The eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is a university-level competition run by the National Space Grant Foundation for the Habitation Systems Project team at Johnson Space Center, which is part of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems Program. Four university teams were selected to participate in the second annual X-Hab Challenge, designing habitat and science concepts that could be used by future deep space explorers: Oklahoma State University; University of Maryland, College Park; Ohio State University and University of Bridgeport, Conn.
Oklahoma State University (OSU) students have developed a concept and are working with a constructed mock-up of a horizontally oriented habitat. They are working to finalize and test the design, which includes space for research, sleeping, and storage.
The "Highly Expandable Module" is being designed with a crew of 4 in mind and all of the necessary cargo for a long duration space flight. Inflatable supports will allow minimal storage space for launch and easily expand to create fixed shaped spaces to live and work.
In addition to their own work on the project, the OSU team enlisted the help of high school students around the country to develop their own designs with similar constraints and goals. The high school team that won the Space Habitation Innovation Challenge was rewarded with a trip to Johnson Space Center for a tour and to see the previous year's work on the Habitat Demonstration Unit. The winning team was made up of 4 students from across the country: Nicholas LoBoe (Beaverton, Ore.), Hannah Mohr (Grant, Ala.), Francisco Sanchez (Mountain View, Calif.), and Smridhi Mahajan (San Antonio, Tex.).
High school students who won the competition facilitated by Oklahoma State University to design an expandable habitat taking a tour of Johnson Space Center.
University of Maryland students are well into their design and construction of a vertically oriented space habitat that will be suitable to support a crew of four for up to 900 days. They have given the name "Crew Habitat Evaluator for Long-Duration Orbital, Near-earth, and Interplanetary Applications" (CHELONIA) to their project, planning for a variety of missions.
The scope of the finished design is a living space of no less than 42 cubic meters (1482 cubic feet) and the capability to stack modules and connect them side-by-side. Modularity and accessibility are two of the greatest considerations for a successful habitat with research capabilities. Other requirements considered in the design process include storage, software, personal space for the crew, safety and production techniques.
Students at the University of Maryland, College Park testing their prototype for livability.
Students from the Ohio State University are working to develop plant growth containers in currently unused space on the existing Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU). In addition to the growth containers, a system must be developed for automated monitoring of the plants. That system needs to be able to keep track of irrigation, temperature, lighting, and harvesting of plants.
This enhancement to the habitat will allow oxygen to naturally be produced while on long-duration space travel, or during exploration of celestial bodies, as well as provide a fresh supply of foods for the crew.
The University of Bridgeport (UB) team has designed and is working on creating a prototype robotic arm to be integrated into the existing GeoLab glovebox testbed located within the Deep Space Habitat.
The goal is to produce a product that will be able to properly hold and flexibly handle geological samples during analytic processes in a microgravity environment on long duration space flight missions. The UB team is led by professor Jeremy (Zheng) Li with three graduate students: Tony Shuo, Kevin Zhong, and Ravi Dahiwala.
Their robotic system has six axes of motion and can hold geological samples for lab examination and testing. Included in the system are one 3-D motion slider, one rotary table, and several step motors.
The prototype of this remote controlled Geo-Lab reduced gravity sample holders/manipulator tool system is expected to be delivered to the Johnson Space Center in May 2012 for testing and system integration.
The entire team from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut tests their prototype robotic arm.