NASA has opened a pilot Entrepreneurs Challenge to invite fresh ideas and new participants to support the development of new instruments and technologies to advance its science exploration goals.

The agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is seeking novel ideas reflective of those currently trending in the commercial sector – particularly in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and advance sensors and machine learning.

To increase participation in the areas relevant to its technology portfolio, SMD will awkward up to $100,000 in prize funding in a three-stage process to each selected entry.

“There’s a lot of energy and fresh thinking as a result of the entrepreneurial spirit that has emerged in our field over the past few years,” said Michael Seablom, NASA’s Chief Technologist for Science.

“We want to be sure we’re not leaving good ideas on the table or missing the contributions some of these potential partners could make to the exciting science missions coming up.”

For the inaugural Entrepreneurs Challenge, the areas of focus will be:

  • Advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence for autonomous spacecraft and surface rovers, as well as for Earth observation and disaster management
  • Advanced mass spectrometry for life detection and other science applications, using instrumentation that is beyond state-of-the-art in being low-power and low-mass, and utilizing innovations in sampling technology and processes that include cutting-edge materials or components
  • Quantum sensors that support high precision assessments of gravity, magnetic fields, dark energy, and other measurements to support NASA science

White paper submissions are due Friday, 26th June, with the challenge event to be held 29th July.