XHAB Questions

Updated 04/11/2016

 

Q: Does the prize have to be a one year long course involving students senior undergrad or grad? Can it be one semester one? Can it be instead an independent study, or research team of faculty and students?

A: The proposal must be led by a faculty member who is an U.S. citizen and is currently teaching in an ABET accredited engineering program. The majority of the students involved in the team must be upper division undergraduates or graduate students enrolled in and receiving credit in the design course taught by the faculty lead. A major feature of this program is that students are in the critical path.  The project milestones dictate that the work be carried out over the course of a full academic year.

 

Q: Can projects lead to, or combine with, further course development and collaboration/research collaborations outside the deliverables of the course itself?

A: The solicitation contains required milestones and deliverables that span one academic year.  The Principal Investigator may choose to continue their work after the completion of the contract.  Involvement of the NASA provided mentor past the completion of the project is at the discretion of the NASA mentor.

 

Q: What are the content and format requirements for the following two appendages within the proposal? - Mandatory -- a signed confirmation of support of the proposal must include a signed commitment from the University faculty, collaborators, and their potential sponsor(s) to ensure their commitment to the project. - Mandatory -- a signed confirmation from the university stating that the X-Hab 2016 Academic Innovation Challenge will be implemented during the 2015-2016 academic year.

A: There are no specific content or format requirements beyond what is outlined in the solicitation.

 

Q: Can a project last more than one year?

A: The solicitation contains required milestones and deliverables that span one academic year.  The Principal Investigator may choose to continue their work after the completion of the contract.  Involvement of the NASA provided mentor past the completion of the project is at the discretion of the NASA mentor.

 

Q: Would the prize fund the salaries of the student/faculty teams or only the materials for built prototypes?

A: It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to develop and propose a budget that will provide adequate resources to conduct the proposed work. These resources may include but not necessarily be limited to direct labor, subcontracts, consultants, equipment, supplies, travel, indirect costs and other items. Part of the review process will be the evaluation of how the proposed budget provides adequate resources for the proposed work as well as the alignment of the budget with the overall objectives of the program.

 

Q: Can we select a NASA/industry team or are there already defined interested parties?

A: Multi-discipline, multi-departmental, and/or multi-institutional teaming collaborations are highly encouraged.  Involvement of NASA and/or industry personnel as mentors to the student team is allowable.  For awarded efforts, NASA will provide a technical point of contact that will interact with the group throughout the project.

 

Q: Is there room for questioning the mission/objectives and therefore research gaps and proposing alternatives? Or a class that may explore mission ideas themselves?

A: This is encouraged and accommodated in the modified systems engineering process built into the X-Hab schedule.  The first milestone is a System Definition review that defines the scope and the concepts to be further developed.  It often requires tailoring of project expectations and further explanation of mission goals.  X-Hab encourages the creative input of academia to complement approaches that may already be in place at NASA.

 

Q: What might be your stance on longer term project that involve aspects of one of the mentioned projects, but do not focus on them?

A: Proposals that directly address the areas listed in the solicitation will be given priority consideration. Proposals that address other areas in direct support of the NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Division will also be considered. All projects funded under this solicitation are to follow the scheduled outlined in the solicitation.

 

Q: Is the idea of monitoring the activity of astronauts eligible for the 2017 XHab Academic Innovation Challenge?

A: Proposals that directly address the areas listed in the solicitation will be given priority consideration. Proposals that address other areas in direct support of the NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Division will also be considered.

 

Q: In what phase are the plants sent into space?

A: Currently, seeds are launched in root packets.  Vegetative materials can be launched but it gets more complex and costly as mass increases.

 

Q: In what form are the plant nutrients or what specifically are the nutrients necessary?

A: Currently, time release nutrient pellets are used but there is interest in moving toward a Hoagland or other liquid solution.

