May 30, 2011

CEO Takeshi Hakamada Talks to Evadot

Takeshi Hakamada, the CEO of White Label Space Japan, gave this interview podcast for Evadot.

In the interview Takeshi answers questions on topics including the meaning behind the name 'White Label Space' and the team's upcoming activities in Japan.


May 29, 2011

More Video From the Rio Tinto Field Trials

This video carries on from our earlier video from Rio Tinto and shows White Label Space team members Andrea Gini and Carmen Felix testing some concepts for rover operations and cooperative robotics on planetary surfaces.

Although the Rio Tinto event focuses on simulations of Mars missions, there are many common challenges with moon missions such as ours for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. White Label Space will continue to make use of such opportunites to test our hardware as it is developed.

May 28, 2011

How Big is Your Team?

One question has been bugging me for a long time. How do you quantify the 'size' of a team of volunteers preparing a mission to send a robot to the moon?

Scroll down to the bold highlighted sentence about half way down this post if you want to see the first real answer to this question!

The difficulty in giving a good answer is that members come and go over time, and the amount of effort any individual puts in depends on many factors - how busy their day job is, whether they live near to other team members, births of their children, how motivated they are, whether they have skills that we can make effective use of, etc.

What I already knew is that over 240 people have contacted us, sending their resume asking how they can help the White Label Space team. In most cases we were able to assign them to a sub-team or give them a specific task to work on, however that still leaves the problem of keeping track of all those distributed members. So I decided to do a little survey..

The graph below summarizes responses to a survey of the 40 most active team members of White Label Space. I've asked each member to estimate how many hours they put into the team over the last 12 months. (The results are still coming in, so this post might be updated in the future)

As expected for any volunteer project, the distribution of efforts forms a Long-Tail Distribution, with a minority of the members putting in large amounts of effort but a lot of members putting in a small effort. From the 24 members who answered so far (and more answers are expected to come in), the efforts ranged from 816 hours to 0 hours, the latter being a brand new member.

The total effort over the last year was 4906 hours, which corresponds roughly to 2.4 standard full-time working years.

Thus, if we were a normal company, it would still be a rather small one (although 2.4 full-time employees is nothing to sneeze at!). However, in such analysis one should also consider the value that comes from having such a large number of people involved, each bringing their own experience and network to the team, not to mention the fact that they are distributed across more than 10 different countries.

Considering this, it's no surprise that White Label Space has been a strong performer in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) so far. Our team at Tohoku University is making excellent progress on a fully functional rover prototype, and our Netherlands-based members have built a very realistic and attractive mock-up of the lander, which was deployed at the recent Mars analog field trials in Rio Tinto. Aside from this, we are making steady progress on a realistic and affordable engineering design of our GLXP mission and our Japan Office is preparing some exciting activities that promise to engage a huge audience in that very important and technologically advanced country. Finally, we now have a team of video editors in place making professional video content to communicate our work to the world, engaging potential sponsors and partners.

So don't take quantified answer to the blog post (2.4) too seriously. This team is showing what's possible when 100% pure passion is your rocket fuel and motivation is your oxidizer!


May 24, 2011

Rover Prototype Update

The team at Tohoku University are making steady progress on the construction of the rover prototype. The picture below shows the suspension integrated to the body frame.

The wheels are now being made from acyclic polymer tube and will be attached next week.

Probably due to the Sendai Earthquake, there have been some serious delays with the manufacturer of the new camera and the laser range finder, but the delivery of those components is expected next month.

First demonstrations of the rover prototype are scheduled for July, with some significant software progress by September. The rover will be ready to perform a mock-GLXP mission on Earth by the end of this year.

Work will then continue through 2012 on the rest of the software, navigation strategies, verification of the wheel configuration and installation of all electronic systems.


May 21, 2011

Official Fan Meeting to be Held in Tokyo

Do you want to be part of a revolution in private sector lunar exploration?

Nine months after the official White Label Space kick-off event in Japan, the team has reached the end of the planning phase and its spectacular moon mission is about to get underway.

This event will begin with an overview of the team's activities, and then move into an open discussion where everyone is free to interact with the team members, exchanging opinions and ideas or to ask questions about mission. Splinter meetings on specific themes will also be held. The aim of the discussions is to formally adopt the team's mission plan.

Share your ideas, take responsibility and be part of a unique team as it undertakes the first ever open space development. This is a once in a liftetime chance to see dreams becoming reality!

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a race for unmanned lunar exploration with US$30 million in prize money sponsored by Google. The competition involves 29 official teams from 18 countries, and White Label Space is the only team in Japan. In addition to aerospace engineering professor Kazuya Yoshida of Tohoku University, the team also includes professionals in PR and advertising and management consultanting, as well as young researchers working in diverse fields of the arts and sciences. So to attend this event you are not expected to be a rocket scientist or astrophysicst - creative contributions are sought from everyone!

Please join us at this participatory event and become part of the new wave of open space development!


Google Lunar X PRIZE Team Official Fan Meeting in Japan
An official fan event for the Japanese team participating in the US$30 million competition for robotic lunar exploration.

Date and Time: (to be confirmed)
Saturday, June 4th, 2011
Doors open: 17:30
Start: 18:00
End: 20:30

Address: 3 1-chome, Koto Ward, Tokyo
(Five minute walk from Yurikamome Station)

GLXP overview and introduction of the activities of the mission team. Participants can exchange ideas freely with other members and questions and ideas unmanned lunar exploration mission. Thematic group discussions will also be held.

Takeshi Hakamada, CEO of White Label Space Japan
Other key members of the team will also be on hand for questions and discussions

Advance tickets ¥2,000
Tickets at door: ¥2,500
(Food and drinks are provided for an additional ¥600)

Admission is strictly limited to available seating according to numbered tickets.
Food and drinks will be served during the event, but billed seperately (beer ¥600,soft drinks ¥390



May 18, 2011

Rio Tinto 2011 Final Report Available Online

The Austrian Space Forum (OEWF) has published their final report of the 2011 Rio Tinto Mars Analog event, inlcuding conclusions from the White Label Space team.

You can view the report by clicking on the document image below:

White Label Space would like to thank the OEWF for organising a fantastic event and we look forward to cooperating on even bigger and better things in the future!


May 14, 2011

Team Member Interviews from Rio Tinto

This video taken during the Rio Tinto field trials shows some of the difficulties of doing outdoor testing. The video includes interviews with the two team members who were responsible for the White Label Space activities, Carmen Felix and Andrea Gini. Thanks should also go to the new team member Vasco Nunes who provided assistance.

Rover Supplier - Ono Denki

Ono Denki (denki being Japanese for "electronic") is known well among the Japanese robotic community and has produced several prototypes for leading researchers.

In mid-January 2011 White Label Space asked Ono Denki to produce the suspension sub-assembly of the team's prototype rover, currently under development at Tohoku University's Space Robotics Laboratory. The work was delayed by the Sendai Earthquake which affected certain parts suppliers, but Ono Denki successfully completed hardware by the 11th of April. The final delivery and inspection took place during a visit by WLS Chairman Dr Andrew Barton and Professor Yoshida of Tohoku University, who is responsible for developing the team's rover.

The photo (left) shows the suspension sub-assembly that Ono Denki produced. The body of the rover interfaces to the block in the middle. The rest of the rover prototype is now being integrated and WLS will hold an unveiling ceremony in mid-2011.

Ono Denki was founded in 1938 and has a long history. The company's CEO is Mr. Ono (pictured right). He is the third generation of his family responsible for the business. A key strength of Ono Denki is the capability to support the entire process from design, machining, assembly, board, wiring, and software development all the way through to final testing and evaluation. The company has several engineers specialized in each of those phases. Thanks to the close communication among engineers involved in each process, Ono Denki provides very high quality to its customers.

Ono Denki has also provided space development-related equipment for JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) and many others. In 2010 in an article by Diamond Weekly, a popular business magazine in Japan, Ono Denki's activities in the space industry were highlighted.

A common belief in Japan these days is that that small companies are in danger of disappearing due to a lack of people interested in carrying on the business. This leads to a fear that the nation's technology level will get suffer due to the loss of know-how. However, steady stream of excellent young engineers who are receiving guidance and mentoring from skilled personnel ensures that Ono Denki will continue to thrive into the future.


May 9, 2011

Greatest Space Ads - Renault Staff Prepared for Mars

In 2010 Chevrolet's ad compared its newest model to the golden time of American rocket science. In 2011, on the other side of the Atlantic, Renault is training its scientists for Mars!!

Although the video is in French, below is very good description of the add provided by the website EnjoySpace;

"The French car manufacturer Renault has already used the space exploration theme by showing its Megane on the Moon, not to mention a Clio that attempted to blast off like a space shuttle. This time, it promotes the merits of its special offers for March by showing that its employees have undergone training for Mars (a play on words as the word for the planet and the month are the same in French!). In the advertisement ... you will notice the numerous allusions to well-established stereotypes from the space industry and, more particularly, the training with a centrifuge, a pool for spacewalks and a simulator. Worthy of note towards the thirtieth second of this commercial is the clear allusion to the great classic “The Right Stuff” with the men and women from Renault walking towards the camera against a white background just like the astronauts from Mercury in the 1983 film. Then, in the next shot, don’t miss the Renault building obviously inspired by NASA’s symbolic VAB at the Kennedy Center in Florida!"


May 4, 2011

Behind The Scenes of WLS at Rio Tinto

This video shows some of team's activities before and after the Rio Tinto Field Trials in April. The first part of the video shows the disassembly of the lander mock-up and packing in the shipping box. The second part of the video shows the unpacking of the mock-up after the shipping container returned from Rio Tinto.

May 2, 2011

ESA Article on Rio Tinto Field Trials

The ESA website has just published this great post about the recent Rio Tinto field trials. This photo shows our White Label Space lunar lander mock-up in the background along with ESA's Eurobot rover being driven by an astronaut a Mars spacesuit prototype by the Austrian Space Forum (OEWF).

Andrea Gini

Andrea Gini, who formerly conducted a student project with White Label Space, has now joined the team as a permanent member. Andrea will be responsible for the integrated testing of the rover and lander. For this work he will call upon his experience working on the rover control software at Tohoku University in Japan as well as his role supporting the field testing of the lander mock-up last month in Rio Tinto, Spain.

Andrea is an IT professional with a long experience in journalism and communication of science. Andrea is Chairman of the IAASS Information and Communication Committee, and chief editor of the association newsletter.

He collaborated for over 10 years with, the major Italian web portal on the Java language, and with Imola Informatica, an IT consulting company, as an IT consultant and as a teacher in corporate IT training. He wrote over 50 technical articles on various IT related topics, is and coauthor of two successful books on the Java language, which have been used in corporate and academy training.

Andrea holds an MSc from the International Space University at Strasbourg (MsC 2010), a Master in Science Communication from International School for Advanced Studies (2009) and an MSc in Computer Science from Università degli Studi Milano Bicocca (MSc 2005).