The L2 Cup would be a human crewed spacecraft race modeled on offshore sailing races such as the Rolex Fastnet Race or the Volvo Ocean Race or the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and with financial details modeled on the America's Cup. The L2 Cup would begin in LEO and proceed to EML-2 where the competing spacecraft would remain within a specified distance of EML-2 for a specified period of time (mandatory loiter). Thereafter, the spacecraft would return to LEO and the finish line. The race winner would be determined by comparing total elapsed time from the start signal until a successful return to LEO, subject to adjustments for navigational accuracy and various other mission requirements as may be established by the Official Notice of Race.
A base-line L2 Cup competitor would consist of one Soyuz spacecraft, one Fregat orbital tug, and two Proton Block D space propulsion modules. This configuration is a simple progression from the well publicized Soyuz lunar circumnavigation mission marketed by Space Adventures.
In addition, it would be highly desirable for comparable spacecraft to
be developed by spacefaring (and potentially spacefaring) nations such
as China, the European Union and the United States as well as Japan and
India, which all possess a technology base sufficient to deploy a
functionally equivalent L2 Cup racer.
EML-2 offers a superior race destination:
Dramatic racing - Optimal flight trajectories between LEO and EML-2 utilize a lunar gravitational assist (a/k/a the slingshot maneuver). Competitive efforts to calculate and execute this maneuver would create suspense and racing drama. In addition, awarding elapsed time adjustments for precision navigation and station keeping during the loiter at EML-2 would reward superior operational skills.
Historic achievement - Upon
arrival at EML-2, race participants would be physically further from Earth than
any previous human beings, including the Apollo astronauts, creating incentive for wealthy adventurers to participate.
Deep space access - EML-2 is an entrance ramp onto the interplanetary superhighway. During the mandatory EML-2 loiter, small robotic craft comparable in mass to Deep Space-1 or the Planetary Society's Cosmos 1 solar sail experiment could be deployed by the competitors and these robotic explorers could then initiate deep space missions starting from EML-2. This capability offers race sponsors a two-for-one opportunity to target human spaceflight enthusiasts and robotic spaceflight enthusiasts with a single sponsorship investment.