Suggested Searches

3 min read

NASA Invites Competitors to Shoot for the Moon and Beyond

NASA is inviting additional teams to compete in the Cube Quest Challenge. You can still participate in the in-space phase of the challenge and be eligible to win part of a $4.5 million prize purse.

The Cube Quest Challenge, NASA’s first in-space competition, incentivizes teams to design, build and deliver small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the Moon. To compete, new teams meeting the eligibility criteria must obtain a ride to deep space for their CubeSats – either through commercial launch opportunities or programs like NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative.

“We welcome new teams to join us in this challenge in pursuit of advancing space exploration,” said Monsi Roman, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “When we established the Cube Quest Challenge in 2015, commercial flight opportunities weren’t as available. Now that technology has advanced and commercial partners are flying payloads, it is a great time to make potential participants aware of the opportunity.”

Fifteen university and private developer teams have already competed for prizes to showcase creative CubeSat technologies through ground-based tournaments, or phase one, of the Cube Quest Challenge, which was completed in 2017.

Three winners received spots as secondary payloads on Artemis I, the first integrated test flight of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. These teams have been working on their CubeSats, readying them for launch. Once deployed from the rocket, the teams will begin phase two, the in-space competition.

In-Space Competition

All Cube Quest Challenge competitors, both new and current, will compete in one of two arenas. The Lunar Derby is where CubeSats are to maintain a verifiable lunar orbit. There’s also the Deep Space Derby, in which CubeSats reach approximately 1.8 million miles from Earth.

Once in orbit, the CubeSats must complete various tasks outlined in the competition rules document to be eligible for prize money. To ensure data integrity, each satellite must transmit NASA-provided communications data to be eligible for prize money.

The Next Frontier

“The Cube Quest Challenge opens the lunar and deep space environment, thanks to the mastery of several technologies,” said Elizabeth Hyde, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley and technical advisor for the challenge. “The three technology areas we see as important for jumping from low-Earth orbit to deep space are communications, propulsion and radiation tolerance for CubeSats.”

Initiatives such as the Cube Quest Challenge aim to make deep space exploration more accessible and open up commercial space opportunities beyond low-Earth orbit.

“The next frontier is small satellites. Development efforts are aimed at pushing the boundaries of CubeSat exploration beyond low-Earth orbit,” Hyde said.

The competition is a part Centennial Challenges, based at the NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Centennial Challenges is a part of the Prizes and Challenges program within NASA’s  Space Technology Mission Directorate. The challenge is managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

To register to compete in the challenge, visit:

For more information of NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge, visit:

For more information about NASA’s Prizes and Challenges, visit:

Molly Porter
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.