The Cheap Access To Space (CATS) Prize

The CATS Prize ended on November 8, 2000

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CATS Prize Rules

The purpose of the CATS prize was the purchase of a launch service for a 2 kilogram (4.41 pounds) payload to be carried to altitudes as specified within the rules. The launch service must be a dedicated mission to carry the CATS prize payload, flown aboard a vehicle that is substantially privately designed, developed and built. The following prizes were slated be awarded to competitors who carried the specified payload while meeting the terms of the CATS Prize rules:

  • First competitor to attain the altitude of not less than 120 kilometers – $50,000.00
  • First competitor to attain the specified altitude of not less than 200 kilometers – $250,000.00.
  • In the event that a single launch meets both altitude goals, a single prize of $250,000.00 shall be awarded.

Although no company was able to achieve the objective within the allotted time, their efforts added to the advancement of private space enterprise.

Rules and Definitions

1. Rules

1.1. Decisions of the Judging Committee are final.

1.2. The Judging Committee members, their agents, and the Space Frontier Foundation shall not be held responsible for any damages, or injuries resulting from CATS Prize activities.

1.3. The Prize shall expire on November 8, 2000.

1.4. Prizes will be awarded within 60 days of the determination of achievement of the launch service.

1.5. The CATS Prize payload need not be recovered to qualify for the prize.

1.6. All taxes are the responsibility of the winners.


2. Definitions

2.1. Competitor – A CATS Prize Competitor may be a private individual, a team loosely organized as a partnership, a partnership, a limited liability corporation or a corporation. Competitors are not restricted to U.S. Nationals, and launch sites are not restricted to the territory of the United States.

2.2. Payload – The 2 kg mass supplied by the Judging Committee. Minimum dimensions of the payload container are a right cylinder, 100 mm in diameter and 200 mm long, although the Judging Committee and competitors may agree upon alternative dimensions for a specific launch to facilitate individual system design requirements. In this case, mass or physical dimensions shall not be less than the standard as specified above.

2.3. Referee – The Judging Committee may assign a representative to scrutinize a competitor’s vehicle for compliance to the CATS Prize Requirements.

2.4. Technically Credible Altimeter/Altimetry – A scientifically demonstrated method of altitude determination. There should be an analysis of the method that includes a description of the technology, testing methods and the worst case errors predicted (the 3 sigma case).

2.5. Vehicle – The conveyance that attains the specified CATS Prize altitude(s) with the defined 2 kg payload. The vehicle’s airframe does not count as part of the payload mass.


3. Competition Rules

The rules for the CATS Prize cover the vehicle design, altitude determination, funding sources, legality, insurance and declaring an attempt. The rules are binding, with the decision of the Judging Committee being final.

3.1. Vehicle Design and Construction

Vehicles used for attaining the altitude for winning the CATS Prize shall be designed, constructed and tested by the Competitor or their designated agents. The vehicle design shall be documented with drawings prepared specifically for the CATS Prize Competition. However, the Judging Committee may not provide guidance as to vehicle design.

3.2. Construction.

3.2.1. The propulsion system and airframe shall be designed and fabricated by the Competitor or their designated agents. There shall be no substantial use of Government derived designs or surplus hardware used for the propulsion system or vehicle airframe.

3.3. Altitude Determination

Technically Credible Altimeter/Altimetry shall be used for determining the altitude attained. The Competitor shall provide, on a prospective basis, an analysis of the method that includes a description of the technology, testing methods and the worst case errors predicted (the 3 sigma case). Should there be a failure of the altimeter or other altitude determination method during flight, the last valid data point will be recorded as the maximum altitude attained.

3.3.1. Altitude predictions or modeling are not acceptable for altitude determination.

3.3.2. In the event that altimetry is not available, competitors must prospectively designate and employ an alternative system for determining peak vehicle altitude that is acceptable to the Judging Committee. Any such system that has been approved for one team shall be considered approved for all other teams.

3.4. Funding Sources

Funding for all aspects of the design, construction, testing and launch shall be privately obtained. No direct or indirect government funding shall be used for substantial materials or wages for competitors for the design, construction or testing of the CATS Prize vehicle.

3.4.1. Government employees may participate to the extent that such participation is not subsidized by the government, and such participation is allowed by the government.

3.5. Legality of Activities

All activities associated with the design, fabrication, transportation and operations of each CATS Prize Competitor’s system shall comply with local, State, Federal and International statutes and regulations.

The Competitor is responsible for understanding, complying and demonstrating compliance on a prospective basis with all laws and regulations associated with their activity. These may include but are not limited to the following:

3.5.1. Environmental laws and regulations.

3.5.2. Transportation laws and regulations relating to propellants.

3.5.3. Aviation laws and regulations regarding flight operations.

3.5.4. Laws and regulations pertaining to explosive devices and fuels.

3.6. Liability

Competitors are solely and completely liable for all activities related to this competition.

3.7. Declaring the Intention to Compete

Competitors must notify the CATS Prize Judging Committee of their intention to compete and their compliance with the above-mentioned regulations at least 30 days prior to their attempt. At that time, the Judging Committee may assign at least one Referee to the Competitor.

3.8. Requirements, roles and responsibilities of the Referee

3.8.1. If required by the competitor, the Referee shall sign a binding non-disclosure agreement.

3.8.2. The Referee shall scrutinize the design, fabrication and operations of the competitor for compliance with all of the CATS Prize rules and report the results to the Judging Committee. The Referee will observe the launch.

3.8.3. The Referee shall not provide guidance to the competitor for vehicle design, operations or safety and shall not be held liable for any of the competitor’s activities. However, Competitors may prospectively consult with the Referee as to the extent to which their systems adhere to the CATS Prize rules.

3.8.4. The Competitor may appeal the ruling of a Referee to the Judging Committee.

3.8.5. All decisions of the Judging Committee are final.