SolRider - Affordable Space Explorer
SolRider makes space exploration affordable for YOU! Send an image and tweet, or up to 10 grams of "the right stuff" to the Moon.
SolRider - Affordable Space Explorer
SolRider makes space exploration affordable for YOU! Send an image and tweet, or up to 10 grams of "the right stuff" to the Moon.
ExoTerra envisions a solar system with permanent lunar bases, men on Mars and submarines on Europa. It's a bold vision. To make it a reality, we believe we need to develop systems that reduce the cost of space exploration and increase the number of people who explore it. We need to expand the space economy. Our SolRider spacecraft starts this process by providing an affordable interplanetary spacecraft that everyone, including YOU, can be part of.
Our demonstration project builds the world's first crowd-funded satellite that lets YOU send a personal item to the Moon. You can share in the excitement of being a part of a space mission and in knowing you helped open the door for explosive growth in the space economy.
Currently, exploring other worlds cost $100M-$1B, limiting them to a couple government funded missions per year. Researchers spend years lobbying to get their instrument flown to another world. Entire generations can go by with no research of a planet - NASA hasn't visited our nearest neighbor Venus for 25 years.
SolRider enables low-cost, targeted missions that allow dozens of missions per year and expand the pool of who can afford to perform them. Imagine your Alma Mater leading a mission to a Venus or Mars. Imagine the growth of students in STEM fields if they knew they could be part of an interplanetary mission as part of their degree program.
Our project uses our SolRider spacecraft bus for the lunar mission. The microsatellite is currently being developed with a combination of internal and NASA funding. Once finished, it can reach the Moon, Venus, asteroids or even Mars.
The project is planned to launch in Dec. 2016 as a rideshare with a larger satellite. Instead of being placed on an expensive lunar trajectory, we're dropped off in low Earth orbit (LEO). We then spiral out of Earth orbit using our high efficiency solar electric propulsion module. After nearly a year, we rendezvous with the Moon, get captured by its gravity and slowly spiral in. Here we conduct the research experiments, take "selfies" and video, and perform the sponsored K-12 programs. After a year of lunar operations, the orbital phase concludes and we deorbit the spacecraft, delivering the cargo to the surface in a "high impact" climax.
Our SolRider Mission to the Moon
A Lunar Mission on a Kickstarter Budget?
SolRider reduces a lunar mission's cost over an order of magnitude by making the spacecraft as small as possible. The smaller the spacecraft, the less it costs to build, test and reach space. SolRider weighs less than 1/10th the mass of NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (180 kg v. 1916 kg) - enabling it to fit within the constraints of a low-cost rideshare. This means, instead of paying for an entire rocket, we piggyback with a larger satellite that has excess launch capacity, and pay a much smaller launch fee.
To miniaturize SolRider, we take advantage of two key advances: solar electric propulsion & cubesat electronics. Our solar electric propulsion module trades time for money by using an extremely fuel efficient, but an extremely low thrust Hall Thruster - it's like the ultimate economy car of spacecraft. This allows us to compress enough capability to reach the Moon into a spacecraft the size of a dishwasher - as long as we're willing to wait a year instead of 3 days to get there. We combine this with advanced electronics from the fastest growing segment of the satellite industry: cubesats. These 10 x 10 x 10 cm standardized parts cut costs and miniaturize the spacecraft. Coupling the thruster and electronics together allows us to shrink within rideshare constraints.
ExoTerra was formed in Feb. 2011. We have over a century of accumulated experience working on space missions. Space giants such as Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada and NASA have recognized our engineering expertise by awarding us over twenty contracts supporting spacecraft over the last two years. All told, our staff has been part of the Mars Exploration Rover, XSS-11, Genesis, Stardust, Space Shuttle, International Space Station, GeoEye-2, Atlas V, Orion and Dream Chaser projects. Now we're applying these experiences to allow others to share in the thrill space exploration.
In addition to our staff, we have a number of key partners and suppliers that augment the team in critical areas. First, we have been developing SolRider in conjunction with NASA Glenn Research Center, who's funding has helped us get where we are today. Working with NASA we've been able to advance the heart of our system: the solar electric propulsion module. The module consists of an ultra-light weight solar array deployer provided by our partner Composite Technologies Development (CTD), and a Hall Thruster supplied by Busek Co. CTD has flown multiple novel deployment systems using advanced composites, while Busek is an industry leader in solar electric propulsion. In addition, we have partnered with Michigan Technological University to perform the complex spiral trajectory optimization. MTU is an expert in spiral trajectories and has supported development of the industry standard software codes.
Together, we bring the experience needed to make this project successful!
