NASA wants ideas from teams of undergraduate and graduate students in fields related to human space exploration as part of the agency’s 2017 Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing Idea challenge.
The agency said the competition seeks concepts on how to assemble spacecraft as they are in space and in particular tugs that use solar electric propulsion to transfer payloads from low-earth orbit to a lunar distant retrograde orbit.
NASA added the reusable SEP tug seeks to address the cost of payload transfers between LEO to LDRO and vice versa as well as aid deep space missions such as the journey to Mars.
The agency requires 200-kilowatt tugs to support the evolvable mars campaign that aims to use an LDRO to stage space systems for human explorations to the moon, asteroids and Mars.
Concepts from BIG Idea participants will help provide new approaches on the space-based construction of 200-kilowatt SEP tugs through a robotic assembly of modules, NASA added.
BIG Idea entries should consider design simplicity; low system mass; ground testability of the assembly process; system level modularity; launch packaging; concept of operations for robotic assembly and module deployment; and the ability to remove and replace modules.
Interested teams can submit proposals until November 30 and the National Institute of Aerospace manages the BIG Idea challenge for NASA.