Mars Ascent Vehicle Prize


April 10, 2015 – The Centennial Challenges Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) Prize is helping to advance the technology to return samples from Mars. The challenge focuses on getting the samples from the Martian surface to Mars orbit for collection and return to Earth.

Centennial Challenges is partnering with the NASA Student Launch to conduct this challenge in parallel with the Student Launch competition.

The MAV Prize is a challenge open to both academic and non-academic teams to demonstrate technologies that may be relevant to future NASA Science Mission Directorate Mars missions. The competition will mimic a MAV mission.

When NASA eventually returns samples from Mars, there will be a requirement for a special rocket system — the MAV — to launch the samples from Mars’ surface into orbit for rendezvous with a spacecraft that will return them to Earth.

The MAV Challenge requires highly reliable and autonomous sample insertion into the rocket, launch from the surface, and deployment of the sample container. Innovative technology from this competition may be considered in future planning for a Mars exploration mission.

Prize Money

Centennial Challenges will award prizes for successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage solid-propellant rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude of 3,000 feet, deploying a sample container with the cache internally sealed and landing the container.

The first-place award is $25,000; second-place is $15,000; and third-place is $10,000. Competing teams will be eligible for prize money only after the successful completion of all the required tasks.

Registration And Official Rules

Interested teams may apply for the challenge by submitting a registration proposal to the Student Launch project office. Details for submitting the proposal and complete rules may be found in the handbook at