College and university students have an opportunity to help design systems for future space habitats and exploration systems through NASA's Exploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. Applications for the fifth annual challenge will be accepted through April 30.
The project will challenge students to design and implement new prototype systems that may advance exploration capabilities. To take part in the X-Hab Challenge, student teams submit their plan for the design, manufacture, assembly and testing of their system. These plans will be evaluated by the agency's Exploration Augmentation Module (EAM) team, a new agency activity under the Advanced Exploration Systems division of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. The AES division pioneers development and demonstration of new technologies for future human missions beyond Earth's orbit.
The EAM consolidated several existing activities to fine-tune its effort to develop prototype systems that augment Orion's habitation and spacewalking capabilities for extended deep space missions. Orion is NASA’s next-generation spacecraft designed to carry astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, including to an asteroid and Mars. Orion's first uncrewed test flight, Exploration Flight Test-1, is scheduled to launch later this year.
Previous X-Hab Challenge projects included an inflatable loft for crew sleeping quarters, plant growth systems, stowage systems and habitat layout designs. This year, students may choose projects from a variety of areas such as power distribution systems, advanced avionics, inflatable structures, additive manufacturing and food production systems.
"We look forward to another imaginative group of X-Hab projects for the 2015 Challenge," said Lora Bailey, EAM project manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Our team of engineers and scientists around the agency benefits from the enthusiasm, energy and creativity of the university teams, and the teams benefit from the real world experiences of collaborating with NASA experts and following a project from design through implementation."
The X-Hab Challenge is part of a continuing effort to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The challenge is managed for the EAM project team by the National Space Grant Foundation. Teams selected for the challenge will receive a monetary stipend to assist in producing functional products based on their designs.
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