Status Report

NASA Announcement of Opportunity to Participate in Its Centennial Challenges Program as an Allied Organization

By SpaceRef Editor
July 15, 2010
Filed under , ,

Synopsis – Jul 13, 2010

General Information

Solicitation Number: NNH10UA004L
Posted Date: Jul 13, 2010
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Jul 13, 2010
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: Sep 13, 2010
Current Response Date: Sep 13, 2010
Classification Code: R — Professional, administrative, and mgmt support services
NAICS Code: 541611 – Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Headquarters Acquisition Branch, Code 210.H, Greenbelt, MD 20771


Through this Announcement, NASA seeks to select Allied Organizations for specific prize competitions (hereinafter “Challenges”) to be conducted under the Centennial Challenges Program of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Allied Organizations are responsible for the following elements as they relate to individual Challenges:

* Challenge Planning.
* Sponsor Recruitment.
* Competitor Recruitment.
* Challenge Administration and Execution.
* Challenge Publicity.

NASA provides the monetary prize purse (which can be supplemented by outside organizations) but no funding for the conduct of the competition itself. Allied Organizations must administer the Challenges with their own funding or they must raise the funding needed to administer the Challenges through partnerships with sponsoring organizations or through other means.

Sponsoring organizations are those entities that partner with an Allied Organization to contribute funding for administrative expenses or in-kind support through separate agreements between the Allied Organization and the sponsoring organization.

Space Act Agreements NASA anticipates entering into unfunded Space Act Agreements with selected Allied Organizations to manage the Challenges associated with each of the planned Centennial Challenges. Selection of Allied Organizations will be through a competitive process based on evaluation of submitted proposals. Participation as an Allied Organization will be contingent upon selection by NASA and negotiation of an appropriate agreement between NASA and the proposer. The Space Act Agreement will detail the contributions and responsibilities of NASA and the Allied Organization for a specific Challenge. The agreement will address intellectual property rights, concurrence on rules, team agreements, media rights, insurance, registration fees and eligibility and typically include a term of 3 years. NASA reserves the right to select for Space Act Agreement negotiations all, some, or none of the proposals submitted in response to this Announcement. Respondents will be responsible for funding their own activities associated with responding to this Announcement and conducting the Challenge. Allied Organizations may collect reasonable registration fees from competitors but the use of registration fees as a primary means to cover Challenge administration costs is discouraged.

Eligibility Domestic non-profit organizations are eligible to submit proposals in response to this Announcement. Allied Organizations cannot compete in the Challenge that they manage. Allied Organizations and their officers and employees may not have a financial or other interest in any teams that compete in any Challenge(s) they manage.

Organizations may submit proposals to manage one or more of the specific Centennial Challenges described in this announcement but a separate proposal must be submitted for each Challenge. Multiple organizations may form partnerships to manage a Challenge and may submit a joint proposal.

Centennial Challenges Background NASA Centennial Challenges was established to conduct prize competitions to generate innovative solutions to technical problems of interest to NASA and the nation. Those competing for the prizes can be individuals, independent teams, student groups, research organizations or private companies but they cannot receive government funding to support any of their work related to the technical area of the prize Challenge. The program seeks unconventional solutions from non-traditional sources and, thereby, hopes to identify new talent and stimulate the creation of new businesses. Unlike contracts and grants based on proposals, prizes are only awarded after competitors have successfully demonstrated their innovations. Competitors retain ownership of their intellectual property.

The Centennial Challenges in the past have typically required several annual competitions to occur before the total prize purses have been claimed. Competitions may be conducted in a first-to-demonstrate format or in a head-to-head contest format. The competition events, especially in the head-to-head contest format, typically involve public spectators, televised or Webcasted coverage and are high-visibility opportunities for public outreach and education. Additional information can be found at

New Centennial Challenges The specific Challenges for which Allied Organizations are sought with this Announcement are:

1) Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge – to place a small satellite into Earth orbit, twice in one week. The prize purse is $2 million. 2) Sample Return Robot Challenge – to demonstrate a robot that can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The prize purse is $1.5 million. 3) Night Rover Challenge – to demonstrate a solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate in darkness using its own stored energy. The prize purse is $1.5 million.

Descriptions of each of these Challenges outlining NASA’s objectives are provided in the appendix to this announcement. Further refinement and creative enhancement of the Challenge concepts by the Allied Organizations, with concurrence by NASA, are encouraged.

Selection Criteria NASA will select Allied Organizations based on the following evaluation criteria:

1) Capabilities of the organization to administer the Challenge and competition events including ability to:

a. promote the technical and educational goals of the Challenge through creative use of public media including Web sites. b. attract multiple competitors with wide geographic distribution. c. encourage the participation of individuals, groups, students, and businesses, especially those outside the traditional aerospace community and those from minority and under-represented communities. d. formulate competition rules and plans in consultation with NASA and with appropriate public comment. e. provide appropriate competition venues and supporting equipment. f. select qualified judges. g. conduct competitor registration. h. establish agreements with competitors covering legal, insurance, and other issues. i. maintain communication with competitors and with NASA. j. collect and report aggregate data on competitor progress and performance. k. plan competition events and other meetings. l. conduct competition events safely and impartially. m. organize educational activities to enhance and broaden the impact of the Challenge. n. report competition results to NASA and to the public.

2) Experience of the organization in similar or analogous activities that demonstrate competence, integrity, commitment to safety, and ability to work cooperatively in partnering arrangements.

3) Ability of the organization to support Challenge administration through internal financial resources or firm commitments of sponsors. Existing financial resources or sponsor commitments will be a positive factor in evaluation of proposals.

4) Access of the organization to technical expertise in the area of the selected Challenge.

Proposal Instructions Responses to this Announcement should be no more than seven pages in length, not including any letters of commitment from sponsoring or partner organizations. Pages in excess of the page limitations for each section will not be evaluated. A page is defined as one (1) sheet 8 1/2 x 11 inches using a minimum of 12-point font size for text and 8-point for graphs. Proposals should not include proprietary information. Submitted information will be shared within NASA and with contractor personnel associated with the Centennial Challenges Program. Prospective Allied Organizations are encouraged to periodically check for any updates or clarifying information.

The proposal shall consist of:

Page 1: Cover page including:

– Name of organization. – Mailing address and phone number of organization. – Web site of organization (if applicable). – Name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number of primary officer of the organization. – Name, mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number of organization’s point-of-contact for the proposal (if different from primary officer). – Name of the Centennial Challenge addressed by proposal. – Date of submission.

Page 2: Briefly describe your organization, including history, primary activities, interests, capabilities, and financial and personnel resources. Include any experience of the organization that is similar or analogous to the proposed Challenge administration, and that demonstrates competence, integrity, commitment to safety and ability to work cooperatively in partnering arrangements. List any current or previous (for the past five years) contracts, grants or agreements with your organization and any federal agencies.

Page 3: Describe your organization’s interest in the specific Challenge that you are proposing to manage and your reasons for wanting to manage it. Describe any goals that you would have for the Challenge, above and beyond those of NASA.

Pages 4, 5, & 6: Describe your approach to managing the Challenge including:

– publicizing the Challenge. – attracting a diverse community of competitors. – concepts for developing rules and criteria for judging. – proposed competition format. – description of the venue, facilities and equipment needed, and your approach to securing them. – access to technical expertise in the Challenge area. – approach for selecting judges. – facilitating public engagement with Web site, Internet (e.g. Web 2.0 social networking) and media coverage prior to, during, and after the competition. – providing appropriate educational activities, including parallel student-class competitions (university, high school, or other levels). – proposed schedule for major milestones in the process of planning and conducting the Challenge, including competition events. – approach to maximizing the safety of the public, organizers, and competitors prior to and during competitions. – approach to providing NASA data on competitor progress and performance.

Page 7: Describe the financial resources that your organization has or can obtain through sponsorships or in-kind contributions to conduct this Challenge. Describe your approach to staffing for long-term Challenge administration and for conducting competition events.

Attachments: – Letters of commitment from any sponsoring organizations or others providing in-kind contributions. – Letters of commitment from any partner organizations.

Submission Instructions Any organization that intends to submit a proposal is also requested to submit a Letter of Intent. The letter should include the name of the organization, the name, address, phone number, and e-mail address of a point-of-contact from the organization, and the name of the Challenge or Challenges for which the organization intends to submit a proposal. The Letter of Intent should be no more than one page and must be received no later than August 9, 2010. Letters of Intent should be submitted in a single PDF file as an attachment to an electronic mail message to:

All proposals in response to this Announcement, including signed letters of commitment, must be submitted in a single PDF file as an attachment to an electronic mail message to no later than 12:00 a.m., EDT, September 13, 2010. Paper submissions will not be reviewed.

NASA will notify all proposers of the results of the evaluation and selection process. After the completion of the evaluation and selection process, as appropriate, NASA will begin negotiations with selected proposers to finalize the terms and conditions of a Space Act Agreement. All work, as required, will commence after the parties execute a Space Act Agreement. Selections of Allied Organizations for this Announcement are expected to occur by October 8, 2010.

Contact Information Questions regarding this Announcement should be directed to Andrew Petro at 202-358-0310 or

Answers to questions of a general nature will be posted at

APPENDIX – Descriptions of New Challenges

Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge


* Safe, low-cost, small payload delivery system for frequent access to Earth orbit.

* Innovations in propulsion and other technologies as well as operations and management for broader applications in future launch systems.

* A commercial capability for dedicated launches of small satellites at a cost comparable to secondary payload launches–a potential new market with Government, commercial, and academic customers.

Description Deliver a payload with a mass of at least 1 kilogram and dimensions of at least 10x10x11 centimeters to Earth orbit, complete at least one orbit past the launch site and deliver payloads successfully at least two times in one week.

The specified payload matches the standard 1U CubeSat. One orbit past the launch site imposes an absolute minimum orbital velocity requirement and an injection maneuver to achieve orbit. Repeatability within a time constraint deters one-time stunts that would not lead to a useful launch capability. This is anticipated to be a first-to-demonstrate challenge.

Allied Organizations will have to verify that payloads have been placed in orbit via ground tracking or other means, which might be done through partnerships with NASA, the U.S. Air Force, private entities or through sponsorships. Range safety costs and procedures will be a critical issue for competitors, but some existing and new ranges may offer incentives to attract competitors. The Federal Aviation Administration will have an important role in permitting and/or licensing of competitors.

Prize Purse $2 million is available from the Centennial Challenges Program. If additional prize funds become available from the Government or other sources, a second-place prize and supplemental prizes might be offered for the primary objective or additional accomplishments.

Educational Opportunities Competitors could offer payload space to student payloads. University teams may attempt the Challenge itself but a student-level competition for a suborbital flight to a very high altitude (i.e. 100 miles) might be considered. Such efforts should be coordinated with the NASA Student Launch Initiative and other existing programs. Some additional prize money may be available for student-level competitions.

Sample Return Robot Challenge

Objectives An autonomous capability to locate and retrieve specific sample types from various locations over a wide and varied terrain and return those samples to a designated zone in a reasonable amount of time with limited mapping data.

Description Demonstrate a robotic system to locate and collect a set of specific sample types from a large planetary analog area and return the samples to the starting zone. The roving area should include rolling terrain, granular medium, soft soils, and a variety of rocks. A pre-cached sample and several other samples would be located in smaller sampling zones within the larger roving area. Teams will be given aerial/geological/topographic maps with appropriate orbital resolution, including the location of the starting position and a pre-cached sample.

The samples should be easily distinguished from other materials present at the site since the need for sophisticated scientific instrumentation for sample identification is not an objective of this Challenge. The task in this Challenge is envisioned to require multiple hours to complete. Limits may be imposed for mass and power, etc. Robots are free to use whatever method of mobility, manipulation, and navigation they choose except Global Positioning System navigation, which is not a realistic capability in non-terrestrial environments. The winning criteria may include the shortest time to complete the task and lowest system mass.

In order to win a Level-1 prize, a robot must retrieve only the pre-cached sample. Robots should be autonomous, but periodic intervention with teleoperation would be permitted with penalties imposed for its use.

In order to win a Level-2 prize, a team must autonomously navigate at all times and must retrieve the pre-cached sample and several additional sample types that may include rock, regolith, gas, liquid, etc. from separate large regions of the roving area that will be of different terrain types.

Prize Purse $1.5 million is available from the Centennial Challenges Program. This amount can be supplemented with funds from other sources.

Educational Opportunities In addition to Level 1 and Level 2, a simpler task for a Nationwide high school competition might be offered. Some additional prize money may be available for student-level competitions.

Night Rover Challenge


* A mobile system to collect solar energy, store that energy, and, later, use it productively.

* Innovations in energy storage technology for space operations and, in particular, to meet the demands imposed by the daylight/darkness cycle on the Moon.

* Energy system innovations to benefit terrestrial applications, including vehicles and renewable energy generation systems.

Description Solar energy is a renewable source that would be available on the Moon and at other destinations in space. To enable practical system demonstrations of diverse design solutions by independent teams, the Challenge may be conducted in an ambient Earth environment. The Challenge would be to demonstrate a portable energy collection and storage system through several cycles of daylight and darkness. During the daylight period, systems can collect photons or thermal energy from the sun. During darkness, the stored energy would be used to move the entire mobile system toward a destination. The competitors may collect, store, and extract the solar energy in any form that they desire.

The winning system would be the one that moved the greatest distance during darkness in an allotted time period (over several day/night cycles) using only its own stored energy. A winning system must exceed the performance of a reference state-of-the-art system by a specified margin. Competitors with successful and appropriate system designs might be invited to test their energy storage systems in NASA thermal-vacuum chambers to demonstrate applicability to the space and lunar environment.

Prize Purse $1.5 million is available from the Centennial Challenges Program. This amount can be supplemented with funds from other sources.

Educational Opportunities A simple solar-powered, remote-controlled rover competition with an energy storage requirement might be conducted for students along with the main Night Rover Challenge. Some additional prize money may be available for student-level competitions.

Point of Contact

Name: Andrew J Petro
Title: Program Executive for Innovation Incubator
Phone: 202-358-0310
Fax: 202-358-3858

SpaceRef staff editor.