NASA Wants Ideas from University Teams for Future Human Space Missions

Lunar Gateway with lander. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Teams of engineering students and faculty at U.S. colleges and universities have an opportunity to help NASA with innovative design ideas to meet the challenges of space exploration. The 2020 eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge supports NASA’s efforts to develop technologies and capabilities that will enable future human missions to the Moon, Mars and other solar system destinations.

In collaboration with the National Space Grant Foundation, NASA will offer competitively selected awards of $15,000 to $50,000 for the development of studies, functional products and solutions to enhance the human exploration of space. Entries are due April 26, 2019.

The 2020 X-Hab Challenge addresses six topic areas:

  • High Efficiency Heat Exchanger to Achieve Low-Power CO2 Deposition: Design and build a prototype of an air-to-air heat exchanger that operates in at least one of two required temperature ranges: 190-296K and/or 130-190K.
  • Integration of Field Results into Virtual and Augmented Reality Environments: Develop a program that integrates new mission data sets and field analogs into virtual and augmented reality environments.
  • Microgravity Gas-Liquid Separator for the Liquid Amine CO2 Removal System: Design and build a non-gravity-dependent benchtop-scale phase separator capable of separating incoming water and amine condensing from gaseous CO2.
  • Volume Optimization for Food Product During Deep Space Exploration: Develop a modular, scalable infrastructure to support food production that optimizes total volume and minimizes crew time requirements.
  • Development of a Design Database for the In-Space Manufacturing Project: Develop a part database that is capable of storing and distributing and includes parts from space systems, disposable and customizable items and crew personal items.
  • User Interfaces for Gateway Autonomous Operations: Design user interfaces for autonomous operations of the Gateway (including, all modules) while in crewed and uncrewed mode.

The X-Hab Challenge provides real-world, hands-on design, research and development opportunities for students interested in aerospace careers, while strengthening NASA’s efforts to optimize technology investments, foster innovation and facilitate technology infusion. Through strategic cooperation with universities, the agency intends to bridge gaps and increase knowledge in technologies, capabilities and operational approaches related to human spaceflight.

Previous challenges resulted in products NASA tested and evaluated for use in deep space. The products and technologies developed for the 2019 X-Hab Challenge will be further refined for next-generation exploration systems, and could eventually provide the basis for future demonstrations and missions. X-Hab is managed by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The agency plans to extend a permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit by building the Gateway in orbit around the Moon for use as a staging point for missions to the lunar surface and other destinations. Integrated systems are needed to safeguard and sustain people living and working in space, far away from Earth’s protective atmosphere and resources like food, air and water.

For more information on the X-Hab Challenge, visit:

To view past NASA X-Hab projects, visit: