Finalists Announced for NASA’s BIG Idea University Design Challenge

Big Idea Challenge

NASA has selected four university teams to advance to the final round of its 2016 Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge. The challenge asked them to examine unique ways of leveraging inflatable entry vehicle technology to help guide the spacecraft as it descends through a planetary atmosphere.

Teams from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, The State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will present their concepts in a design review at the NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, at the 2016 BIG Idea Forum April 25-26, 2016.

Big Idea Challenge

Big Idea Challenge Credits: NASA

The challenge is sponsored by NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, which is based at Langley.

Challenge participants will draw from NASA’s Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator, or HIAD, technology. HIAD is one of NASA’s leading candidates to enable atmospheric entry for heavy payloads in a variety of destinations, including Mars. By increasing atmospheric lift, it allows for shallower trajectories, which increases vehicle landing-mass capabilities, reduces deceleration and improves landing accuracy.

Each of the final four teams tackled the challenge of generating lift in different and distinctive ways, offering innovative configuration solutions that will ultimately provide enhanced flexibility crucial to HIAD missions.

During the BIG Idea Forum, each team will have the opportunity to convince a panel of six BIG Idea judges that their concept is as feasible as it is revolutionary. With four innovative and unique concepts to choose from, the judges will select one of these teams to continue working with the GDC team during internships at NASA Langley this summer, further developing the most promising concept.

Amy Leigh McCluskey
NASA Langley Research Center


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