Status Report

Participation Opportunity as Allied Organization for NASA Centennial Robotics Challenge

By SpaceRef Editor
April 28, 2015
Filed under , ,



Synopsis – Apr 27, 2015


General Information


    Solicitation Number: NNM15ZZP004L

    Posted Date: Apr 27, 2015

    FedBizOpps Posted Date: Apr 27, 2015

    Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No

    Original Response Date: N/A

    Current Response Date: May 27, 2015

    Classification Code: A — Research and Development

    NAICS Code: 541712


Contracting Office Address


NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Procurement Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL 35812




This Opportunity Notice (hereinafter “NOTICE”) is for informational/planning purposes only and the Government will not pay for the information received. This NOTICE is NOT to be construed as a commitment by the government to enter into any agreement or other obligation or to conduct a prize competition.


This NOTICE is issued in accordance with the NASA Prize Authority, 51 U.S.C. § 20144.




Through this NOTICE, NASA seeks to identify potential partner organizations (hereinafter “Allied Organizations”) for the Space Robotics Challenge to be conducted for the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Centennial Challenges Program, NASA’s flagship program for technology prize competitions.


NASA will provide the monetary prize purse (which can be supplemented by outside organizations) that is awarded to competition winners. NASA will not provide any funds or cost reimbursement to an Allied Organization for their work on a Challenge. Allied Organizations may administer a Challenge with their own funding or they may acquire the funding from 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.


Organizations interested in becoming an Allied Organization should submit a response describing their capabilities. Details on the essential capabilities of Allied Organizations are provided in Section VII of this NOTICE.


Based upon a review of the capabilities of the proposed Allied Organization NASA may consider partnerships with several proposed Allied Organizations to pursue their proposed Challenges. Participation in a Challenge as an Allied Organization will be contingent upon selection by NASA and negotiation of an appropriate Nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement between NASA and the proposer.




Under 51 U.S.C. § 20144, NASA is only allowed to partner with private, domestic, U.S. non-profit organizations as Allied Organizations for Challenges of the type described by this Notice. Organizations of any type, and individuals, may collaborate and submit a joint response describing their support of a designated private, domestic, U.S. non-profit organization that would lead the Challenge effort as the Allied Organization.


Neither Allied Organizations, their collaborators, nor employees, associates nor students associated with the proposing institutions will be eligible to win a prize funded by NASA in a Challenge that they manage. Allied Organizations, collaborators, and their officers and employees may not have a financial or other interest in any teams that compete in any Challenge they manage.


Multiple organizations may form partnerships to manage a Challenge and may submit a joint proposal.




A Nonreimbursable Space Act Agreement (SAA) will specify the contributions and responsibilities of NASA and the Allied Organization for execution of the Space Robotics Challenge.


The agreement will address intellectual property rights, concurrence on rules, team agreements, media rights, insurance, registration fees and eligibility, term, and related areas as well as other requirements imposed by 51 U.S.C. § 20144 and applicable law. NASA reserves the right to select for SAA negotiations all, some, or none of the responses submitted to this NOTICE, and in the event no responses are selected, NASA reserves the right to post an additional NOTICE or NOTICES with respect to new Challenges. Respondents will be responsible for funding their own activities associated with responding to this NOTICE, as well as further developing and conducting a 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.


For additional information regarding Space Act Agreements, see NASA Policy Directive 1050.1 “Authority to Enter into Space Act Agreements” ( ).




The NASA Centennial Challenges Program was established to conduct prize competitions to generate innovative solutions to technical problems of interest to NASA and the nation. Those competing for the NASA monetary 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.


To be eligible to win a NASA Centennial Challenge monetary prize, an individual or entity shall have registered to participate in the competition pursuant to any rules promulgated by NASA; shall have complied with all the rules of the competition and requirements of applicable law; in the case of a private entity, shall be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States, and in the case of an individual, whether participating singly or in a group, shall be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States; and shall not be a Federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.


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




Allied Organizations will be responsible for some, or all, of the following during the formulation and execution phases: Challenge planning, Challenge formulation and execution funding, Competitor recruitment and registration, Challenge administration and execution and Challenge marketing and publicity




The specific Challenge for which Allied Organizations are sought with this NOTICE is the Space Robotics Challenge. The focus of this Challenge is to develop software code to operate a humanoid robot that can complete specific tasks associated with space exploration. The prize purse is anticipated to be $2.0 million.


A description of the Challenge, outlining NASA’s objectives, is provided in the appendix to this NOTICE. NASA previously released a Request for Information seeking comments on the potential challenge. The RFI link is . Further refinements and creative enhancements of the Challenge concept by the Allied Organizations, with concurrence by NASA, are encouraged.




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


Capabilities and approach 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) finalize competition rules and plans in consultation with NASA E) provide appropriate competition venues and supporting equipment F) select qualified judges G) conduct competitor registration H) maintain communication with competitors and with NASA I) collect and report aggregate data on competitor progress and performance J) plan competition events and other meetings K) conduct competition events safely and impartially L) consider organizing educational activities, including parallel student-class competitions (university, high school, or other levels) to enhance and broaden the impact of the Challenge M) report competition results to NASA and to the public


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


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.


Access of the organization to technical expertise in the area of the Challenge.


Interest and goals for participating as an Allied Organization in the Space Robotics Challenge.




Responses to this NOTICE 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.


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); 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 that exhibits these abilities.


Page 3: Describe your organization’s interest in the Space Robotics Challenge 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 capability and approach to managing the Challenge including:


A) publicizing the Challenge B) attracting a diverse field of competitors C) concepts for developing rules and criteria for judging D) proposed competition format E) access to technical expertise in the Challenge area F) approach for selecting judges G) facilitating public engagement with Web site, Internet (e.g. Web 2.0 social networking) and media coverage prior to, during, and after the competition H) providing appropriate educational activities, including parallel student-class competitions (university, high school, or other levels) I) approach to maximizing the safety of the public, organizers, and competitors prior to and during competitions J) approach to providing NASA data on competitor progress and performance K) an estimate of the expected cost of managing the challenge and an estimate of the expected registration fee that might be charged to competitors. The proposed schedule for major milestones in the process of planning and conducting the Challenge. These include the date when the competition rules will be finalized, when competitors can register, and when the competition will take place


Page 7: Describe the financial resources that your organization has or will obtain through sponsorships or in-kind contributions to conduct this Challenge. Provide a schedule that identifies major milestone toward securing funding or other resources needed for Challenge development or management. Discuss any dependencies between securing these resources and milestones for registration and the competition.


Describe your approach to staffing for long-term Challenge administration and for conducting competition events. Identify the person with primary responsibility for management of the Challenge and the anticipated level of effort. Include attachments for: Letters of commitment from any known sponsoring organizations or others providing financial or in-kind contributions; Letters of commitment from any partner organizations


SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS All proposals in response to this NOTICE, 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 11:59 PM, EDT, May 27, 2015. Paper submissions will not be reviewed.


GENERAL INFORMATION 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. Selection of an Allied Organization for this NOTICE is expected to occur by June 2015.


IV. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The point of contact is Sam Ortega, Program Manager, Centennial Challenges Program, NASA/MSFC/ZP30, Huntsville, AL 35812. Questions regarding this NOTICE should be directed to Sam Ortega, Program Manager for Centennial Challenges, Space Technology Mission Directorate; . For further information on the NASA Centennial Challenges Program see: .


APPENDIX – Description of New Challenge


Space Robotics Challenge


Objectives Develop the software to control a robotic platform to perform a sequence of tasks related to in-space tasks and spacecraft maintenance.


Description The Space Robotics Challenge is currently contemplated as a dual level, two-track challenge. The Level I challenge would involve a virtual challenge competition in software simulation and the Level II demonstration challenge would involve use of software to control a robot to perform sequences of tasks. Both Levels of the challenge would have a Track A and Track B option. A competitor would pick only one track in which to compete. Track A would utilize the Robonaut 2 platform and focus on simulated in-space tasks such as spacecraft maintenance and operations in transit to Mars, while Track B would utilize the R5 platform robot to perform simulated tasks on planetary surfaces, such as pre-cursor habitat deployment on Mars, or disaster relief in an industrial setting on Earth. The challenge would award prizes for the highest scoring U.S. competitors in the Level I virtual challenge and the Level II demonstration challenge. For the challenge, Robonaut 2 would have autonomous climbing capabilities using International Space Station certified handrails and could operate in the Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS) at NASA JSC to provide a 0g analog. This would allow Track A to focus on mobile manipulation in a microgravity environment. The R5 platform would have autonomous walking capabilities for smooth terrain so that Track B could focus on mobile manipulation and irregular mobility maneuvers on surfaces. Representative tasks expected for each track are listed below.


Track A using Robonaut 2 platform: Swap out modular replacement units located 5 meters away; inspect inventory requiring handling of soft-good materials; repair and/or replace a damaged component to space craft (e.g. handrails, valves, solar panels); remove and replace internal panels for space craft inspection.


Track B using the R5 platform, formerly known as Valkyrie: exit a habitat airlock hatch and use a ladder to reach the surface; remove a communications/power cable from a soft-goods storage location and attach it to a connector located at least 10 meters away, while traversing an irregular ruble strewn terrain, like the surface Mars or a post-earthquake industrial plant; repair or replace damaged components on complex equipment, such as a broken valve or damaged tire on a planetary rover; move dangerous debris and collect or recover desired samples or items, such as industrial plant environment samples or Mars soil/rocks.


Level I challenge tasks would be modeled after the physical challenge tasks, but would be performed in simulation. The key challenge requirements are to develop autonomous software that would allow for either supervisory or autonomous control modes to perform a complex sequence of tasks. The sequence of tasks would involve both mobility and dual-armed manipulation, on either a walking robot or a climbing robot (for in-space applications). The task in a sequence that shall be completed in autonomous mode would be revealed just prior to competition, so that generic approaches to autonomy are considered.


For the Level I challenge, simulations of both Robonaut 2 and the R5 platform would be provided, with necessary environment dynamics. The virtual challenge would be competed online using cloud-based servers. The R5 platform and Robonaut 2 platforms would be available for preparing for the final challenge. Robots would be accessible at NASA Johnson Space Center, and NASA is currently seeking separate proposals for hosting R5 platform robots around the country.


Prize Purse $2.0 million is available from the Centennial Challenges Program. This amount can be supplemented with funds from other sources.


Educational Opportunities Example: A robotic competition with similar space exploration tasks for students along with the main Space Robotics Challenge. Additional prize money may be available for student-level competitions.


Point of Contact


    Name:Melinda E. Swenson

    Title:Contracting Officer



SpaceRef staff editor.