Two UT Austin Teams Finalists in NASA Space Exploration Design Competition

May 2, 2022

Two teams of aerospace engineering seniors in UT Austin’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics are finalists in NASA’s RASC-AL (Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage) annual design competition. Each team will receive a $6,000 stipend to develop their mission proposal to effectively meet mission competition requirements. Teams will present their concepts to NASA and aerospace industry leaders at a forum this June.

This year’s mission is focuses on tackling Moon and Mars exploration challenges. Teams are required to develop innovative concepts to allow for the expansion of human space exploration by developing a design that supports short-term stays and scientific operations at planetary bodies. 

Design projects are broken down into four themes: portable utility pallet, universal sample containment system, Mars water-based in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) architecture, and suitport logistics carrier (SPLC). These student-developed concepts could someday help advance the future of NASA’s deep space missions as the organization looks toward the future of space exploration.

The two UT Austin finalist teams are:

Modular Universal Preservation System (MUPS)
Theme 2 finalists: Universal Sample Containment System

Design Overview

The MUPS (Modular Universal Preservation System) will help to better our understanding of the moon’s formation, identify lunar resources for future missions, and study human health beyond low-Earth orbit. MUPS consists of a cylindrical senior unit (SRU) and modular junior units (JRUs) that will keep a variety of samples in pristine condition. The SRU provides structural support for the system, while the JRUs house all of the systems to maintain the temperature, pressure, and humidity. This modular design promotes ease of transportation and specialized configuration for each sample type. The MUPS will also integrate with Lunar Transit Vehicles (LTVs) during sample collection expeditions. The JRU will be attached handsfree to the spacesuit during sample collection EVAs to maximize portability. On the outbound and return journeys, the MUPS can easily pass through the NASA Docking System doors for inter-vehicular transfers. The system will first be utilized during the Artemis missions; however, it is designed to integrate into any future lunar missions.

MUPS Team Members: Nawal Aden, Sarah Franze, Sanjay Ganachari, Nicholas Godfrey, Grant Klashinsky, Anthony Moreno

Suitport Interface Logistics Carrier (SILC)
Theme 3 Finalists: Suitport Logistics Carrier

Design Overview

The Suitport Interface Logistics Carrier (SILC) is a pressurized cargo container used to transport dry goods and fluids such as oxygen and nitrogen safely along the lunar surface during long-term lunar missions. The suitport interface of the pressurized container allows attachment to lunar habitats and future NASA rover designs to facilitate cargo exchange. Technological innovations for the design entail an outer structure carbon fiber-foam composite sandwich with multi-layer insulation lining, a Lotus nanocoating to mitigate lunar dust adhesion, a carbon overwrapped pressure vessel to store gaseous fluids, and a 1575 Watt-hour battery pack to keep the SILC running for at least 9 hours at a time. The SILC serves as ancillary storage space beyond the 30-day scope of a lunar mission, for its interior components such as the tank and battery are fully removable. With a dry mass of 140 kilograms each, and a fully loaded mass of 392 kilograms, the SILC can be hoisted by two astronauts and will preserve goods when transported over tens of kilometers across the lunar surface.

SILC Team Members: Prateek Bardhan, Niko Chapas, Taylor Cousins, Dax Dalton, Dominik Frej, Athanasius Pavlich, Kashish Singal, Priyal Soni