The Lunar Selfie
Upload any picture of your choice to SolRider and we'll take a picture of it with the Moon in the background. If you've already purchased a space selfie from Planetary Resources, you can add this to your solar system collection. Someday we hope to give you opportunities for asteroids, Venus & Mars as well. (BTW: a special thank you to our fellow space entrepreneurs at Planetary Resources for leading the way on this idea).
Send yourself to the Moon
Ever wish you could send something to the Moon? ExoTerra offers multiple ways to send a personalized item to the Moon. Our "Lunar Calling Card" allows you to send any image and a tweet to the Moon. We'll use a web-based system to collect your images and tweets and print them on a Kapton film using UV radiation resistant pigments.
For an even longer lasting message, we offer a laser etched aluminum card. The anodized aluminum withstands corrosion and UV radiation and will survive the space environment for over 20 years.
Send the "Right Stuff" to the Moon.
ExoTerra also offers you the unique opportunity to send an item of your choice to the Moon. Options come in 1, 5 and 10 gram increments. Imagine looking into the night sky and knowing something precious to you was up there.
ExoTerra believes its important to excite children about the possibilities of science and math. We've found that children are most inspired by space projects. We offer 2 ways involve children in the SolRider Mission. The first is a web-delivered program that explains the science behind SolRider and allows the school to take an image of the Moon using SolRider. For the second, we'll fly a member of the staff to your school to give a personal presentation of SolRider and the science behind it along with giving the school an image of their choice from the Moon.
Come Celebrate With Us
The whole idea behind SolRider was to share the thrill of space exploration with others. We would love to have our sponsors come share the excitement of seeing the spacecraft launch. We'll show you around the satellite integration facility and the launch site so you can see what it's like to be a "rocket scientist." Afterwards, join us for the after launch party and mingle with the ExoTerra staff and other sponsors.
The State of Development
ExoTerra has spent nearly 18 months designing the SolRider spacecraft. Our design is at a level of fidelity that would pass what we call a "System Design Review" - we have established mission requirements and performed sufficient analysis to demonstrate the conceptual design meets those requirements without the use of magic or unobtainium.
Hardware development work has been focused on the parts that make it go. Our SolRider design integrates components developed by our partners, suppliers and NASA to leverage outside investment as much as possible. Individual components such as the thrusters, battery, xenon flow controller, guidance systems and avionics systems use components that have been tested and in many cases have already flown in space. 80% of the SolRider components have been through testing. To get the most advantage of outside investment, we use the parts as they've been initially designed. In a few cases, such as the array deployer, we scale the test articles to the proper size for our mission.
In addition to all the work on all the functional components, ExoTerra has begun assembly of a full scale, low fidelity prototype. This prototype allows us to perform fit checks and gauge the ease of assembly - which provides feedback to the vehicle design layout and helps minimize the number of times we can't get the ratchet into that tight spot. It also allows us (and you) to visualize the full scale vehicle.
Future prototype work is already in progress. ExoTerra has ordered parts to lay out a breadboard of our power control system. (We'll get pictures up when the parts come in). This will demonstrate the control scheme that integrates the components of our SEP module.
We are also working with NASA to secure funding to build an integrated SEP module using flight-like parts to perform vacuum testing at the University of Michigan's plasmadynamics and electric propulsion test facility.
How We'll Succeed
Once the campaign is successful, there is still a lot of work to be done. The money raised is used to purchase the parts, assemble and test the protoflight spacecraft, and to deliver the sponsor awards. (Protoflight means we fly the same spacecraft we ground test.) Our goal is to cover the recurring cost of a satellite through crowd funding to demonstrate that the idea of crowd-funding this and future interplanetary missions is viable.
You'll note we did not yet mention launch fees. Our first stretch goal aims to cover the cost of launching the vehicle ($2M). If we don't meet the stretch goal, don't panic - we have multiple alternatives to cover the launch cost. The primary alternatives are advertising on the vehicle and sale of additional payload space. Because the value of these items exceeds the Kickstarter maximums, we can't include them in the campaign. However, the going rate for payload to lunar orbit exceeds $3M/kg based on NASA's most recent LADEE mission. We have reserved a minimum of 6 kg of payload space to raise additional funds to cover launch costs.
Sale of this payload space & advertising, along with internal funding and/or additional government support, also covers the non-recurring costs. There is still work to be done to finish analyzing the hardware for off-nominal conditions and releasing the engineering. The final spacecraft will likely look different as we accommodate payloads and work around any technical challenges.
We have assembled a strong team with experience on multiple spacecraft to accomplish this project. We have contacts throughout the space industry to draw on to grow our team or borrow expertise where needed. We have the utmost confidence in our ability to make the project succeed.
By sponsoring SolRider, YOU become an enabler for realizing the dream of making space exploration affordable to everyone!
