NASA Opens Call for 20th Annual Student Competition to Design Space Exploration Concepts

NASA Opens Call for 20th Annual Student Competition to Design Space Exploration Concepts

Press Release
Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2021

Undergraduate and graduate students in STEM-related fields are invited to develop concepts for the 2022 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition that will help extend humanity’s presence further into the solar system.

NASA’s RASC-AL competition challenges student teams to incorporate coursework into relevant and timely space exploration objectives that help fill in knowledge gaps. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022, RASC-AL is one of NASA’s longest running higher education competitions.

The 2022 themes address capabilities critical for operating on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Ranging from operations for extending mobility and enabling sample return on the Moon to large-scale in-situ resource utilization(ISRU) of water on Mars, each team’s theme proposals should address novel and robust applications to support expanding humanity’s ability to thrive beyond Earth.

The 2022 themes are:

  • Portable Utility Pallet
  • Universal Sample Containment System
  • Mars Water-Based ISRU Architecture
  • SuitPort Logistics Carrier (SPLC)

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the program, teams are encouraged for the first time to build a prototype to showcase at a culminating forum. Bonus points may be awarded to these teams based on their prototype.

“We are excited the bring the prototyping component into the competition,” said Pat Troutman, human exploration strategic analysis lead at NASA’s Langley Research Center, in Hampton, Virginia. “The themes support the future of space exploration at NASA, helping to fill capability gaps to get humans back to the Moon sustainably under Artemis, and then to Mars. Students are going to bring some excellent ideas to the table for us to consider and see with our own eyes through these prototypes. This will be a fun competition.”

Interested student teams and their faculty advisors should submit a Notice of Intent by October 14, 2021, and submit proposals and videos by March 1, 2022. Respondents are asked to pay special attention to the following proposal expectations:

  • Synergistic applications of NASA’s planned current investments
  • Supporting engineering analysis and justification of assumptions
  • Unique combinations of the planned elements with new innovative approaches / capabilities / technologies to support crewed and robotic exploration of the solar system
  • Realistic assessment of costs for technology maturation, system development, and production and operations

Based on review of the team proposal and video submissions in March, up to 15 teams will be selected to advance to the final phase of the competition – presenting their concepts to a panel of NASA and industry judges in a competitive design review at the 2022 RASC-AL Forum in Cocoa Beach, Florida, next June.

Each finalist team will receive a $6,000 stipend. The top two overall teams will be awarded with additional travel stipends to present their concept at an aerospace conference in 2022.

RASC-AL is open to undergraduate and graduate students studying disciplines related to human space exploration, including but not limited to aerospace, bio-medical, electrical, and mechanical engineering, and life, physical, and computer sciences. Participating students have the opportunity to interact with NASA and industry experts, develop relationships that could lead to participation in other NASA student research programs, and infuse concepts and data from RASC-AL into NASA human exploration program planning.

RASC-AL is sponsored by the Systems Engineering and Integration division within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters and by the Space Mission Analysis Branch at Langley. The competition is administered by the National Institute of Aerospace.

For more information about the RASC-AL competition, visit:

For more information about the National Institute of Aerospace, visit:

For more information about NASA’s Moon and Mars exploration plans, visit:

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