 

Q: What materials are able to be used in the 3-d printers? (Description mentions biomass)

A: Materials should be able to build structure that transport water and nutrients, enable an air/water interface in the root zone, and not harm the plants.  Materials could come from non-edible biomass or other waste streams.  A discussion of appropriate materials and mitigations can be conducted during the execution of the X-Hab project.  For design purposes, flight materials should be compatible with a habitable portion in a spacecraft – meaning they should not be particularly flammable or off-gas toxins. For ground testing, any prototype material should be safe for handling in a normal lab environment. Food grade materials are good typically a good choice. Some materials aren’t ideal for liquids that will contact the plant roots like copper and brass.

 

Q: What does the current root module look like and how does it function? (How does the current system function?

A: Currently the Veggie unit uses rooting packets called “pillows”, which have a fixed volume with solid media and fixed amount of time release fertilizer.  Water can be wicked to the base of the pillows using capillary materials, or added manually through a small watering ring embedded in the rooting media.  An alternate approach that has worked in space is to add water through porous tubes that are embedded in the media.  By controlling the pressure on the tubes, the amount of water delivered is adjusted.

 

Q: What environmental conditions can be expected on the ISS or any location this would be placed? (Temp, Air mixture, Pressure)

A: Typical ISS conditions are in the following ranges:  Temp 65 F to 80 F, Cabin Pressure 14.2 to 14.9 psi, 20 % O2 and 78% N2 and 2% CO2.  But more detailed data can be shared during project execution.

 

Q: What are the size and weight constraints?

A: There is flexibility in the sizing constraints based on the proposed concept. Obviously, size and mass are always optimized for space flight. For a concept the size of Veggie, size and weight constraints are 18”x20”x18” (Width x Depth x Height) in dimensions and 120 pounds. For an insert into the Veggie, reduce 1” off all the dimensions. However, depending on the productivity and requirements identified during the project definition phase, it is possible to increase or decrease any of the constraining factors given appropriate rationale for the design innovation.

 

Q: What is a reasonable amount of time for crew involvement? (How involved is the crew in the current system?)

A: Crew time is a valuable resource, so maximum autonomy and remote control and monitoring should be considered. With the current Veggie unit on a 30-80 day growth cycle, startup requires 1-4 hours on the first setup day, 2-10 minutes every 2-4 days, and then 1-4 hours for the completion tasks including harvesting. This would be good ceiling for the crew time request to keep the crew time down and keep the tasks simple and enjoyable for them. The less crew time needed the better since this is often a limiting factor.

 

Q: What is the operational power limit for the system?

A: Energy is always a key consideration and should be reduced and optimized as much as possible.  For example, typical payload racks aboard the ISS have 28 volt DC available at 10 and 20 amps, but ground prototypes are likely to utilize 120VAC power. Any ground prototype should just document the power consumption. You should be cognizant that low power systems are desirable but innovation is what we are looking for right now so make the appropriate trades. This leads to thermal questions but do whatever you need to cool your prototype hardware.

The Veggie unit for ISS only draws about 100 W or less. Larger, more complex chambers like the next generation plant system called Advanced Plant Habitat could draw 500 to 1000 W or more if maximum lighting and maximum cooling are engaged.
 

Q: Is it possible for us to know the types of radio interfaces available in the space habitat? If not, could the prototype be implemented using popular and inexpensive RF radio interfaces such as Wi-Fi?

A: The architecture for future space habitat design is not finalized but will capitalize on the most modern technologies that can be accommodated during the development of the flight systems. As an example, the ISS contains commercial standards including USB, Ethernet, and wifi systems. Please state assumptions that go along with any proposed concepts. https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/508318main_ISS_ref_guide_nov2010.pdf

 

Q: What type of clothes would the astronauts be wearing inside a space habitat?

A: This is an area of investigation that is still being analyzed for future mission concepts through demonstrations in habitat analogs on Earth as well as on board the ISS.


Q: Can the data and results collected from the prototype be published in journals or conferences?

A: Publications are encouraged in X-Hab as part of the outreach strategy.