. The trials of the Deep Sea Special were also a central feature in Rolex's advertising campaigns for its Rolex Submariner product line (watches which incidentally have appeared in eleven James Bond movies!).

It's probably fair to say that that those efforts were a key building block of Rolex's elite brand image that has lasted till today... but what's next Rolex? Fancy taking a watch on a mission to the moon?

More details about the Deep Sea Special HERE.


Jul 22, 2010

New Partner Airborne Composites to Provide Advanced Composites for GLXP Mission


Airborne Composites to Partner with
White Label Space Team in $30 Million Google Lunar X PRIZE
Noordwijk – The Netherlands, 1 July 2010, today White Label Space announces its latest Partner, Airborne Composites B.V. 

Airborne is a developer of advanced composite products and technologies for space and other industries, and will provide lightweight high performance composite structures for White Label Space's no-name robotic mission to land on the moon.

White Label Space is one of twenty one teams around the world competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a competition for privately-funded teams to send a robotic mission to surface of the Moon and transmit a data package including photos and HD videos back to Earth.

With competences covering the full range of composite manufacturing techniques, as well as in-house engineering for product design and development, Airborne is an ideal partner for the White Label Space moon landing mission.

Image: Satellite CFEsat with 4 deployable panels built by Airborne, operational in orbit since March 2007

Minimizing the weight of space mission hardware is extremely important for mission success and this is especially true for Moon landing missions which require a very large change in velocity, or 'delta-V'. Advanced composite materials are an efficient and cost-effective way to make lightweight structures.

Sandor Woldendorp, Business Manager Space at Airborne, commented on the partnership: “Joining the White label Space team gives Airborne the opportunity to show our competences in design and build of composite structures for space applications. The Google Lunar X PRIZE offers a great challenge in terms of applying our space-proven composite technologies to fly on this moon exploration mission with White Label Space.”

Airborne is the ninth Partner to join the White Label Space team. The eight existing Partners include non-profit groups, private companies and universities. All the Partners bring unique and valuable capabilities to the White Label Space team.

About Airborne
Airborne Composites B.V. has business units in the Netherlands and Spain, where it develops and produces advanced composite products for a variety of markets including space, aeronautics, antennas, tubulars and machine components. Airborne operates state-of-the-art engineering and production facilities and has competences covering the full range of composites engineering development including technology research, product design, process engineering, qualification, maintenance and composite repair. The company turns innovative know-how into industrialized production, through integrated Design and Build programs and is dedicated to quality, customer satisfaction and cost-efficiency. In the rapidly evolving world of composites, Airborne is committed to developing new game-changing technologies, in materials, automated manufacturing processes and product design. []

About White Label Space
White Label Space joined the Google Lunar X PRIZE in May 2009 and is comprised of people from many nationalities, including England, Netherlands, Australia, United States, France, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Norway and Portugal. The team’s name originates from the concept of a “White Label” product which is a generic brand, developed by one company and then sold to another brand. White Label Space sees the Google Lunar X PRIZE as the beginning of the next wave of space exploration where the common person can become a contributor and not just a spectator. [

About the Google Lunar X PRIZE
The Google Lunar X PRIZE is an international competition organized by the X PRIZE Foundation, which previously ran the Ansari X PRIZE for suborbital space vehicles. The Google Lunar X PRIZE calls for privately-funded teams to compete in successfully launching, landing, and then traveling across the surface of the moon while sending back to Earth specified photo and other data. The PRIZE will award US$20 million to the first team to land a robot on the moon that successfully travels more than 500 meters and transmits back high definition images and video. There is a $5 million second prize, as well as $5 million in bonus prizes for challenges such as traveling long distances, photographing man-made objects on the Moon, detecting water ice or surviving a lunar night. The $20 million first-place prize is available until December 31, 2013, and then it drops in value to $15 million until December 31, 2014. []


Jul 17, 2010

Rover Thermal Analysis

Xavier Laurand, a Masters student at Cranfield University, is undertaking a Masters thesis project on the thermal design and analysis of the White Label Space moon rover under development for our mission in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP).

One of the major challenges on the moon is to deal with the wide range of surface temperatures that results from its lack of an atmosphere and its slow rotational speed. The extremely high infrared flux from the moon can be attributed the moon's surface properties, namely the low albedo, high absorbtivity and emissivity. Consequently the lunar regolith absorbs most of the sun's energy and reaches very high temperatures during the day. At night it emits a lot and cannot maintain its temperature for a long time. During cold periods, sufficient electric power is needed to maintain the electronics at a temperature high enough to survive. During high temperature periods, the radiators on the rover must be capable of rejecting enough heat to keep all electronic equipment within its functional limits. Even if the baseline mission requires operation only during the lunar day, the temperature range is extreme.

Xavier is using thermal analysis software based on the lumped parameter method to analyse the performance of the rover under its expected operating conditions. The picture below shows some of Xavier's analysis results for a non-flat terrain with high surface temperatures. His thermal analyses take into account both radiative and conductive effects.

An important thermal challenge of lunar surface missions is dealing with dust from the lunar regolith. Dust deposits can occur on the surfaces of the rover due to the landing, the natural deposition, meteorite impacts and roving. Since the thermal control subsystem can be impacted by these dust deposits (particularly on the radiator surfaces), Xavier is analysing their impacts and investigating design mitigation techniques.

