1. Please introduce your organization.
Earthrise Space, Inc. is a Florida-based non-profit corporation dedicated to developing space technology in collaboration with industry and academic institutions. ESI's Omega Envoy Project is creating a key set of lunar spacecraft infrastructure which will fulfill the requirements of the Google Lunar X PRIZE and provide a platform for the delivery of commercial payloads to the lunar surface. All ESI efforts involve students and young professionals through internships, providing them with hands-on experience building real spacecraft and preparing them for future employment in the space industry.
2. How did you come up with the idea to build the spacecraft?
The size, shape, and function of the spacecraft were partially determined by the requirements of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition and the launch vehicle used. The technical reasoning behind this is that Omega Envoy must "piggyback" itself within a commercial launch vehicle to exit the Earth's atmosphere. Once outside Earth's orbit, our upper stage spacecraft will break away from the launch vehicle and navigate towards the Moon. After orbiting the Moon and scanning the lunar terrain, the spacecraft will be commanded to descend and touchdown on the lunar surface. Following the payload landing, the latched doors will open and the lunar rover will roll out; beginning its functional life on the Moon. The primary guidelines for the Omega Envoy spacecraft design arose from the complexity of each mission stage described above.
3. Why is space exploration so interesting to the team?
The current generation of engineers has been presented with a new kind of challenge: the prospect of commercial space flight. Mankind's presence in space was once limited to the dreams of science fiction writers, but under the guidance of organizations like NASA, satellites now surround the earth. The Apollo and Mars Rover missions, among others, shed light on the need for further voyages of discovery into space, beginning with our closest planetary neighbors. Our team is inspired by the determination of those who came before us to tackle the complex engineering challenges of space exploration.
4. Can you share with us at what building stage you are with Lunar Rover?
We have completed most of our structural designs for the rover and descent vehicle. Our current focus for these vehicles is comprehensive testing; meaning, trying to establish design and component limitations through accurate testing and data collection. Other systems that are less established, such as the electronics and solar array panels, are still undergoing research. It's critical during this component selection process that we allocate radiation-hardened electronics to withstand the anticipated space environment. Since spacecraft electronics are expensive and uniquely customized, we can't just go into a computer hardware store to find some of the most important components. As a result, we are currently working hard to partner with businesses and individuals to receive donations that will help accelerate component acquirement and design testing.
5. Can you share with the reader Omega Envoy's biggest accomplishments, what are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of?
Omega Envoy's biggest accomplishments range from establishing a contract with NASA worth up to $10 million dollars, to our multiple partnerships with local and foreign space industries. In addition, donations from corporations and individuals have been greatly appreciated to help meet recent milestones. We are especially proud that Omega Envoy is comprised predominantly of students who are passionate enough to volunteer their time for this unique challenge. Developing a space vehicle is an extremely complex process, and our hardworking students are essential participants in the rigorous research, design, and testing. It is in their efforts and ingenuity that Omega Envoy continues to drive this project forward.
6. What challenges have you faced while working on this project?
The Omega Envoy project presents us with new challenges every day—that's part of what keeps it so exciting! There are three big issues that we are constantly working to address. First, we need to adapt and apply engineering theory to the practical issues of spacecraft design and development. Second, we need to incorporate the requirements of the Google Lunar X PRIZE and keep to the mission schedule. Finally, we have to coordinate as a team to make sure that we are organized and managing our resources efficiently. As students, it is valuable experience for the Omega Envoy team members to learn about all the different aspects of building a spacecraft—not just the engineering challenges.
7. How can the public help you succeed on this journey to the moon?
The public plays a crucial role in supporting the Omega Envoy team. We're working hard to spread the message about our project on social media, but you are the ones who provide the real word-of-mouth. You can find Earthrise Space, Inc. on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+-- we love getting followers and shares about our project!
Donations will also go a long way toward making the Omega Envoy mission a success. Whatever you can give will be matched by a couple of sponsoring companies, essentially tripling the size of the donation. We are grateful to all our supporters, no matter whether they give money or just lend their voice to our mission—you all make this possible!