NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected university teams from Maryland, Oklahoma and Wisconsin as finalists in a competition to design, manufacture, assemble and test an inflatable loft.

NASA is challenging college students to design and rapidly develop prototype concepts for inflatable habitat lofts for the next generation of space explorers. The loft will be integrated onto an existing NASA operational hard-shell prototype habitat. The winning concepts may be applied to space exploration habitats of the future.

“This competition gives these students the opportunity of a lifetime,” said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “They’ll design and build new hardware. If their team wins, they’ll get the chance to integrate their designs into a NASA hard shell habitat and see it field tested next summer.”

The inaugural eXploration Habitat, or X-Hab, Academic Innovation Challenge finalists are:

Oklahoma State University
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of Maryland

The competition is a university-level challenge designed to encourage studies in spaceflight-related engineering and architecture disciplines. This design competition requires undergraduate and graduate students to explore NASA’s work to develop space habitats, while also helping the agency gather new and innovative ideas to complement current research and development.

In June 2011 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, the NASA-Habitat Demonstration Unit project will conduct a head-to-head competition among the three teams to successfully demonstrate an attachable inflatable habitat “loft” concept, based on a list of NASA requirements for the design.

The Houston competition will determine the winning team, which will be awarded additional funds to integrate their design with the NASA habitat during field testing in August and September 2011.

The National Space Grant Foundation will award the three teams $48,000 each to cover the costs of their design development and participation in the head-to-head competition. An additional $10,000 will be awarded to the team that wins the competition to offset their costs of participating in the integrated field testing.

NASA’s Exploration Mission Directorate and the Innovative Partnerships Program are sponsoring this new technology challenge. NASA is dedicated to supporting research that enables sustained and affordable human and robotic exploration. This educational competition contributes to the agency’s efforts to train and develop a highly skilled scientific, engineering and technical workforce for the future.

For information about the competition, visit:

For more information about the Habitation Demonstration Unit project, visit:

For information about the Analog Field Tests, visit:

For information about NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist, visit: