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NASA Awards $30,000 to Top 5 Teams in Third Round of Cube Quest Challenge

NASA has awarded $30,000 to each of the five top-scoring teams in Ground Tournament-3 of the agency’s small satellite Cube Quest Challenge.

Cube Quest consists of a series of four Ground Tournaments, the in-space Lunar Derby and the Deep Space Derby.  The Ground Tournaments serve as progress checks leading to an opportunity to be selected as one of three allocated slots on NASA’s Orion capsule’s first unmanned lunar flyby, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), planned for launch in 2018.

Miles team photo for CQ3
Team Miles of Tampa, Florida, placed first in Ground Tournament-3. The team also placed first in GT-1 and fifth in GT-2.

“Small satellites, including CubeSats, are helping NASA advance scientific and human exploration, reduce the cost of new space missions, and expand access to space,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate. “They also allow an effective and efficient means to engage students and citizen scientists in all phases of satellite development and operations through real-world, hands-on research and development experience on NASA-funded rideshare launch opportunities like EM-1.”

Cube Quest is a $5 million competition that challenges teams to design, build and deliver flight-qualified CubeSats capable of advanced functions near the moon and beyond. It is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, which engages the public through competitions to solve challenges that will benefit the agency and the nation.

The Ground Tournaments are held and awarded every six months, as teams present test results, engineering data, and analyses to a panel of judges for a chance to win intermediate awards. Seven teams competed in Ground Tournament-3.

The top five teams are:

  1. Team Miles – Fluid & Reason, Tampa, Florida
    (placed first in GT-1 and fifth in GT-2)
  2. Cislunar Explorers – Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
    (placed third in GT-1 and first in GT-2)
  3. CU-E3 – University of Colorado, Boulder
    (placed fourth in GT-2)
  4. KitCube – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
    (placed second in both GT-1 and GT-2)
  5. SEDS Triteia – University of California, San Diego
    (placed third in GT-2)

Teams were judged on their spacecraft and mission designs on point scale of 0 to 5, 5 awarded for exceeding expectations, and for highest likelihood of achievement of stated competition goals.

“We continue to be impressed as these teams refine and advance their technologies as we edge closer to the in-space phases of this challenge,” said Monsi Roman, program manager for Centennial Challenges, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “They are forging new ways ahead that will lead to big advancements inside these tiny satellite explorers.”

After the final Ground Tournament takes place in early 2017, teams that qualified in the first two tournaments have the additional opportunity to be selected for EM-1. Winners will be announced at the completion of the fourth and final Ground Tournament in February 2017. The final three teams selected for flight on EM-1 must also pass a safety review.

New teams may still join the Cube Quest Challenge, but must compete in the fourth and final Ground Tournament to be eligible to participate in the in-space competitions. When all four of the Ground Tournaments are completed, the competition will progress to the in-space competitions. In the Deep Space Derby, teams must compete from a range of at least 4 million kilometers from Earth – more than 10 times the distance to the moon – while the Lunar Derby requires teams to achieve a lunar orbit where they will compete for communications and longevity achievements. 

The Cube Quest Challenge is managed at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. NASA’s Centennial Challenges program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. STMD uses challenges to gather the best and brightest minds in academia, industry and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology focus areas.

For more information about the Cube Quest Challenge, visit: