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FAA 2012 budget proposal includes space access prize

Speaking this morning at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Orlando, George Nield, the FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, announced that the FAA’s 2012 budget request includes $5 million for a space access prize. “I’m a big proponent of the value of prizes to stimulate innovation, so I’m pleased to announce that in the president’s 2012 budget request, he recommended that we receive $5 million for a Low Cost Access to Space Prize,” Nield said during a speech in the conference’s opening plenary. “We plan to work with both NASA and the DOD to discuss how best to implement this program, but I think our initiative has a lot of potential to benefit this crowd, so please stay tuned.”

The FAA budget request does indeed include a passage about this proposed prize (turn to page 144 of the PDF):

In addition, $5 million is requested to establish a program for incentivizing advancements in space transportation by non-governmental organizations. The Low Cost Access to Space Incentive would provide a $5 million award designed to jump-start the creation of an entirely new market segment, with immediate benefits to private industry, NASA, the Department of Defense, and academia. Consistent with the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, FAA shall consult widely both within and outside the Federal Government, in defining the scope and criteria for the competition. This program also supports the President’s Directive for “agencies to increase their ability to promote and harness innovation by using policy tools such as prizes and challenges.”

It wasn’t clear from Nield’s talk or the language in the budget request whether this prize will be orbital spaceflight, suborbital spaceflight, or both.

42 comments to FAA 2012 budget proposal includes space access prize

  • Would definitely like to hear more details about this as it becomes available! If this is $5M within the FAA, I wonder if NASA/DoD could provide matching funds via Centennial Challenges and DARPA Grand Challenges…

    ~Jon

  • amightywind

    The idea that inexpensive launch services are going to miraculously appear due to a pittance of a prize is laughable. Just like green energy fraudsters this feckless NASA leadership is reduced to a vague hope to be saved by ‘game changers’. It is just what we have come to expect from this unserious management group. Do not expect the prize to survive the budget process.

  • Major Tom

    “The idea that inexpensive launch services are going to miraculously appear due to a pittance of a prize is laughable.”

    Southwest Research Institute can now afford to buy its own suborbital rides on Virgin Galactic because of the $10M “pittance” (which was actually a $2M insurance bet) awarded by the Ansari X Prize.

    http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=32867

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1790/1

    “Just like green energy fraudsters this feckless NASA leadership is reduced to a vague hope to be saved by ‘game changers’. It is just what we have come to expect from this unserious management group.”

    Per Mr. Foust’s original post, it’s an FAA prize, not a NASA prize.

    Cripes…

  • Does abreakingwind ever get anything right?

  • Bennett

    @Rand

    Well, other than his screen name, no.

  • Ferris Valyn

    Rand
    I suppose we could ask him/her about the color of the sky, as a feel good prize

  • Michael from Iowa

    @Rand

    Mighty has the same reaction to anything that isn’t ‘The Great and Powerful Cx!’ (pay no attention to the unproductive money-sink behind the curtain).

    He comes across to me as the type of person who’d rather see the entire space program shut down than fly Direct or commercial or any other alternative to Ares/Orion.

  • DCSCA

    Another goofy gimmick. $5 million prize– roughly 42 cents of every dollar of it borrowed by the government.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 4:24 pm
    @Bennett wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    He’s right. Five million bucks — 42 cents of evert dollar borrowed by the government– is chump change and a tepid attempt to ‘win the future.’

  • James T

    Well… it’s not that I don’t like the idea, but $5m seems like a joke for anything space related. I do support prizes as a way to spur innovation though. I remember reading once (not going to browse for link as I’m on my Droid) that for a $2m prize 10 teams each spent $1m to try, meaning $10m of research was achieved for only $2m government spending.

  • Bennett

    So it’s actually a $7,500,000 prize? After figuring the cost of interest?

    Cool! Send out the revised press releases!

  • Bennett

    @Michael from Iowa

    Actually, he/she would like Direct. Anything sporting those big fuzzy ATK boosters is approved.

  • Commercial Space is one gigantic farce! It’s a complete fraud! It boggles my mind how & why the U.S. federal government would actually sink down low to the point of subsidizing these hobbyists, instead of leading the way. Those private companies are NOT going to make good on any of their promises!! Space travel via the entrepreneurial need to make a viable profit—-cannot & will not work! If commercial entities were really up to the task, they would’ve acheived something tangible by now. People have been harping about space entrepreneurism for thirty years now—ever since the Shuttle first successfully flew. Why hasn’t one company ever actually flown an astronaut to LEO even once, over the past three decades?? Why all the hype about them making good now? Why oh why does the government have to step “out of the way”, in order for private industry to finally launch somebody? This is a ludicrous state of affairs that the Obama White House has put this nation on!! Mr. Obama doesn’t deserve a second term, with all this damage that he has done to manned spaceflight! After the inevitable gigantic bailouts to these corporations, come the next half-decade—it is my sincere hope that the government will restore its former place in the space-flight business, and will restore the Orion CEV as a deep space transport vehicle. The Orion has the potential to be the American version of the Soyuz: a multiple purpose workhorse, that could be used as a Lunar orbital vehicle. All this will happen once a Republican makes it to the White House in January 2013.

  • Coastal Ron

    James T wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Well… it’s not that I don’t like the idea, but $5m seems like a joke for anything space related. I do support prizes as a way to spur innovation though.

    Let’s not forget that with the Ansari X Prize, $10 million was awarded to the winner, but more than $100 million was invested in new technologies in pursuit of the prize. And after that, Virgin Galactic started their sub-orbital business based on the technology that was developed by Scaled Composites (the winner). I think the American Taxpayer made back their money on that one.

    Or, the DARPA Grand Challenge, where 15 groups entered the first year for a prize of only $1M. The next year they upped it to $2M and attracted 195 applicants, with 40 teams being selected. Out of those, five teams finished, creating and proving new technologies that will help our future fighters, not to mention your future car.

    Competitions like these are popular not just for the relatively small amount of prize money, but for the opportunity for everyone to show off what they can do, not to mention the advertising aspects of the team sponsors, who end up footing a big part of the cost.

    The government risks little, for lots of economic activity. Win Win

  • After the inevitable gigantic bailouts to these corporations…

    What? I suppose a “President” McCain wouldn’t have approved this? LOL.

    As I recall, President Bush II signed TARP into law during the last couple of months of his presidency.

    $5 million doesn’t seem like much, but as Major Tom and Coastal Ron pointed out, that money seems to have a multiplier affect as companies perform technological research to win the prize.

  • Dennis Berube

    With all the rules and regulations put down by the government, it strangles any real attempts at getting low cost to orbit services. In the early days of flight, anyone could build an airplane and attempt to fly it. Today that is not the case, as laws prevent a real stepping stone to space. Its called manipulation.

  • DCSCA

    Put this number into perspective in the American economy- it’s about what Charlie Sheen was paid by CBS/WB for mugging at the cameras for three shows– shows that run 22 1/2 minutes each.

  • I think the American Taxpayer made back their money on that one.

    The American Taxpayer had nothing to do with the Ansari X-Prize.

  • Coastal Ron

    Chris Castro wrote @ February 28th, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    First you said:

    If commercial entities were really up to the task, they would’ve acheived something tangible by now. People have been harping about space entrepreneurism for thirty years now—ever since the Shuttle first successfully flew.

    Then you answered yourself by saying:

    it is my sincere hope that the government will restore its former place in the space-flight business

    How can businesses compete against the government, which has no need to cover it’s costs? For the few commercial payloads that the Shuttle flew, your tax dollars subsidized those flights, because the companies did not pay the full cost of the flights. Was that a good use of your tax dollars? Read more here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_spaceflight

    And where was commercial space supposed to fly human customers to before the ISS was built? You have no clue about how capitalism works. In fact, you sound like you think government is the answer to everything, which is weird because of how some of your ilk rail against the U.S. deficit (i.e. too much government spending).

    In short, it doesn’t seem like you have figured out what you’re for or what you’re against, but that you just don’t like American capitalism. Truly weird.

  • common sense

    “The Orion has the potential to be the American version of the Soyuz: a multiple purpose workhorse, that could be used as a Lunar orbital vehicle. ”

    No it does not. Soyuz is very inexpensive, Orion is very expensive. Both were designed with different requirements.

