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Enterprise Orbiter Design Contest

Space Shuttle Enterprise art
Space Shuttle Enterprise

This is the Starship Enterprise. No it’s not – although it is an Enterprise. It is in fact a representation I created of the very first Space Shuttle. Formally designated NASA Orbiter Vehicle OV-101, this Enterprise “space” shuttle is unique in that it never made it to space.

More recently another Enterprise has been in the news. That is Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise, the first of five planned suborbital spacecraft that will be used to send tourists and experiment payloads on suborbital trips to space.

While the media tend to focus on the space tourism aspect of companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace, their suborbital vehicles will be important platforms for conducting experiments in a microgravity environment.

However, suborbital is not orbital. With luck, the first Enterprise to orbit the Earth will be the NSS Enterprise Orbiter – which will carry approximately 100 competitively selected student experiments into low Earth orbit.

But before the Enterprise can be built, it must first be designed. And that’s where you come in. As a feature of this very public program, the Enterprise in Space team is calling on artists, engineers, science fiction fans, students, and dreamers to come up with their own concept of what the NSS Enterprise Orbiter should look like! And for the winning designer there will there will be accolades and prizes.

Unfortunately I can’t enter the contest because on the evening of Oct. 28, 2014 I accepted an offer to manage the Orbiter Design Contest – an opportunity and honor I readily accepted.

But first for people not designing spacecraft – you can still support the Enterprise in Space project by donating to the EIS campaign – with a $20 donation getting your name onboard the NSS Enterprise Orbiter as a virtual crew member. For details see the Enterprise in Space Donation Page.

Now, if you are up to accepting the challenge of designing the look of the NSS Enterprise Orbiter, here are some tips for you.

First, do not design a spacecraft that looks like a spacecraft that is associated with a spacecraft from TV or film. It must be your own original design. When reading through the contest details you will see that it says “The orbiter must be a science fiction inspired spacecraft.” Personally I would not take this literally. What the EIS team is looking for is a spacecraft from your imagination – not a spacecraft that looks like the product of a government contracting process. By necessity NASA spacecraft are designed to fulfill a specific function and “artistic” is not a consideration. For this project, EIS wants the spacecraft designer to step outside the box of traditional, purely functional satellite/spacecraft design. The EIS team is looking for a design that is not just functional, but beautiful.

Second, because your orbiter has to accommodate an internal payload of experiments, your design should be mindful of the usable spatial volume it encloses. Your design should be somewhere between the extremes of a solid cube or sphere at one end of the spectrum (boring) and an overly-streamlined design that provides minimal internal volume at the other end of the spectrum. Note that whatever your design, it must be bilaterally symmetrical. So your challenge is to balance functional design with elegant, artistic design – hopefully capturing the best of both worlds.

Once manufactured, your orbiter will physically have as its maximum dimensions a length no longer than 8 feet, a width no wider than 8 feet, and a height no taller than 6 feet. So in creating your design, be mindful of the factors 8 by 8 by 6.

Now, if all goes according to plan, the NSS Enterprise Orbiter:

  • will be launched as a secondary payload on an expendable launch vehicle,
  • will remain in low Earth orbit for approximately seven days,
  • will be de-orbited and recovered,
  • will go on tour,
  • will retire as a museum exhibit.

So now is the time to either fire up your favorite graphics software or grab your drafting supplies and get to designing a spacecraft that is truly unique. The submission deadline is set for November 27, 2014. To make sure you fully understand the contest, please read the Enterprise In Space Design Contest Rules.

And don’t forget that bilateral symmetry!

Answers to Some Really Basic Questions

Can anyone enter?
Yes, but not me or other folks associated with the project. Oh – you do have to be at least 18.
Is there an entry fee for the contest?
No, there is no entry fee. It’s free!
What’s the deadline?
It’s coming up fast – November 27, 2014.
Who is sponsoring this contest?
The National Space Society.
Where can I find the contest rules?
At Enterprise In Space Design Contest Rules.
How do I actually enter the contest?
Via the EIS online contest submission form
What are the prizes?
For the grand prize: in addition to having the honor of designing the first Enterprise to make it all the way to orbit, you will get to be present at both the launch and at the official retrieval. You’ll also receive a complimentary registration at the 2015 International Space Development Conference being held in Toronto, Canada. And there’s more. Complete prize details for this and the 1st and 2nd prize winners are on the Orbiter Design Contest Rules page.

And may the force be with you! Oh wait – wrong universe. Sorry about that.

Per audacia ad astra. – Through boldness to the stars.

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6 Responses to “Enterprise Orbiter Design Contest”

  1. Tony Hood says:

    Please see “Imitating habitable planet interior design” in “Space Habitat” groups at Linkedin. If their is going to be space travel, then there must be newer and better forms of technologies. This is a scaled down version of Earth’s inner cores, creating similar effects…
    Sincerely,
    Tony Hood

  2. Karl Garnham says:

    Am interested in designing a craft for you and I can make it in the dimensions you desire would like help if possible.

    Regards

    Karl Garnham

  3. Jim Plaxco says:

    Hello Tony,
    Thanks for the tip about the space groups on Linkedin. I’ll be sure to check it out.

  4. Jim Plaxco says:

    Hello Karl,
    I do recommend that you submit a spacecraft design to the contest. As the contest manager, and as a judge, I can only give very general advice and can only answer general questions.

    Perhaps the best advice I can give is to not be deterred if you have no experience using 3D software. As long as you can accurately portray your design from multiple perspectives you should be fine. Alternatively you may want to investigate using some of the open source graphics software packages that are available. Examples include Blender for 3d, Inkscape for vector, and GIMP for raster.

    Best of luck to you on your submission.

  5. excellent says:

    For one reason, I can’t see all of this content, stuff keeps hiding? Are you utilizing javascript?

  6. Jim Plaxco says:

    When you say that content keeps hiding, I take it that you are referring to the EIS web site which makes heavy use of Javascript. If your browser is having problems you will need to contact the folks at EIS. There is a contact form on the site.