WASHINGTON — Registration is open for teams seeking to compete in the $1.5 million energy storage competition known as the Night Rover Challenge, sponsored by NASA and the Cleantech Open of Palo Alto, Calif.
To win, a team must demonstrate a stored energy system that can power a simulated solar-powered exploration vehicle that can operate through multiple cycles of daylight and extended periods of darkness.
“The goal of the Night Rover Challenge is to stimulate innovations in energy storage technologies of value in extreme space environments, such as the surface of the moon, or for electric vehicles and renewable energy systems here on Earth,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “NASA wants this challenge to generate new ideas that will allow planetary rovers the ability to take on a night shift, and possibly create new energy storage technologies for applications of benefit here on our home planet.”
This is a Centennial Challenge in which NASA provides the prize purse for technological achievements by independent teams, while the Cleantech Open manages the competition as NASA’s allied organization. The challenge is extended to individuals, groups, and companies working outside the traditional aerospace industry. Unlike most contracts or grants, awards will be made only after solutions are demonstrated successfully.
During the Night Rover Challenge, energy storage systems will receive electrical energy from a simulated solar collector during daylight hours. During darkness, the stored energy will be used for simulated thermal management, scientific experimentation, communications, and rover movement. A winning system must exceed the performance of an existing state-of-the-art system by a pre-determined margin. The winning system will be the one that has the highest energy storage density.
“The partnership NASA has with the Cleantech Open allows us to leverage taxpayer dollars in advancing technology development in this critical area,” said Larry Cooper, Centennial Challenges program executive at NASA Headquarters. “Technology development is a priority for NASA; we push technology development effectively by partnering with industry and academia to advance our nation’s space exploration and science goals while maintaining America’s technology edge.”
Since the program’s inception in 2005, NASA’s Centennial Challenges has awarded more than $6 million to 15 different competition-winning teams through 23 events. Competitors have included private companies, citizen inventors, and academia working outside the traditional aerospace industry. The competitions are managed by nonprofit organizations that cover the cost of operations through commercial or private sponsorships.
The Cleantech Open bills itself as the world’s largest accelerator for renewable, or clean, energy technology development. Its mission is to find, fund, and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges. A not-for-profit organization, the Cleantech Open provides the infrastructure, expertise, and strategic relationships that turn clever ideas into successful global clean-technology companies.
For information about the Night Rover Challenge and how to register a team, visit: http://www.nightrover.org
For more information about the Cleantech Open, visit: http://www.cleantechopen.org
NASA’s Centennial Challenges program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing, and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and its Centennial Challenges Program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech
David E. Steitz
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
Cleantech Open, Palo Alto, Calif.