    Educate, educate…

  • Coastal Ron

    common sense wrote @ March 1st, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    No it does not. Soyuz is very inexpensive, Orion is very expensive. Both were designed with different requirements.

    Indeed. You can’t even go outside Orion/MPCV without decompressing the entire capsule, whereas Soyuz has an airlock. Yet another reason Orion/MPCV will end up serving as a lifeboat attached to a real exploration vehicle, in which case it will be grossly overbuilt & expensive.

  • common sense

    @ Coastal Ron wrote @ March 1st, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    ” in which case it will be grossly overbuilt & expensive.”

    One of the reason why Orion will not be.

  • @ Coastal Ron;….I am not against capitalism, I am just against the erroneous notion that private corporations are really up to the task of human spaceflight in this era. Government actually needs to lead the way, before any entrepreneurialism could viably step in. Right now, Commercial Space is relying on the existence of the ISS for its very reason to be. THAT is a prescription for nothing but Low Earth Orbit for scores of years to come. By destroying Project Constellation, and by relegating the Orion spacecraft as a mere one-way, life-boat taxi, as an attachment to the ISS, the Obamaspace supporters have seriously restricted the scope & arena of manned space-flight. IS THIS ALL WE’RE GOING TO DO IN SPACE FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS?!?! Taxi to the ISS over & over again; ferrying crews there, and nothing more?! Come on, boys! We as a nation can do way better than this!!

  • Beancounter from Downunder

    Relax everyone, the MPCV (Orion’s dead) is too expensive ever to see the light of day. It’ll limp alongside the SLS until it’s finally cancelled because other truly commercial vehicles which are cheaper and more efficient, eg. CST-100, Dragon, Dream Chaser, will already be doing what it was supposed to do.

  • Lars

    Coastal Ron,
    Current Soyuz versions do not have a functional airlock. That feature was removed a long time ago to streamline for their role as space station crew ferries. They have no EVA capability by themselves.

    So even though I don’t see the need for Orion – in this aspect Orion will actually be superior to Soyuz. (assuming Orion ever flies as currently envisioned, of course)

  • Dennis Berube

    I thought Orion was for deep space? How will the new commercial vehicles match that? Im for commercial, but Im also for deep space exploration. We can have both.

  • I am just against the erroneous notion that private corporations are really up to the task of human spaceflight in this era.

    Just because you fantasize that a notion is erroneous doesn’t make it so. In fact, based on your posting history, it dramatically improves the odds that it is true.

  • Justin Kugler

    Chris Castro, you seem to have forgotten the part where we were going to do Flagship Technology Demonstrations to build in-space transportation infrastructure. Well, we were, until SLS and MPCV came along.

  • common sense

    @ Chris Castro wrote @ March 2nd, 2011 at 12:21 am

    “I am not against capitalism, I am just against the erroneous notion that private corporations are really up to the task of human spaceflight in this era.”

    I see. And the Constellation contractors are what if not corporations??? Please enlighten us.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Right now, Commercial Space is relying on the existence of the ISS for its very reason to be. THAT is a prescription for nothing but Low Earth Orbit for scores of years to come.”

    You are absolutely correct Chris. We should just stop calling LEO spaceflight and change it to “very high altitude circular flight” or something like that. No one considers it space exploration anymore now that we have learned what we need from decades of endless circles.

    But don’t try arguing that with this crowd- they are all fantasizing about taking a space station vacation with Elon.

  • VirgilSamms

    “Coastal Ron,
    Current Soyuz versions do not have a functional airlock.”

    The soyuz airlock space gives the crew a place to float around in and stretch out on the two day pursuit of the ISS. Dragon passengers will be in for a truly miserable ordeal.

  • DCSCA

    Rand Simberg wrote @ March 2nd, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Uh-huh. And the decades keep flying by. But not crewed spacecraft.

    Fly somebody. Tick-tock… tick-tock…

  • DCSCA

    VirgilSamms wrote @ March 2nd, 2011 at 7:01 pm
    Original configurations for Soyuz lunar mission planning required the cosmonaut to spacewalk from the Soyuz to the lander. The spacecrafts base design was originally for liunar flights albeit quite crude compared to Apollo and the spaceious vehicles we expect today. Soyuz has been a very robust design with four decades of service. Like the VW beetle, it’s ugly, but it gets you there.

  • DCSCA

    @Chris Castro wrote @ March 2nd, 2011 at 12:21 am
    “I am not against capitalism, I am just against the erroneous notion that private corporations are really up to the task of human spaceflight in this era.”

    Precisely. Well said, sir.

  • @ VirgilSamms & DCSCA;…..Hi you all. Thanks for the vote of confidence! And yes, I do now sense that this forum is majoritied by the LEO space tourist would-be crowd. Does anyone out there in Blog-land dream of going to another world at all?! More hovering in Low Earth Orbit for yet ANOTHER fifteen or twenty years?! Is THIS your idea of ‘space exploration’?! When are we ever going to get this LEO space station monomania behind us?? The very same people who are jumping up and down, because Space X launched, orbited, & landed an unmanned Dragon capsule—-they are one and the same the same people who would be saying “So What;” if the Chinese would send the Shenzou craft into a Lunar orbit trajectory. The Obamaspacers seem intent on putting down the extraordinary just to uphold the mundane.

  • @ VirgilSamms & DCSCA;…..Hi you all. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

    I wouldn’t be that thrilled to have the confidence of two of the biggest loons in this comments section. If abreakingwind agrees with you, you’ll really be in trouble.

  • @Rand Simberg;…..Yes, I’m in good company! I suppose these are the “loons” who are eager to see some REAL space exploration done! Instead of more merry-go-rounding about the Earth! Look boys, NASA didn’t need an ISS when it broke the bonds of planet Earth forty years ago! This idiotic plan—-called Flexible Path/ Obamaspace—-centers all our future eggs in one basket, the ISS. You and I both know the ISS is just another bigger & mightier-seeming MIR, and that sooner or later it will be a larger problem to maintain than it is worth. The space taxis that the amateurs are planning to build in order to reach it, will all have ZERO-to-nothing capability of leaving LEO for deep space. Fifteen years from now, under Flexible Path, the U.S. will have NO beyond earth orbit capability. All this simply because the Flexible Path-ers wanted the Moon removed as a destination, in favor of asteroids and lagrange points. Worse still: the Chinese might just do nothing more than copy us—-STAGNATING with their own LEO space station. Where has our sense of wonder & exploration of the unknown gone? [ A vast, enormous percent of the Moon's surface remains unknown. So don't you even give me that gibberish about "we've been there already".] Bases were built in the Antarctic way after explorers had already reached it. Plus, astronauts have “already been” to LEO, many hundreds of times; whether in capsules, shuttles, or space station modules.

  • VirgilSamms

    “I wouldn’t be that thrilled to have the confidence of two of the biggest loons in this comments section.”

    Coming from someone who thinks satellites are worth more than human lives and posts a truly vast amount of insults and low brow remarks- I take that as a complement. Thanks Rand. As long as a fool like you keeps making those kinds of remarks about me- I know I am doing something right.

  • Coming from someone who thinks satellites are worth more than human lives

    What human life is worth a billion dollars? That’s what satellites cost.

    Very few, and certainly not NASA astronauts.

    What you’re saying is that we’re not doing anything important enough in space to risk an astronaut’s life.

  • DCSCA

    @Rand Simberg wrote @ March 5th, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    “What human life is worth a billion dollars?”

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Martijn Meijering

    Does anyone out there in Blog-land dream of going to another world at all?!

    Do you? Because all you seem to be doing is shilling for the Shuttle political industrial complex, which will not be able to fulfill your stated dream.

    More hovering in Low Earth Orbit for yet ANOTHER fifteen or twenty years?

    That’s what SDLV would do for you. On Russian spacecraft. Not that there’s anything wrong with Russian spacecraft, but I doubt that is what you want. Or claim you want.

  • I think that this FAA launch prize would make for an EXCELLENT start. Notice how the FAA, unlike NASA, doesn’t have operations that would compete with prize contestants? Thus, we’d not be as likely to see FAA bureaucrats jealously work behind the scenes (in cahoots with Congressional pork-barrel spenders) to keep the prize small during future years in the same way that some at NASA have been sneakily working to keep launch-related prizes nonexistent at: http://www.Challenge.gov .

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