RASC-AL Special Edition: Mars Ice Drilling Challenge


NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace announce the 2017 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkage, or RASC-AL, Special Edition: Mars Ice Challenge. This new special edition challenge for 2017 is taking place in celebration of the 100th anniversary of NASA’s Langley Research Center! This design competition is aimed at university-level engineering students and is one of several NASA RASC-AL competitions.

The Mars Ice Challenge requires participants to build a prototype ice drilling system. Teams will compete to extract the most water from simulated Martian subsurface ice at NASA Langley in a three-day competition during summer 2017. During this competition, each participating team will receive a simulated subsurface ice test station composed of solid blocks of ice. The blocks will be in an ice container with a layer of overburden (dirt, rocks, etc.) on top. After drilling through the overburden into the ice, teams must devise innovative solutions to deliver clean water from the ice to an external storage tank (filtering out sediments).

Up to four members of the team (plus the faculty advisor) may travel to NASA Langley for the onsite testing. The drilling and water extraction systems must operate autonomously or via teleoperation, and they are subject to mass, volume and power constraints.

After completion of the test and validation portion of the project, teams will present their drilling concepts to a design review panel composed of NASA judges. Presentations will be based on the team’s technical paper that details the drill concept’s path-to-flight (how the design can be applied to actual drilling on Mars).

Interested teams are encouraged to submit a notice of intent by October 14, 2016, and teams must submit a project plan for their proposed system by November 17, 2016.

A Steering Committee of NASA experts will evaluate the project plans and select up to eight teams to compete against each other at NASA’s Langley Research Center in summer 2017. Each of the selected teams will receive a $10,000 stipend to develop their drilling and water extraction system.

The RASCAL Special Edition: Mars Ice Challenge is open to full-time undergraduate or graduate students majoring in engineering, science or related disciplines at an accredited university in the United States. University design teams must include (a) one faculty or industry advisor with a university affiliation and (b) two or more undergraduate or graduate students. Multidisciplinary teams are encouraged.

For more information about this competition, visit:


If you have questions about this competition, please contact the RASC-AL team at rascal@nianet.org.

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