Archive for August, 2016

Despite setbacks, Florida International University students’ satellite destined for space

Despite setbacks, Florida International University students’ satellite destined for space

A team of mechanical engineering students designed and created a satellite that won a NASA-sponsored competition, and as a result, will launch into space in about two years. But the journey to the great beyond, once complete, would have taken nearly a decade to realize.

NASA’s SBIR/STTR Subtopic Workshop – Registration Open

NASA’s SBIR/STTR Subtopic Workshop – Registration Open

On August 15, 2016 NASA opened registration to our first Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/ Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program Subtopic Workshop. This workshop will provide small businesses and research institutions with a great opportunity to interact with SBIR/STTR program experts, NASA mission directorate representatives, and technologists!

Interested small business and research institution participants will have the option to participate virtually or in person for one or both days. The event will be hosted on September 12-13, 2016 at NASA Ames Research Center’s Building 3 Conference Center located at, Moffett Field, CA 94035. All in-person and virtual participants must register and participation is free. Registration closes on September 2, 2016.

The purpose of this workshop is to encourage two-way conversation between potential SBIR/STTR applicants and NASA experts on a set of technical topic areas. The planned session topics include:

At this workshop, participants will hear NASA’s experts outline the context for their technology needs within broader NASA technology strategy and SBIR/STTR’s role as part of this strategy. Participating NASA experts will present technical briefings followed by smaller breakout sessions for interested attendees. Participants will be able to converse with NASA on the associated technical topic areas at these breakout sessions. The information obtained through the workshop may result in small refinements to the FY17 SBIR/STTR solicitation, but the primary purpose of this workshop is to inform development of the FY18 SBIR/STTR solicitation.


The Registration website opened Monday, August 15, 2016 and will close Friday September 2, 2016 at 5:00 PM EDT. Visit to view the agenda, register for the event, and obtain directions to the facility and security requirements. More detailed information on the covered session topics will be released in advance of the event and will be posted on the same webpage.

Interested parties may register to attend in person or virtually, however no more than two representatives per company may attend. The venue capacity is 300 people per day, so in-person registrations will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis.

The event will be conducted at the UNCLASSIFIED security level. See the registration website for NASA ARC visitor requirements. Non-U.S. Citizens will need to follow the proper procedure for badging with the International Visitor’s Office in order to access the NASA Conference Facility. Thus, all non-U.S. Citizens or non-permanent residents must register to attend no later than Friday, August 26, 2016.

Attendance at this meeting is FREE and voluntary. Participation is not required to propose to any existing or future announcements. Attendees are encouraged not to attempt to disclose propriety information at the workshop. NASA information presented at the workshop will be posted on the NASA SBIR/STTR webpage. NASA intends to have future opportunities for potential offerors to submit comments on the FY 2018 SBIR/STTR solicitation.

NOTE: NASA will not provide reimbursement for any costs incurred to attend this workshop.



NEW NASA RASC-AL Competition Seeks Mars Prototype Ice Drilling Systems

NEW NASA RASC-AL Competition Seeks Mars Prototype Ice Drilling Systems

Chances are that you’ve heard of NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) portfolio of prestigious university-level engineering design competitions. Today, NASA is pleased to unveil a new hands-on competition for 2017 – the RASC-AL Special Edition: Mars Ice Challenge.  

In 2017, NASA’s Langley Research Center (LaRC) will celebrate its centennial anniversary. As a part of the centennial celebration activities at LaRC, NASA is sponsoring a Special Edition Challenge focusing on technology demonstrations for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) capabilities on Mars, particularly extracting water from simulated Martian subsurface ice. Improving ISRU capabilities will be a large emphasis at LaRC over the next few decades, and the RASC-AL Special Edition: Mars Ice Challenge offers a unique way for NASA LaRC to recognize RASC-AL’s important place in its history while also linking the competition to its future.

Through the Mars Ice Challenge, NASA seeks innovative concepts from undergraduate and graduate students that explore and demonstrate methods to extract water from Mars ice deposits.  In this exciting design competition, participants are required to physically build and test prototype ice drilling systems that will compete to extract the most water from simulated Martian subsurface ice over a two-day period during the summer of 2017 at NASA LaRC in Hampton, VA. Drilling systems must operate autonomously or via teleoperation.

Student teams and their faculty advisors are invited to submit an online Notice of Intent by October 14, 2016 and submit project plans of their ice drilling system by November 17, 2016.

Based on a review of the Project Plans by the Steering Committee, up to eight (8) qualifying teams will be selected to receive a $10,000 stipend to facilitate full participation in the Mars Ice Challenge, including expenses for drilling system development, materials, testing equipment, hardware, software and the competition at Langley Research Center.

At the 2017 Mars Ice Challenge in Hampton, the drilling systems will compete to extract the most water from simulated Martian subsurface ice. The simulated subsurface ice will be comprised of layers of dirt/overburden and solid blocks of ice. The total drilling depth will not exceed 1.0 meter and teams may drill multiple holes in the ice. The drilling and water extraction system is subject to mass, volume and power constraints. After completion of the test and validation portion of the project, teams will present their drilling concepts in a design review to a multi-disciplinary panel of scientists and engineers from NASA and industry. Presentations will be based on the team’s technical paper that details the drill concept’s path-to-flight (how the design would be modified to extract water on Mars)..

Top performing teams may be chosen to present their design at a NASA-chosen event. Subject to the availability of funds, such invites may include an accompanying stipend to further advance development of their concepts and offset the cost of traveling to the event.   

For more information on the 2017 RASC-AL Special Edition: Mars Ice Challenge, please view the Mars Ice Challenge Competition Overview ­ preview document.

Full competition details will be made by September 23, 2016 on the Mars Ice Challenge Website.

Important Competition Dates

October 14, 2016: NOI deadline for university teams
October 19, 2016: Q&A Webinar for teams with Mars Ice Challenge Steering Committee
November 17, 2016: Project Plan submission deadline
December 9, 2016: Teams are notified of their selection status
April 2, 2017: Mid-Point Progress report deadline
May 30, 2017: Technical Paper submission deadline
June 13-15 2017: Mars Ice Challenge Competition at NASA Langley Research Center

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the RASC-AL team at You may also contact me directly at 757-325-6732 or, or contact Stacy Dees at 757-218-8313 or


If the Mars Ice Challenge is not a good fit for you, you may be interested in one of 2 other exciting NASA-NIA university-level design challenges for the 2016/17 academic year. We encourage you share them, field a team and participate in one of these exciting alternative competitions:


  1. RASC-AL Deep Space Subsystem Concepts Competition:  (4 different themes)
  2. lightweight exercise suite
    b. airlock design
    c. commercially habitable LEO/Mars habitable module
    d. logistics delivery system
  3. Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge (design a 200 kW SEP tug)


Call for NASA 2017 RASC-AL Proposals

Call for NASA 2017 RASC-AL Proposals

The 2017 RASC-AL competition is seeking concepts that leverage innovations to improve our ability to work more effectively in microgravity, with a focus on the design of more efficient subsystems. Successful proposals will demonstrate comprehensive engineering analysis of innovative capabilities and/or new technologies for evolutionary architecture development to enable future missions, reduce cost, and/or improve safety.

Teams that are selected will receive a $6,000 stipend to facilitate participation in the 2017 RASC-AL Forum held in Cocoa Beach, Florida in June.

Student teams and their faculty advisors are invited to submit abstract proposals by January 19, 2017, responding to one of the following themes:

Based on review of the abstracts by the RASC-AL Steering Committee, up to twenty teams will be selected to move to the next stage of the competition.  After evaluating Mid-Project Reviews in March, the Steering Committee will narrow the competition field and select 12-16 teams to move to the final phase of the competition.  These remaining teams will receive a stipend to facilitate full participation in the RASC-AL Forum in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

The two top scoring teams will be invited to present their design and analysis projects to government and industry experts at a major Aerospace conference, such as AIAA Space 2017 (additional travel stipends provided).

For your convenience, we have included a printable flyer describing the 2017 RASC-AL challenge themes. For complete information on the 2017 RASC-AL Design Competition, visit


November 8, 2016: Notice of Intent deadline
January 19, 2017: Abstract deadline
February 3, 2017: 1st down-select is made
March 16, 2017: Mid-Project Review
April 3, 2017: Final down-select is made
May 31-June 2, 2017: 2017 RASC-AL Forum


For complete information on the 2017 RASC-AL Engineering Design Competition

please visit the RASC-AL website at

We encourage you to involve your undergraduate and graduate students in this competition, which gives them the opportunity to: interact with NASA and industry experts; develop relationships that could lead to participation in other NASA student research programs, and infuse concepts and data from RASC-AL into NASA human exploration program planning.  Multi-disciplinary teams are encouraged, and as well as multi-university teams, including partnerships with international institutions.

Teams are requested to submit an online Notice of Intent to compete form which can found on the RASC-AL website. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the RASC-AL Program Team at


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