Risks and challenges
Space missions are not easy. It's part of what makes them so thrilling. Members of our team have been part of wild successes, have had to rescue missions from near failure, and have learned hard lessons from disappointing mistakes. Space is notoriously unforgiving. Below is a listing of some of the challenges and risks we face.
Development Delays: Spacecraft development efforts may result in schedule delays as diverse technologies are integrated together and testing reveals unanticipated results. If the schedule slips too far as we find solutions, we may miss our ride. We are familiar with this risk (Mars has never waited for us before) and have incorporated 3 months of margin into our schedule.
Cost Increases: In the event that development issues cause costs to increase, we have reserved over 6 kg of payload capability that can be sold to NASA, universities or other crowd funded efforts at a later date. Having the satellite funded through Kickstarter makes selling this excess capacity significantly easier due to the certainty of the opportunity. As noted above, this capacity has a value of >$3M/kg at current NASA Mission rates, providing substantial cost margin.
Launch: There are multiple risks associated with launch. First, there is a risk we may not reach our stretch goal to raise sufficient funds for launch. In that case, we will need to sell excess payload capability to NASA, universities or later crowd-funded efforts (see above), and/or sell advertising opportunities on the satellite. Achieving either one of these will pay the rideshare cost of $2M.
The second launch risk is that the launch may be delayed by the primary satellite. This could impact the timing of our lunar rendezvous and the delivery of awards. We have incorporated coast periods into our trajectory to allow us to line back up with the lunar cycle in the event of a launch delay.
Finally, the rocket may fail. In this case, we will attempt to make good on the pledges on a future mission to the Moon.
Satellite Failure: There is also a risk that the satellite may not perform due to a failure of a key component, excessive radiation levels, solar flares, software error or another unanticipated event. To counteract this, we design for the known risks and we perform a rigorous test-like-you-fly program to test the systems in a space-like environment prior to launch. This exercises the systems and demonstrates they function correctly.
However, ExoTerra is not responsible for any failure to perform all or part of the Kickstarter Project due to conditions beyond ExoTerra's control, including but not limited to: explosion, acts of nature, war, civil disturbances, legal or regulatory changes, asteroid impacts, or alien abductions. If an unanticipated event does lead to a mission failure, we will attempt to fulfill the pledges on a future lunar mission.
Landing: Our landing on the moon will not be a gentle one. While we hope to achieve this someday, our initial missions will feature a rather violent conclusion. This will successfully deliver your items to the surface, however we cannot guarantee an astronaut 20 years from now will be able to identify your item. We hope everyone understands that the thrill of this project is knowing you helped put something there.
Image Distribution: Distributing thousands of images is a logistical challenge.
We will work with established website developers to create a secure web-based tool to gather the sponsor's image and properly track, upload and distribute the lunar selfies. The time required to fulfill all pledges depends on several factors including the total number of pledges received. Pledges will be fulfilled in the order they are received, with certain higher pledge levels having priority over lower pledge levels.
Sample Collection: Collecting samples of "the right stuff" from thousands of people worldwide will also present unique challenges. We will be sending sample collection containers to each verified sponsor. Sponsor's will place their item in the container and return it to ExoTerra. We will use a web-based system to track distribution of the containers, receipt of the sample, and installation into the spacecraft so that sponsors can check the status of their "stuff". ExoTerra is not responsible for lost, stolen, damaged or late samples.
Obtaining Rewards: To obtain a reward a sponsor must be verified following the completion of a successful campaign. All rewards are subject to availability and restrictions may apply as to when rewards can be provided. In the event ExoTerra is unable to fulfill any reward for any reason, ExoTerra will offer the affected sponsor a fair substitution of the reward or will provide a full refund of the sponsor’s pledge amount upon request.
Lost or Stolen Awards: ExoTerra is not responsible for lost or stolen rewards, certificates or tickets. Sponsors are solely responsible for determining any tax liability arising out of rewards provided by ExoTerra. Sponsors are subject to and must comply with any additional terms, conditions and restrictions that may apply to specific rewards. Unless otherwise specified in writing in these terms and conditions or on the Kickstarter.com page, ExoTerra is not responsible for providing meals, transportation or accommodation arrangements that may be associated with claiming a reward.
Minimum Requirements: Certain rewards may be subject to minimum requirements regarding age or other factors. It is the sponsor’s sole responsibility to comply with all necessary requirements for the reward as described.
Sponsor agrees to hold ExoTerra and its affiliates and subsidiaries harmless against any loss or liabilities arising from sponsor’s participation in the ExoTerra Kickstarter Project.
Everything regarding the ExoTerra Kickstarter Project, including the web site and all rewards, are provided “as is”.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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