NASA Selects Eight Projects for 2016 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge



American space agency announces selection of eight U.S. universities to create new technologies for deep space exploration, including the journey to Mars.

X-Hab loft

This 2011 version of the deep space habitat at the Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) analog field test site in Arizona features a Habitat Demonstration Unit, with the student-built X-Hab loft on top, a hygiene compartment on one side and airlock on the other. Credit: NASA

As NASA makes progress on its new Space Launch System and continues to emphasize future deep space missions, it has to deal with a critical problem. Put simply (and in NASA’s own words), the breadth of available technology required to successfully complete such long duration flights is inadequate.

The problem is even broader than that. Not only will new technology be required if humanity is to explore beyond low Earth orbit, but new engineers will also be needed to invent and produce that technology. Hence NASA’s X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge.

X-Hab is NASA’s way of providing university students with the chance to be part of the innovation so desperately needed for space exploration.

NASA has described X-Hab in the following way:

The X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge supports NASA’s research efforts to enable sustained and affordable human and robotic space exploration while contributing to the agency’s efforts to train and develop a highly skilled scientific, engineering and technical workforce for the future.

The challenge, which is led by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation, has teams designing systems, concepts and technologies that will help improve NASA’s exploration capabilities and provide undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in technology development.

Readers of this MUFON Georgia blog will recall that Alec Merta referred to the Habitation Demonstration Unit (HDU) in his article demonstrating that America did not build a secret base on the moon. In 2011, one X-Hab team demonstrated an inflatable loft that was attached to the HDU during NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (Desert RATS) program.

Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) division, was quoted as saying:

These strategic collaborations lower the barrier for university students to assist NASA in bridging gaps and increasing our knowledge in architectural design trades, capabilities and technology risk reduction related to exploration activities that will eventually take humans farther into space than ever before.

Student teams submitted proposals to NASA earlier this year. The selected project teams will be tasked with meeting a series of milestones “to design, manufacture, assemble and test their systems and concepts in close cooperation with members of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.”

The NASA-selcted X-Hab 2016 teams and projects are:

  • University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, Puerto Rico – Technology Development of Low-Power Required Manufacturing of Metals for the Zero-Gravity Environment
  • University of Maryland, College Park – Inflatable/Deployable Airlock Structures
  • Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York – Human Centered – Designs for Mars Transit Habitat
  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater – Deep Space Mars Transit Habitat Layout Studies
  • University of South Alabama, Mobile – Development of a Concentration Swing Frequency Response Device
  • Utah State University, Logan – Student Experimental Microgravity Plant System
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus – Water Assurance: Improve Water Delivery of a Modular Vegetable Production System
  • University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder– Performance Characterization and Enhancement of the Mars OASIS Space Plant Growth System

The National Space Grant Foundation will administer the grants, which range from $10,000 to $30,000, to the universities on behalf NASA to fund design, development and evaluation of the projects by the selected teams during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Click here for more information about X-Hab.

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