Friday, October 15, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Launch Pad

Or it ought to be subtitled: Why Team Phoenicia is involved with the Nanosat Launcher Challenge Seminar.

Team Phoenicia has been focused on the Google Lunar X Prize from the outset. We have been working hard to try to pull together the funding, programming, and manufacturing that is necessary for the team to participate. That has been our sole goal.

The reason we attempted to participate in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge was merely to act as a demonstration step only. Whether or not we won or not - while it would have been nice - was not that relevant to our ultimate goal. What was relevant was the ability to gain credibility with sponsors and the like. That the LLC, even if we didn't successfully fly, did do.

So when this last summer NASA announced the Nanosatellite Launcher Challenge, we took note, nodded, thought it was pretty darn cool, and went back to work. It wasn't relevant to what we were doing. Yes, it could have been a great method of getting a half-step to an large payload orbital rocket. That would be useful to our GLXP goal. However, it'd be many years away from success.

So, we ignored the NLC.

At least until another past challenge participant came to us asking if we'd like to team up to tackle the NLC.

The management team took a moment and thought about it. Could we do this? Should we do this? Do we have time?

The answer was no.

We really, truly did not time to participate in the NLC. There's a lot of management work above and beyond the manufacturing and we were not gaining another set of managers and fundraisers with this. So, we declined to participate. However, we offered a fig leaf: if you pay us - we half joked - we'll build you what you need.

After all, we need the funds for the GLXP. Cash, truly, has been the hardest thing to raise for our entry. If we could raise a chunk of our GLXP entry fee, then we would hae a win-win situation.

The our would-be NLC team mates thought this one over. And we talked about it with another group. They were even more excited. They had wanted to participate in the GLXP with us, but we reall didn't have places for them. However, they were very enthusiastic.

Thus, Vog Rockets, was born of the second group and our first contract was signed. The mystery team quickly followed from the first group. Team Phoenicia was - we were joking - becoming the Bay Area Boeing of Rocketry. Then we had more teams show up with interest in what we were doing. Two of which we are now in negotiations with.

With the level of interest we had, we approached Techshop about getting word out to their members to see if there were more teams that might develop from its crazy inventive members. At least as a springboard from what we could offer. Techshop countered that rather than just send out a mail with that sort of info, better yet would be a seminar. Others had done seminars at Techshop and had great turn outs: "and rockets are so much cooler!"

The only caveat was that we needed to provide enough information for teams to have an accurate assessment of what was involved in the NLC. That we agreed with, so we set out to build up the seminar into something more than just an overgrown sales pitch.

And grew it did. Now the Team Phoenicia/Techshop Nanosat Launcher Challenge Seminar has grown into a very large function where any would-be paritcipate can get a realistic assessment of what it would take to participate rules and legal and tech as well as have a chance to influence the rules when they are being drafted. it also allows people of like mind to network and put together teams.

We're really excited by this prospect. We are really excited by the opportunity to bend metal (and spin composites) for teams that wish to reach orbit. It's also a lot more fun for the team to do to raise money for our GLXP bid than going around hat-in-hand as we have been.

We are also really, really stoked over the prospect of actually making a contribution through being able to pull together the various players for rocket flight for what has almost become a conference in and of itself.

What exactly we are doing for the teams, we'll detail in the future at the conference. For those that wish to not wait, please contact us. We're happy to talk. Under NDA. Even to sell you a rocket. If you meet our criteria.

No comments: