Teams Announced for Prestigious NASA RASC-AL Design Competition

Sixteen teams have made it to the finals of a NASA and National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) engineering design competition that challenges university students to think about the conditions astronauts will face as they venture beyond low Earth orbit.

Sixteen teams have made it to the finals of a NASA and National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) engineering design competition that challenges university students to think about the conditions astronauts will face as they venture beyond low Earth orbit.

The undergraduate and graduate engineering students won the right to compete against each other at the 2015 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage or RASC-AL forum to be held in Cocoa Beach, Fla., June 14-17. That is where they will present their research, including a technical paper and poster, to a panel of NASA and industry experts.

"In the 2020′s NASA will have a transportation system based on the SLS and Orion that can ferry crews to orbits beyond the moon," says Pat Troutman, Human Exploration Strategic Analysis lead at NASA Langley Research Center. "This deep space proving ground will allow us to develop and demonstrate capabilities required for future Mars missions."

The teams that will tackle some of the same difficult deep space challenges facing NASA engineers and scientists include three from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and one each from Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Georgia Tech in Atlanta; Pennsylvania State University, State College; University of California, Davis; University of Colorado in Boulder; University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbanna; University of Maryland in College Park; University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; University of South California, Los Angeles; University of Texas at Austin; and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Two joint teams will also participate. One includes West Virginia University in Morgantown and State University of New York at Fredonia. The other includes the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Princeton University in New Jersey; Stanford University in Palo Alto, California; University of California, Berkeley; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; North Carolina State University in Raleigh and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

The teams will work over the next five months to develop a mission focused on one of four space-pioneering concepts or themes that promote developing new technologies that could allow astronauts to be less dependent on resources transported from Earth. Those themes are Earth independent Mars pioneering; Earth independent lunar pioneering; Mars moons prospector and large -scale Mars entry, descent and landing.

The top two winning teams will receive a travel stipend to attend the AIAA Space 2015 Conference at the end of summer in Pasadena, California, where they will present a condensed version of their RASC-AL concept to industry colleagues.

By participating in this design competition, which is sponsored by NASA's Human Exploration Operations and Missions Directorate, students receive real-world experience that parallels what NASA engineers are doing. In some cases, their work may augment what NASA is working on by proposing a revolutionary concept or solution that could be incorporated into NASA human space exploration planning. RASC-AL also contributes to NASA's efforts to develop a highly skilled workforce, while also gaining innovative ideas from some of the best student minds in the country.

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