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NASA Issues $5M Challenge for Small-Satellite Space Exploration Capabilities

CubeSatNASA has launched its Cube Quest Challenge comprised of three sub-competitions designed to examine new space exploration technologies and capabilities for small satellites for a total prize money of $5 million.

The agency said Nov. 24 that teams will also vie for an opportunity to launch their own CubeSat as a secondary payload on the upcoming integrated Orion and Space Launch System flight.

“Prize competitions like this engage the general public and directly contribute to NASA’s goals while serving as a tool for open innovation,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters.

The challenge consists of four qualifying ground tournaments every four to six months for $500,000 in prize money and a spot on SLS; a lunar derby for a prize worth $3 million; and a deep space derby for $1.5 million.

Competing teams will work to design and build small satellites that are qualified for flight and can demonstrate propulsion, durability and communication functions in lunar orbit and in deep space, NASA said.

“If we can produce capabilities usually associated with larger spacecraft in the much smaller platform of CubeSats, a dramatic improvement in the affordability of space missions will result, greatly increasing science and research possibilities,” said Eric Eberly, Centennial Challenges deputy program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

The Cube Quest Challenge is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program.

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