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Competition Seeks University Concepts for Gateway and Deep Space Exploration Capabilities

To enable human expansion across the solar system, NASA is working with private companies and international partners to develop the Gateway, an outpost for crewed missions to the Moon that also supports scientific discovery and opportunities for a lunar economy.  The agency is involving college students and faculty with the adventure of human space exploration through the 2019 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition. RASC-AL is seeking proposals from the university community in four categories related to the Gateway and supporting capabilities that will establish a long-term human presence in deep space near the Moon and on the lunar surface.

Participants in the competition are asked to employ original engineering and analysis in creative proposals in one of these areas:

  • Gateway Uncrewed Utilization & Operations

  • Gateway-Based Human Lunar Surface Access

  • Gateway Logistics as a Science Platform

  • Gateway-Based Cislunar Tug

The Gateway will serve as an all-in-one solar-powered communications hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module, and holding area for rovers and other robots. This next phase of exploration will rely on agency collaboration with U.S. industry partners and sectors to develop innovative approaches that combine lunar robotics, resources in lunar orbit and lunar landing capabilities, with commercial and international participation. All of these efforts are the next step in our quest to establish a long-term presence at the Moon and later send astronauts to Mars.

“This year’s competition seeks innovative solutions in themes that range from using Gateway for new science capabilities and as a springboard for deep space exploration, to developing technologies to pave the way for humanity’s return to the Moon,” said Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD). “Multidisciplinary teams are highly encouraged, as varied skill sets will be extremely important in future space expeditions.”

Interested teams of eligible undergraduate or graduate students must submit a response by January 17, 2019 that addresses one of the four themes, and includes a detailed abstract and a two-minute video proposal. Each team’s response should investigate novel and robust applications for Gateway missions that allow crews to live, thrive, research and explore beyond low-Earth orbit.

From the submitted proposals, NASA and industry experts will select 20 teams to continue developing their proposed concepts.  In a later down-select, up to 14 of those teams will be invited to submit a technical paper and present their projects in person at a design review during the June 2019 RASC-AL Forum in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Each invited team will receive a $6,000 stipend to participate in the Forum.  The top two winning teams overall will be provided a travel stipend to give presentations at a major aerospace conference, such as the annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SPACE Forum.

“We need new ideas from the next generation’s best and brightest to solve important issues,” Crusan continued. “History has shown that this is exactly what we receive from the RASC-AL competition each year.  I continue to be inspired by the enthusiastic participants as they present numerous imaginative and compelling approaches to these big exploration and technology questions. It’s a real testament to the desire for innovation and progress that led to the creation of RASC-Al.”

RASC-AL is managed by the National Institute of Aerospace for NASA.  For more information about the challenge, visit the RASC-AL website at:

For more information about NASA Advanced Exploration Systems, go to: