guest blogger john hare
I have a seriously adverse reaction to der Griffenshaft and the money and opportunity costs it represents. This is a what if post concerning the results that the $8B to date could have achieved if handled in a totally different manner. Nobody should take this post too seriously as it would have been politically impossible.
When NASA was handed the job of going to the moon, mars and beyond a few years back, suppose the administrator had decided that he had enough on his plate already trying to rebuild the agency to be an effective organization. He offers the following and has or borrows the political clout to push it though.
Lets just extend that XPrize thing and let all those loud mouthed critics do our work for us. We can let them supply the circuses to keep everybody distracted from the real problems around here, and if they actually accomplish anything, we take credit for it. We’ve got to burn those Dirksens anyway, and this lets us do it without having to do any of the real work.
Starting twelve months from this date, there will be a monthly competition loosely based on the XPrize rules starting on the first day of each month and lasting for 7 (seven) calender days.
The space vehicle that provides the most persons above a certain altitudeÂ during that 7 day period wins a first prize of 4 million dollars. Second through tenth place receives half of the prize of the next higher winner. first place– 4 million, second place–2 million, third place– 1 million,——tenth–$8,062.
Minimum altitude for the first month contest will be 30 kilometers. Altitude above the minimum is calculated as max altitude for each flight in kilometers multiplied by the number of people aboard times minutes of microgravity above a certain standard. 61 kilometers by a one occupied seat vehicle gives 31 points in the scoring system times however many minutes of true microgravity resulted. 42 kilometers by three people is 36 points for that flight times some smaller multiple of micogravity minutes. Multiple flights by a single vehicle result in points added for each qualifying flight.
Minimum applicable altitude will be raised to the average of all completed flights on the first month that there are 10 teams with qualifying flights. The incremental increases will apply until the average reaches 100 kilometers. All prizes will be doubled on and after the first month that there are 10 qualifying teams. All prizes will be doubled again when the first team reaches above 100 kilometers. All prizes will be doubled again when 10 or more teams qualify above 100 kilometers on a single month.
If this were real, there would be almost $8M in prize money each month for suborbital vehicles, with just over half for the first place vehicle. With more altitude and more teams, this would double several times until it was $64M each month with $32M to the top vehicle. With the winning based on altitude,Â filled seats, number of flights, and time in microgravity, teams would be trying to maximize them all. They would also be trying to optimize for the most points results for any given level of effort. With the total prize money also increasing with the number of qualifying teams, there would be real incentive to help others alongÂ in pure unenlightened self interest.
Eventually, somebody would orbit for the microgee multiple on the points. If they do it several months in a row, give them the supply contracts.
There is enough continuous money there to attract investors and qualified people. Even on the first month a third place finish is a million, and probably could be done with a single flight to 31 km. A dominant competitor later on could be collecting over $300M a year. I think it would be safe to suggest that if there were 10 or more groups launching every month, RLV development would be accelerated.
Since the above could only burn half the amount spent on der Griffenshaftat the most, An improved LLC competition is held during the third calender week of each month. Eventually a 900 second SSTO equivalent will demonstrate orbital performance and mass ratios under controlled conditions.
I’m sure a couple more competitions could be thought of to fill the other weeks of the month. By scattering competition venues, many voter districts could be involved.
I would be curious how Armadillo and Scaled would have reacted if they could have gone back to the well every month for real cash.Â I wonder how many others could have made them work for it if there was a continuing revenue stream. I wonder how far this could have gone inÂ five years of eye gaugeing, groin kicking competitionÂ where results were the only thing that mattered.