NineSigma Announces Winners of NASA Tournament Lab Innovation Challenges

Winning submissions use new test systems and technologies to improve the performance of space suits and utilization of surface-based materials for Earth and space fabrication and construction

Mar 09, 2016, 07:30 ET from NineSigma

CLEVELAND, March 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Global innovation firm NineSigma today announced winners of two Innovation Challenges they managed on behalf of NASA Tournament Lab; the Space Suit Textile Testing Challenge in collaboration with the Advanced Space Suit Project team and the In-Situ Materials Challenge in collaboration with the Kennedy Space Center and Swamp Works. The challenges leveraged open innovation to further the goal of advancing the potential of exploration, construction and human habitation in space.

The Space Suit Textile Testing Challenge 

The Space Suite Textile Testing Challenge sought to develop standard test methodologies for assessing the wear performance of environmental protection garment (EPG) textiles for planetary exploration and offered three prizes of $5,000 for winning submissions.

The textiles used in space suits need to evolve as space exploration moves forward, and the outer protective layer of the suit must expand to withstand widely varying types of dirt in planetary environments like Mars or large asteroids. This range of space requires tools for assessing the viability of candidate space suit textiles, which don't currently exist.

Winners for the Space Suit Textile Testing Challenge are:

  • Ahilan Anantha Krishnan, India; for his proposal on evaluating space suit textile abrasion in planetary environments.
  • Students Himel Barua, Thomas L. Collins, Riniah Foor, Evan Hess and Joey Stavale; and their advisors Dr. Christopher Daniels, Dr. Heather Oravec, Janice Mather, and Dr. M.J. Braun, University of Akron, USA; for their proposal of a cylindrical abration method.
  • John Holler, Leesville, USA; for his proposal on a point-of-failure based system using high velocity abrasives.

It is expected that these submissions will help to advance the testing and analysis of candidate materials that may be incorporated into space suits designed to protect astronauts during future deep space missions.

The In-Situ Challenge 

The In-Situ Challenge sought solutions to utilize surface-based materials like regolith (crushed basalt rock) for Earth and space fabrication and construction applications and offered a first-place prize of $10,000 and two second-place prizes of $2,500 for top submissions.

Using native materials for construction is tremendously beneficial for space exploration because in-situ regolith utilization (ISRU) reduces the need for materials to be shipped from Earth, along with the expense and resources this requires. ISRU could potentially save the agency more than $100,000 per kilogram at launch, making space pioneering more cost-effective and feasible.

Winners for the In Situ Challenge are:

  • 1st place winner - Behrokh Khoshnevis, Dean's Professor, University of Southern California, USA; for his proposal on the planetary fabrication of complex metallic/ceramic objects with in-situ resources.
  • 2nd place winner - David Espinosa, Spain and David Orlebeke of Aronax Technologies Group LLC, USA; on their proposal for a cold spray technology applied to building and repair.
  • 2nd place winner - Patrick Donovan, USA; for his proposal on simultaneous exhaust-enabled ore reduction, separation, and processing.

Each of the three winning proposals derive from practical experience in solving problems on Earth and present realistic options for converting in situ materials into useful items at an exploration destination.   

NineSigma CEO, Dr. Andy Zynga said, "We are proud to have connected NASA with innovators that have immediately viable technical solutions in a variety of disciplines to accelerate NASA's goals. We are also pleased to have created opportunities for winners of these challenges to collaborate with NASA in shaping the future of space exploration."

These challenges were hosted on NineSigma's Open Innovation community NineSights and featured on Nasa.gov/solve and Challenge.gov. They are provided through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which works across NASA and the federal government to provide crowd-based challenges as a way to solve hard problems and get work done. For more information on the NTL, see http://www.nasa.gov/ntl.

About NineSigma
NineSigma connects organizations with external innovation resources to accelerate innovation in private, public and social sectors. NineSigma has the largest open global network of solution providers and an extensive database of existing solutions spanning numerous industries and technical disciplines. In 2015, the company was again named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in America. Learn more at www.ninesigma.com or www.ninesights.com.

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