For the first time, NASA has kicked off the first in Space NASA Centennial Challenges prize competition — the Cube Quest Challenge — for $5 million in prizes while spurring CubeSat technology innovation.
In addition, NASA said in a statement that the winners can launch their owm lunar mission. “They’ll also have a chance to launch and fly their spacecraft on a mission to the moon, and beyond!” said NASA.
Registration is open now and the the contestants can take a shot at a share of $5 million in prize money and an opportunity to participate in space exploration and technology development, to include a chance at flying their very own CubeSat to the moon and beyond as secondary payload on the first integrated flight of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
“NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge will engage teams in the development of the new technologies that will advance the state of the art of CubeSats and demonstrate their capabilities as viable deep space explorers,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“Prize competitions like this engage the general public and directly contribute to NASA’s goals while serving as a tool for open innovation.”
The contest is for designing, building and delivering flight-qualified, small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the moon. The challenge and prize purse are divided into three major areas:
Ground Tournaments: $500,000 in the four qualifying ground tournaments to determine who will have the ability to fly on the first SLS flight;
Lunar Derby: $1.5 million for demonstrating communication and CubeSat durability at a distance greater than almost 2.5 million miles (4,000,000 km), 10 times the distance from the Earth to the moon; and
Deep Space Derby: $3 million for demonstrating the ability to place a CubeSat in a stable lunar orbit and demonstrate communication and durability near the moon.
All teams may compete in any one of the four ground tournaments and teams rated high on mission safety and probability of success will receive incremental awards. The ground tournaments will be held every four to six months and participation is required to earn a secondary payload spot on SLS, said NASA.
The Lunar Derby focuses on propulsion for small spacecraft and near-Earth communications, while the Deep Space Derby focuses on finding innovative solutions to deep space communications using small spacecraft. Together, these competitions help contribute in NASA’s deep space exploration to private spacecraft.
NASA has conducted 24 Centennial Challenges events since 2005 and has awarded more than $6 million to 16 challenge-winning teams.