The challenges are for innovations in low-cost launch technology, energy-storage, and robotics, NASA Centennial Challenges program manager Andy Petro said at the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist Industry Forum Tuesday, where NASA unveiled the awards.
Centennial Challenges are awards NASA has been giving since 2005 to individuals, groups, and companies working outside the aerospace contractors with which the agency usually works. They are aimed at discovering innovation in technology areas that NASA hopes to make dramatic advancements, and are awarded only after a competitor has successfully demonstrated it can meet the challenge.
The Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, worth $2 million to the winner, is to place a small satellite into Earth orbit twice in one week. Petro said the focus for the award is more to develop low-cost launch technology than on finding new innovations in satellites. NASA also hopes to encourage the creation of commercial nano-satellite delivery services.