Xavier is undertaking the MSc course in Astronautics and Space Engineering at Cranfield University. His project is being conducted in partnership with Tohoku University Space Robotics Lab, the lead partner for the team’s rover development. The lead thermal designer in White Label Space core engineering team, Martin Lemmen, is providing additional technical guidance for Xavier’s project.

Jul 16, 2010

Greatest Space Ads - Chevrolet Builds a Rocket Like in the Apollo Era

Chevolet has released this simple but effective ad linking their new 2011 Chevrolet Corvette with the heyday of American rocket science around the Apollo program.

The ad's slogan, "It's nice to know that America still builds rockets" is a clear reference to the current political debate about NASA's role in building the next generation of rockets (the types of rocket that fly into space that is). Timed to coincide with the signing of NASA's Reauthorization Bill, this ad is almost certainly attempting to go viral by bootstrapping on the publicity associated with this important point in NASA's history.

Jun 29, 2010

Three New Members for GLXP Rover Work at Tohoku University

Three new students have just started projects at Tohoku University to assist with the development of the moon rover for our mission to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP). Welcome all of you to the team!

Andrea Gini - is an Information Technology professional, with extensive experience in software design and education, working as a professional consultant and as a teacher in training and certification courses. He has a master's degree in computer science, a master in scientific journalism and is currently attending the Masters of Science in Space Studies at the International Space University in France. Andrea's project will be to develop software to monitor and tele-operate the rover.

Roxanne Cote-Bigras - is a candidate for the B.Eng. in Electrical Engineering with focus on robotics and artificial intelligence at Sherbrooke University, Canada. She is now conducting research on the GLXP rover vision and positioning system. Her previous experiences include domestic robot design and implementation, as well as software development. Her fields of interest are autonomous life-support systems, guidance and navigation of mobile robotic platforms and artificial intelligence applied to human-robot interactions. She is also an active and devoted IEEE member in her local chapter.

David Jacquot-Letellier - is an undergraduate student currently studying Telecommunication Engineering, with a focus on Multimedia Technologies - involving Image and Sound Processing and Computer Science. During the course of his studies, he worked on various Signal Processing and Programming projects and was a member of his university's Robotics Association. He will soon be assigned to one of the ongoing projects within the laboratory related to planetary rover missions.


Jun 28, 2010

New GNC Developments

White Label Space's new Guidance Navigation and Control (GNC) engineer, Dhanushka Chamara Liyanage, has kicked off an ambitious development of a GNC test vehicle. The vehicle (pictured right) is a quad rotor aircraft that will be used as a test bench for investigating some of the fundamental aspects of the decent and landing phase of our misson to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP).

The vehicle has a GNC sensor package including a 6 dof IMU containing 3 axis accelerometers, 3 axis gyros, two pressure sensors, 3 axis magnetometers, 3 axis temperature sensors and a built in GPS unit. The sensor package will provide raw data about all accelerations, rate outputs and position and Dhanushka will couple the sensor data stream with Simulink to refine the design of the control system.

Dhanushka has Bachelor of Science Honors Degree in Mechanical Engineering and is currently working as an industrial engineer in Gampaha, Sri Lanka.

Jun 4, 2010

Congratulations SpaceX - You Are an Inspiration!

June 4th, 2010 - SpaceX has successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket into low Earth orbit on the very first mission. The launch was broadcast live on the internet for all the world to see. The image below was snapped off the video published on the internet and shows the ignition of the rocket's second stage (click on image to watch video).

A brief timeline for the key events off the Falcon 9 development is shown below the image. Amazingly the complete development of the vehicle from the first public announcement to the first orbital insertion took less than 5 years - a pretty a darn impressive feat!

  • May 5, 2004 - Elon Musk testifies to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation stating that "Long term plans call for development of a heavy lift product..."
  • September 8, 2005 - SpaceX formally announces the Falcon 9 describing it as being a "fully reusable heavy lift launch vehicle"
  • April 12, 2007 - SpaceX announces it had completed the primary structure for its first Falcon 9 first-stage tank
  • October 17, 2007 – SpaceX announces successful completion of the Critical Design Review for the first Falcon 9 / Dragon mission under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program
  • July 31, 2008 - First successful multi-engine firing test of Falcon 9 first stage
  • January 2, 2010 - Successful full duration orbit insertion firing of the Falcon 9 second stage
  • March 9, 2010 - First static firing test of the first stage on the launch pad
  • June 1, 2010 - Successful completion of testing of the Flight Termination System
  • June 4, 2010 - Falcon 9 successfully launched on the second attempt of the day

Greatest Space Ads - Coke and Mentos Rocket Propulsion

Coke and Mentos have teamed up to produce this video showing a bunch of rocket scientists using their respective products as propellants for a human-carrying vehicle. Although the specific impulse is not as high as other more common rocket propellants this approach certainly gives impressive visuals! There is also a nice shot of the scientists looking up at the Moon at the end of the video.

Marketers are increasingly looking to these kinds of viral video ads as a cheap alternative to traditional media. Video sharing sites like YouTube make it possible to reach a very large audience at no cost beyond the production of the video itself.

At White Label Space we have also been looking at how we can use the new media approaches to fund our activities for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. We aim to provide our sponsors with unique advertising opportunities that convey fresh and exciting messages at a competitive price.