This year the Lunar Lander Challenge competition that is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges prize program is being run differently: rather than a single once-a-year event in New Mexico, each team can decide when and where they will compete during a competition window that opened July 20 and runs through October 31. At another Centennial Challenges event, the Tether Strength competition, held as part of the Space Elevator Conference in Redmond, Washington on Friday, Andy Petro, who manages the Centennial Challenges program, said that “at least three” attempts at winning either second prize for Level One or first and second prize for Level Two would be made in September and October.
It looks the first team (or at least one of the first) to make an attempt will be Armadillo Aerospace, who won first prize in Level One last October. According to a post on the “Official Armadillo Q&A thread at The Space Fellowship, John Carmack said at the QuakeCon 2009 convention Thursday that their Level Two attempt is planned for Labor Day weekend, three weekends from now. That development was also picked by a GameSpot article about Carmack’s speech, although not specifically mentioning the Lunar Lander Challenge, only an upcoming “Labor Day launch”. There’s nothing official yet on the Armadillo Aerospace or competition web sites.
A couple of other items: the Space Fellowship post states that Armadillo has also been busy with Rocket Racing League vehicle test flights and that “AA would make a lot more progress in the next year for reasons he couldn’t announce yet.” On the other hand, though, Carmack said that since his gaming company, id Software, was sold this summer, “he feels compelled to produce and deliver, rather than working on fun extracurricular projects like Armadillo Aerospace.”
(As as for the Tether Strength competition: only one team, from Japan, participated this year, and its tether, made of carbon nanotube material, broke almost immediately after force was applied.)