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article imageThe $20,000 N-Prize Challenge

By Tim Neale     Jun 4, 2008 in Science
According to the N-Prize web site, the challenge is, “to launch an impossibly small satellite into orbit on a ludicrously small budget, for a pitifully small cash prize.”
The N-Prize of £9, 999.99 cash (US$20,000) is for the first person or group to put into Earth orbit, a satellite with a mass of between 9.99 and 19.99 grams. By comparison, a US quarter weighs approximately five grams, so the satellite should not weigh more than four quarters. The winners will have to prove that the satellite has completed at least nine orbits.
If that is not difficult enough, the cost of the launch (but not ground facilities) must fall within a budget of £999.99 ($2000). The satellite must complete the ninth orbit by 19:19:09 on Sep 19 2011. Presumably, 2009 seemed a bit premature.
The prize is being offered by Paul Dear, a biologist from Cambridge UK. Mr Drear admitted to New Scientist that he thinks the task is "well-nigh impossible." "Your job is to work around that 'almost,'" he said.
Mr Dear appears to be suffering from an obsessive compulsive disorder centered on the number nine. Perhaps a call to 999 (emergency services in the UK) would be in order. However, the challenge is being taken seriously. So far, four teams from the US, UK, South Africa and Australia, have signed up.
If nothing else, the N-Prize has provoked some blue-sky thinking regarding micro-satellites.
More about N-prize, Satellite, Challenge