NASA Break the Ice Challenge winners
Awards share of $500,000 prize for 13 winning participants Metal Tech News – August 25, 2021
Last updated 8/31/2021 at 3:15pm
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Aug. 18 announced the winners of its Break the Ice Lunar Challenge, which is incentivizing new approaches for excavating resources on the Moon and beyond.
As NASA prepares to go to the Moon with the Artemis program, in-situ resource utilization is of paramount importance, as current methods of rocketing Earth resources into space are too costly. As one of the barest of commodities for human survival, water is the goal for 13 teams across the United States looking to win a share of $500,000 in a competition that asked for ideas for digging and hauling icy regolith, or Moon dirt.
"Expanding the pool of ideas for excavating lunar resources safely and responsibly requires new technology development," said Monsi Roman, Centennial Challenges program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "The system concepts developed as part of this challenge will enable sustainable lunar surface operations, paving the way for us to convert lunar ice to vital resources and decreasing our supply needs from Earth."
Opened in November of last year, the Break the Ice Lunar Challenge has named the winners.
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, Redwire Space, who recently sent up a 3D printer on the 16th resupply mission to the International Space Station won first place and $125,000 for its proposed two-rover system designed for simplicity and ruggedness.
The company's Lunar Regolith Excavator (L-Rex) would excavate large amounts of Moon dirt and a versatile, low-mass transportation rover called Lunar Transporter (L-Tran) would be responsible for deploying the excavator and delivering the regolith and ice.
In second place, the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, earned $75,000 for its proposed Lunar Ice Digging System, or LIDS. LIDS is comprised of a three-rover operation – an excavator, a regolith hauler and a water hauler, as well as a communications and navigation system. Both haulers would have robotic arms for assembly, maintenance and repairs and all three vehicles would be teleoperated from a nearby lunar surface command hub.
Austere Engineering of Littleton, Colorado received third place and won $50,000 for its Grading and Rotating for Water Located in Excavated Regolith (GROWLER) system. Their system would first establish a local positioning system and map the surface and underground rocks obstructing excavation. Then the GROWLER would excavate icy regolith with a rotary tiller before extracting and delivering water.
NASA selected 10 additional teams that submitted viable and innovative ideas that could benefit to NASA and the nation, with each receiving $25,000 for their efforts. These runners-up are:
• AggISRU from Texas A&M University in College Station.
• Aurora Robotics from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
• Lunar Lions from the Columbia University Robotics Club in New York.
• OffWorld Robotics in Pasadena, California.
• Oshkosh Corporation in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
• Rocket M in Mojave, California.
• Space Trajectory from South Dakota State University in Brookings.
• Team AA-Star in Redmond, Washington.
• Team LIQUID from Altadena, California.
• Terra Engineering in Gardena, California.
This is the conclusion for phase 1 of the challenge, phase 2 plans to focus on hardware development and demonstration.