UPDATE: Google, X PRIZE add 3 teams to $30 million moon race

The X Prize Foundation and Google today brought the number of teams competing for its $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE to 15 by adding representatives of China, Germany, Denmark and Sweden to the roster of teams competing in the robot race to the moon.

The group said it will reveal a 16th member known currently as the "Mystery Team" tomorrow.

UPDATE: As promised on Wed. Dec. 17, X Prize introduced Next Gen Leap, a team that includes members of MicroSat Systems, MIT, Draper Laboratory, Busek, and Aurora Flight Sciences.

The international group will compete to land a privately funded robotic craft on the Moon that is capable of roaming the lunar surface for at least 1,600 feet and sending video, images and data back to the Earth. Since the competition was first announced six months ago, 567 potential teams from 53 countries have requested registration information, the foundation said. Teams must be at least 90% privately funded and must be registered to compete by December 31, 2010.

The new teams are:

  • The European Lunar Exploration Association (Euroluna) team is a group of friends and relatives with engineering backgrounds who have gathered to compete for the Google Lunar X PRIZE. The team, whose ages span from 16-60, is headquartered in Denmark, with members in Switzerland and Italy. The background of the team spans most of the necessary technical disciplines, from software, through chemical and mechanical engineering, over risk assessment to business administration. According to the team, the members have been discussing moon rovers and lunar bases for at least 10 years now.
  • Team Selene is the first Google Lunar X PRIZE team from China. The team is led by Markus Bindhammer, a German-born inventor who lives in Shanghai. Bindhammer's goal is to create a team of young and motivated Chinese students or graduates in mathematics, physics and aerospace engineering. The team's strategy is to create a rover based around the idea of a rocket-car, which they will name LuRoCa 1 (Lunar Rocket Car 1). They are exploring the possibility of launching with SpaceX, but will also look into opportunities with Chinese launch providers

The current teams are (courtesy of X PRIZE):

  • Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Romanian Association (ARCA): Based in Valcea, Romania and led by Dumitru Popescu, ARCA was also a contender in the Ansari X Prize. Two of ARCA's most innovative projects to date have been the Demonstrator 2B rocket and Stabilo, a two-stage manned suborbital air-launched vehicle. The craft they plan to enter will be called the "European Lunar Explorer."
  • Advaeros: Advanced Aerospace Industries is a small R&D company dealing with smart systems for navigation, robotic application, aeronautical and space related activities.
  • Astrobotic: Team Astrobotic, led by Dr. William Whittaker, was formed to coordinate the efforts of Carnegie Mellon University, Raytheon Company and additional institutions. One of Carnegie Mellon's specialties is autonomous navigation through stereo vision and other technologies. This enables Carnegie Mellon's robots to automatically avoid obstacles and select their own route across unmapped terrain. Astrobotic will compete for the prize using their "Artemis Lander" and "Red Rover."
  • Chandah: Chandah, meaning "Moon" in Sanskrit, was founded by Adil Jafry, an energy industry entrepreneur. He is now chairman and CEO of Tara, the largest independent retail electricity provider in Texas. Jafry's goal is to catalyze commercialization of space, and bring advances in space travel, tourism, sciences, and technology to the general public at large. Team Chandah's spacecraft will be named "Shehrezade."
  • FREDNET: Headed by Fred J. Bourgeois III, this multi-national team is comprised of systems, software, and hardware developers who serve as the leaders and overall coordinators of an international group of Open Source developers, engineers, and scientists. Their goal is to bring the same successful approach used in developing major software systems (such as the Internet, and Linux) to bear on the problems associated with Space Exploration and Research.
  • Independence-X Aerospace: Independence-X Aerospace from Malaysia is lead by Mohd Izmir Yamin (Aerospace Engineering), who has extensive experience in rocket propulsion and robotic control systems. Independence-X Aerospace has a strong fleet of strategic advisors that have served in various engineering and business fields as professional engineers, technologists and academics.
  • Jurban: The Juxtopia Group is a non-profit research organization that was started in 2000. Its mission is to improve human learning performance with science and technology that adapts to individual learning needs, enhances cognitive performance, and augments human learning capabilities anytime, anywhere, at any-pace, and for anyone. The Juxtopia® Group focuses its mission on underserved and disadvantaged populations to expose and significantly increase their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) proficiency through empirically researched interventions.
  • LunaTrex: Led by Pete Bitar, LunaTrex is comprised of several individuals, companies, and universities from all over the United States, some of whom were also competitors for the Ansari X Prize. Each team member brings their own history to the mix: rocket science, high-altitude near-space R&D, defense directed-energy technology, aviation design and development, robotics, trajectories, and non-conventional propulsion expertise. The name of their competing craft will be "Tumbleweed."
  • Micro-Space: Helmed by Richard Speck and based in Colorado, Micro-Space, Inc. has a 31-year history of producing world class, high tech products. Since focusing on the development of spaceflight systems, they have flown 17 innovative, bipropellant liquid fuel rockets, three near-hover rockets with vectored thrust guidance, scores of flights with telemetry and radio tracking, and several innovative life support systems. Micro-Space has been a competitor in the Ansari X Prize as well as the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. Their "Human Lunar Lander" will compete.
  • Omega Envoy: Earthrise Space is a not for profit organization that was founded by a group of students and professionals in Central Florida with the common goal of advancing private and commercial space exploration.
  • Odyssey Moon: The first team to register for the competition, Odyssey Moon is a private commercial lunar enterprise headquartered in the Isle of Man and founded by Dr. Robert Richards. Odyssey Moon's business plans are actively in development for a series of missions to the Moon during the International Lunar Decade in support of science, exploration and commerce. Their craft is titled "MoonOne (M-1)."
  • STELLAR: Team STELLAR was formed in October of 2007 by the leadership of several organizations that have been working together on various other projects for over two years. These organizations included Insight Technologies, The Advanced Vehicle Research Center, several key NC State University faculty members, as well as the NCSU Mechanical Aerospace and Engineering Department.
  • Team Italia: Based in Italy and led by Prof. Amalia Ercoli-Finzi, Team Italia is a collaboration between several universities. The team is currently running a prototype of its system at Politecnico di Milano. The architecture of the robotic system is under study: a single big rover or a colony of many robots, light and mobile, with many legs and wheels, able to be compacted in the lander and distributed quickly on the Moon's surface with cameras and sensory support.

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