“Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork,” Wernher von Braun is credited as saying. “We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming.” That’s a sentiment likely shared by some of the companies hoping to compete in the Lunar Lander Challenge late this week at the Wirefly X Prize Cup. While some companies are dealing with technical challenges, some are mired in the paperwork required to get an FAA/AST experimental permit.
As New Scientist reports, none of the four teams originally planning to compete in this year’s competition has received an AST permit. Two of the registrants, Acuity Technologies and Masten Space Systems, decided not to compete this year because of technical concerns: throttle valve problems for Masten and unspecified “rocket motor” issues with Acuity. Armadillo Aerospace and Micro-Space are still in the running, if their vehicles are ready and approved by AST.
Red Herring also looks at the paperwork issue. X Prize officials told the magazine that only Armadillo to actually compete, but that’s predicated on receiving a permit; John Carmack said he was not interested in paying for a tethered, non-prize flight if he didn’t get a permit. Richard Speck of Micro-Space said he hopes to get a permit at the last minute, saying that he has “a pretty good vehicle and a good chance” to win if he does get the permit.
Speck is also profiled in his local newspaper, the Denver Post, today; the article includes images of his Crusader LL vehicle. He said that if he doesn’t get a permit he will display the vehicle at the Cup, but not fly it, tethered or otherwise. X Prize spokesman Ian Murphy: “I would say right now the two front-runners to win money this year would be Armadillo Aerospace and Micro-Space.” Of course, they’re the only ones planning to compete—if they can lick the paperwork.