The National Space Grant Foundation is currently accepting proposals for the X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge. is a university-level challenge designed to develop strategic partnerships and collaborations with universities. It has been organized to help bridge strategic knowledge gaps and increase knowledge in capabilities and technology risk reduction related to NASA’s vision and missions. In 2016, the X-Hab Challenge scope was formally extended to include other areas of Exploration Systems as well as habitation topics. The competition is intended to link with senior- and graduate-level design curricula that emphasize hands-on design, research, development, and manufacturing of functional prototypical subsystems that enable functionality for space habitats and deep-space exploration missions. NASA will directly benefit from the challenge by sponsoring the development of innovative concepts and technologies from universities, which will result in novel ideas and solutions that could be applied to exploration.
The Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division will offer multiple awards of $15k – $50k each to design and produce studies or functional products of interest to the AES Division (see Section 3.2, X-Hab Proposal Topic List) as proposed by university teams according to their interests and expertise. The prototypes produced by the university teams (examples of which are shown in Figure 1) may be integrated into existing NASA-built operational prototypes. Universities interested in participating will submit X-Hab proposals, which will be reviewed by technical experts; subsequent down-selection will determine which projects will be funded. X-Hab university teams will be required to complete their products for evaluation by the AES Division in May 2020. Universities may form collaborations to perform as a single distributed project team.
Students in the Critical Path
The X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge has a unique approach to student involvement, in that the student team is placed in the NASA mission critical path for the product or technology that they develop alongside NASA researchers. Teams are required to go through a series of NASA-standard assessments as other NASA engineering products, including a System Definition Review (SDR), a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), and a Critical Design Review (CDR). With this approach, NASA is putting a great deal of responsibility on the students. This in turn gives the students a bigger stake in the development of space technologies that likely will form the basis for future systems and technologies that will be flown in space.
Proposals will be accepted from faculty who are U.S. citizens and currently teach an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-accredited engineering senior or graduate design, industrial design, or architecture curriculum teaming course at a university affiliated with the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, or other US accredited university. Multidisciplinary, multi-departmental, and/or multi-institutional teaming collaborations are highly encouraged.
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