Competition Seeks Student Proposals For NASA’s In-Space Transportation Concepts

September 22, 2017 – NASA is encouraging undergraduate and graduate students and faculty to become partners in the journey to deep space through the 2018 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition. RASC-AL is seeking proposals from the university community in four deep space transportation areas to potentially improve NASA’s ability to travel within the solar system.

Participants in the competition are asked to employ original engineering and analysis in creative proposals that advance proposed NASA capabilities in one of these areas:

  • Reusable hybrid propulsion stage
  • Artificial gravity
  • Propellant resupply capability
  • Lunar polar sample return architecture
  • Earlier this year, NASA proposed a concept to build a gateway in the vicinity of the Moon, which could be constructed during the next decade. The deep space gateway could be a staging point for future spacecraft to transport crew between various destinations, and initially would include a power and propulsion element, a habitat for crew quarters, and a logistics module for research. Once assembled, the gateway could serve as a staging point for a future deep space transport that would carry humans to destinations beyond the Earth-Moon system. The competition will build upon NASA’s proposed gateway and transport systems.

    “The deep space gateway and deep space transport concepts represent steps to gain operational experience and the ability to operate human missions farther in space,” said Pat Troutman, Human Exploration Strategic Analysis lead at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. “This year’s RASC-AL themes seek innovations for future spacecraft that improve upon initial concepts for configuration, operation, and refueling. These activities could make our neighborhood in space smaller than ever.”

    A notice of intent to participate in the challenge is due October 17. Following a preliminary review of abstracts and video proposals received by January 21, 2018, and an intermediate review in April, up to 16 finalist teams will be selected to submit full technical papers. These teams will present their concepts as part of a design review at the 2018 RASC-AL Forum in Cocoa Beach, Florida in June, receiving a modest stipend to facilitate their participation. The top two teams will receive an additional travel stipend to attend a technical conference to share their RASC-AL concept with the broader scientific and engineering community.

    “The public-private RASC-AL collaboration demonstrates the power of NASA‘s engagements with industry and other organizations to solve complex engineering problems effectively,” says Jason Crusan, director, NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division in Washington. “The aerospace industry benefits from original ideas generated by the RASC-AL participants, and students gain unique technical experience with real-world aerospace challenges as well as exposure to industry representatives and NASA programs.”

    For more information about the challenge, visit the RASC-AL website at:

    For more information about NASA Advanced Exploration Systems, go to: