NASA has released a call for entries into the 2017 eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge. The X-Hab challenge series is one of several platforms NASA leverages to look for solutions to complex challenges to keep humans healthy and productive in deep space and on the journey to Mars.
For the challenge, teams will design, manufacture, assemble, test, and demonstrate functional prototypical “subsystems” and innovations that allow for increased functionality for human space exploration missions. The products and technologies produced by the universities for the challenge will be improved upon for next-generation exploration systems, and could eventually provide the basis for future flight demonstrations and exploration missions.
According to NASA, one of the four categories for submissions that will be given “priority consideration” is the In-space Recycling/Reclamation project – a part of the overarching AES In-Space Manufacturing (ISM) Project. In the full call for entries, NASA says it wants submissions to address NASA’s need for an integrated 3D printer/recycler that can manufacture and recycle polymer parts within a single unit to increase sustainability during long-term space missions.
“This will require developing the performance requirements, designing the system itself, and formulating a sustainable in-space recycling utilization plan that addresses the form, fit, and function aspects of the parts being recycled throughout the part lifecycle,” NASA explains.
The 2017 X-Hab challenge is not the only competition NASA has used to solicit designs for 3-D printed Martian habitats. Back in October 2015, announced the winners of its 3-D printed habitat competition. Many of the top 30 designs for that competition featured composites, including the runner up. The design with most extensive use of composites was fourth-place finisher Guvenc Ozel and his team, Hybrid Composites.
Universities faculty members must submit proposals for X-Hab by April 29, and notices of intent should are due May 13. NASA says the tentative due date for finished projects is May 10, 2017.