America's Space Prize

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America's Space Prize was a US$50 million space competition in orbital spaceflight established and funded in 2004 by hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. The prize would have been awarded to the first US-based privately funded team to design and build a reusable manned capsule capable of flying 5 astronauts to a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space module. The criteria also required the capsule be recovered and flown again in 60 days. The prize expired January 10, 2010, without a winner or any test flights attempted. The teams were required to have been based in the United States.


The prize was announced by Bigelow on 17 December 2003—the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers first powered aircraft flight.[1]

Prize rules

A set of ten criteria were set up in order for a contestant to win the prize.[2]

  1. The spacecraft must reach a minimum altitude of 400 kilometers (approximately 250 miles);
  2. The spacecraft must reach a minimum velocity sufficient to complete two (2) full orbits at altitude before returning to Earth;
  3. The spacecraft must carry no less than a crew of five (5) people;
  4. The spacecraft must dock or demonstrate its ability to dock with a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space habitat, and be capable of remaining on station at least six (6) months;
  5. The spacecraft must perform two (2) consecutive, safe and successful orbital missions within a period of sixty (60) calendar days, subject to Government regulations;
  6. No more than twenty percent (20%) of the spacecraft may be composed of expendable hardware;
  7. The contestant must be domiciled in the United States of America.
  8. The contestant must have its principal place of business in the United States of America;
  9. The Competitor must not accept or utilize government development funding related to this contest of any kind, nor shall there be any government ownership of the competitor. Use in government test facilities shall be permitted; and
  10. The spacecraft must complete its two (2) missions safely and successfully, with all five (5) crew members aboard for the second qualifying flight, before the competition’s deadline of Jan. 10, 2010


Since the launch of the prize, 40 companies had expressed interest, but either did not have the money which would apparently be needed, or, in the case of SpaceX, were ineligible due to having accepted government funding. Despite the lack of interest, Bigelow did not revise the prize rules, planning instead to seek transportation to space other ways.[3]

A few contestants have been:

See also


  1. ^ Belfiore, Michael (2007). Rocketeers: how a visionary band of business leaders, engineers, and pilots is boldly privatizing space. New York: Smithsonian Books. pp. 8–10. ISBN 978-0-06-114903-0.
  2. ^ Leonard David (November 8, 2004). "Exclusive: Rules Set for $50 Million 'America's Space Prize'". Space News. Retrieved 2011-08-06.
  3. ^ Jeff Foust (July 24, 2006). "Bigelow Aerospace's big day at the rodeo, part 2". The Space Review.
  4. ^ "Space racers set sights on orbital frontier: After X Prize, some rivals seek more lucrative payoff". MSNBC. October 8, 2004.
  5. ^ "JP Aerospace Information update AND JPA will compete for the Bigelow American Space prize". The International Space Fellowship. January 25, 2005.
  6. ^ Archived 1998-01-16 at the Wayback Machine., accessed in 2005?
  7. ^ Michael Belfiore (18 January 2005). "Race for Next Space Prize Ignites". Wired.

External links

  • "America's Space Prize". Archived from the original on 2007-12-07. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
  • America's Space Prize in Encyclopedia Astronautica
  • Exclusive: Rules Set for $50 Million 'America’s Space Prize' SPACE.COM (November 8, 2004)
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