About the X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge
With the forward progress of NASA’s new Space Launch System and emphasis on future deep space missions, the breadth of technology required to successfully complete such long duration flights is inadequate. The challenges that exist – from producing food on the journey to effectively recycling breathable air to utilizing every last resource available – create opportunities for groundbreaking innovation.
The X-Hab Challenge seeks to provide university students with the opportunity to be on the forefront of such innovation. For the past four years, NASA has identified necessary technologies for deep space missions and invited universities from around the country to develop concepts, prototypes, and lessons learned that will help shape future space missions. This year’s selected partners and areas of emphasis are:
- University of Colorado – Remotely Operated Gardening Robot System
- Oklahoma State University – Vertical Habitat Design
- Rice University – SpaceRing Power-Cooling System
- University of Maryland – Neutral Buoyancy Habitat Study
- University of South Alabama – Novel Absorbent Air Revitalization for Closed Environments
- University of Wisconsin – Compartmentalized Onboard Material Extrusion Technology
Each of the universities has assembled a multi-discipline team of students that invest months working together, developing concepts, and frequently producing working prototypes. Not only are students able to gain quality experience, working real world problems that have the possibility of be implemented, but they work closely with subject matter experts from NASA who guide them through an official engineering development process.
Previous X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenges
On March 20, 2012, NASA released a call for proposals for the 2013 challenge, inviting students to design, manufacture, assemble and test systems for use on NASA's deep space habitat prototype. NASA announced on May 30, 2012 that five teams were selected to participate in the 2013 X-Hab Challenge: California State Polytechnic University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, University of Alabama in Huntsville, and University of Colorado at Boulder.
On July 22, 2011 NASA announced the selection of four teams to compete in the 2012 challenge, from Oklahoma State University; University of Maryland, College Park; Ohio State University; and University of Bridgeport, Conn. The undergraduate students designed, manufactured, assembled and tested their concepts and hardware. A panel of engineers and scientists assessed their progress at each stage of the competition. The National Space Grant Foundation funded the cost of the teams' design development and their participation in testing in summer 2012 at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.
University teams from Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, and Maryland were chosen for the finalist phase of the first X-Hab competition. In June of 2011 at Johnson Space Center, the NASA-Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU) Project conducted a head-to-head competition for successfully designing and demonstrating an attachable inflatable habitat "Loft" (2nd level attachable) concept given a list of requirements for the design. In July 1, 2011, the University of Wisconsin-Madison was announced as the winner of the 2011 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge.