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August 18, 2009

The N-Prize dreams the (nearly) impossible dream

N-Prize photo of Cambridge University teddy bears

It's hard to get into orbit. You need to be moving really fast (typically over 17,000 miles per hour) and be really high up (at least 75 miles or so) to achieve anything approaching a stable earth orbit. Not surprisingly therefore, putting something into orbit tends to be a very expensive proposition (A typical satellite launch costs millions).

But what if it was possible to put something into orbit for a tiny fraction of the typical cost? Say...the cost of a typical laptop?

The N-Prize
organizers think it may just be do-able...if the satellite is really tiny. They're running a contest to see who can put a sub-one-ounce satellite into orbit for less than about $1,500. In their words...

The N-Prize is a challenge to launch an impossibly small satellite into orbit on a ludicrously small budget, for a pitifully small cash prize.

That cash prize is £9,999.99 (about $15,000 US). But that paltry amount hasn't stopped nearly 20 teams from taking up the challenge.

Popular Mechanics
has profiles of three of the teams' designs. Pictured above, Cambridge University's mad plan to get teddy bears into space.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at August 18, 2009 07:43 AM