The city of Lompoc, in a partnership with Vandenberg Air Force Base, has announced its candidacy to host the first annual X Prize Cup.

The X Prize Cup is an international manned spacecraft competition and public space flight exhibition offering a $10 million award to the first privately funded team to build and launch a manned spacecraft capable of carrying three people to space on two flights within two weeks. The crafts are required to reach an altitude of 100 kilometers, which is considered sub-orbital rather than deep space because the crafts would still be fully within the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Other launch sites applying to host the competition include bases in New Mexico, Florida and Oklahoma. Vandenberg Air Force Base is California’s only candidate.

“Lompoc is the ideal location to host the event because of the rich history and mission at Vandenberg and the diverse space-related activities and artifacts in the area,” Lompoc Economic Development Coordinator Kathleen Griffith said. “Vandenberg Air Force Base is the nation’s premier polar launch site, with 18,000 launches and zero casualties over 40 years.”

The X Prize was founded in 1996 to motivate teams to continue to innovate, diversify and improve their spacecraft. More than 20 teams from seven countries have registered to compete.

“Expanding the capabilities of these vehicles is paramount to the viability and economic prosperity of private spaceflight,” X Prize chair Peter Diamandis said. “The X Prize Cup will serve as the driving force for public space flight development.”

Five of the 24 registered teams are from California, including American Astronautics Corporation, Interorbital Systems, Kelly Space and Technology, Scaled Composites and Solvang-based Pioneer Rocketplane.

Through private donations, the X Prize Cup is fully funded until Jan. 1, 2005. The award is backed by an insurance policy to guarantee that the $10 million is in place on the day the event is won.

In today’s meeting of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, the board will announce its support for the city of Lompoc and Vandenberg Air Force Base in their bid to host the competition.