NASA opens Mars Ascent Vehicle Challenge

A new NASA sponsored contest:

NASA Opens Registration For Inaugural
Mars Ascent Vehicle Challenge

Registration is open for the 2015 NASA Centennial Challenges’ Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) Prize, which will take place April 7-12, 2015. The competition carries a prize purse of $50,000 and will be held in Huntsville, Alabama, in conjunction with the NASA Student Launch event, an academic engineering design challenge that provides resources and experiences for students and faculty.

Graphic for MAV Challenge

The Mars Ascent Vehicle Prize will aid NASA in advancing technologies that could be used to return samples from Mars in the future. The challenge focuses on simulating the collection of samples from the Martian surface, placing them into Mars orbit for collection and returning them to Earth. This new challenge is open to both academic and non-academic teams to demonstrate technologies that may be relevant to potential future NASA Science Mission Directorate Mars missions. This challenge has no relation to NASA missions currently in development such as the Mars 2020.

“The MAV Prize is an opportunity for us to team up with an established academic competition and invite teams of all kinds to work in parallel on technologies that will aid in future Mars exploration,” said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager.

The Challenge requires reliable, autonomous sample insertion into the rocket, launch from the surface, and deployment of the sample container. Innovative technology from this competition could be considered in future planning for a Mars exploration mission.

Centennial Challenges will award prizes for successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage solid-propellant rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude of 3,000 feet, deploying a sample container, and landing the container safely while following the National Association of Rocketry guidelines.

The first-place award is $25,000; second-place is $15,000; and third-place is $10,000.  Competing teams will be eligible for prize money only after the successful completion of all the required tasks.

Interested teams may apply for the challenge by submitting a registration proposal to the Student Launch project office. Details for submitting the proposal and complete rules may be found in the handbook.

The Centennial Challenges program is part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. It is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

For more information about the MAV Prize, visit:

For more information about NASA Student Launch, visit: