Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Launch Date Set - September 29

Once or twice every generation, there is some sort of disruption that unleashes a great wave of innovation. Something in the “ecosystem” fundamentally changes that allows a sudden burst of creativity and the generation of a new set of competitors racing to dominate a niche. If you want to watch the latest disruption, you need look no farther than www.xprize.com.

The Ansari Xprize Foundation was established with the goal of speeding up low cost space craft development and opening the door for commercial space flight. The inspiration of their $10 million contest is the Orteig Prize, captured by Charles Lindbergh in his historic flight across the Atlantic in 1927.

Government lead space craft design of, which has become bogged down in a government design/approval process that is slow, risk averse and extremely costly. The Ansari folks issued a challenge to private companies to reignite creativity in design, rewarding innovative design and the ability to risk it all to claim a piece of history and first to market status in commercial space flight. Just take a look at the wildly diverse space craft proposed (and in some case being flown) by contestants.

I suspect the $10million prize with not come close to compensating the winners of this space race, but there are a lot of bragging rights at stake. We are at one of those rare transitional times where we can witness history being made. Imagine being at LeBourge field in Paris when Lindbergh landed the Spirit of St. Louis, and having that since that the world had suddenly changed.

On September 29, I’ll be in Mojave, CA to see Burt Rutan’s White Knight carry aloft Space Ship One (www.scaled.com), then launch the smaller craft up to 100km. Rutan and his Scaled Composites team have created two aircraft that send chills down my spine….not only because of its incredible ingenuity, but also because I think this will be the craft that will change the world (and space). Instead of dreaming of space, our kids may be booking orbital flights on Orbitz!


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