To support future missions and reduce risk, NASA created the TechLeap Prize to rapidly identify and develop technologies of significant interest through a series of challenges. Participants in these challenges submit an application to develop a specific technology and then compete for awards to build the technology. As an added incentive, NASA intends to provide a flight test to the Winners of each challenge.
The Universal Payload Interface Challenge is the third NASA TechLeap Prize competition.
One of the many complex aspects of spaceflight is the design of interfaces for payloads that fly aboard host vehicles. NASA would like to see payloads get to flight test as quickly as possible, but the process to ensure that a payload can interface appropriately with the flight vehicle is often complex and time-consuming. How do you efficiently and effectively facilitate the operations and safety of disparately designed and developed payloads and ensure that they function appropriately across a variety of flight vehicles?
UPIC is seeking solutions to this problem from eligible individuals, teams, and organizations who can develop a flight-ready universal payload interface — an optimized interface system that enables easy integration of diverse space payloads onto various flight vehicles. NASA is seeking proposed universal payload interfaces that seamlessly adapt a diverse range of small space-based payloads (e.g., technologies, laboratory instruments, scientific experiments) for testing aboard various commercial flight vehicles (e.g., suborbital, orbital, planetary lander) and address the most common elements of interfaces.
Refer to the Technical Guidelines for additional details.
The NASA TechLeap Prize challenges are open competitions designed to discover promising technologies for space exploration, discovery, and the expansion of space commerce. NASA encourages participation from teams who may not have previously engaged in other NASA funding opportunities.
NASA welcomes applications from individuals, teams, and organizations or entities that have a recognized legal existence and structure under applicable law (state, federal, or country) and that are in good standing in the jurisdiction under which they are organized with the following restrictions:
U.S. government employees may participate so long as they are not acting within the scope of their position and rely on no facilities, access, personnel, knowledge, or other resources that are available to them as a result of their employment except for those resources available to all other participants on an equal basis. Employees and contractors of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are not eligible to win an award.
Foreign citizens may only participate as (i) employees of an otherwise eligible U.S. entity who reside in the U.S., (ii) full-time students at an otherwise eligible U.S. university or college who reside in the U.S., or (iii) owners of less than 50% of the interests in an otherwise eligible U.S. entity who reside in the U.S.
Additionally, NASA encourages participation from teams who demonstrate a commitment to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Refer to the Rules for a complete set of eligibility requirements.
Please review the application to better understand the submission requirements, as well as the scoring rubric to learn more about what constitutes a strong application. In order to participate in the UPIC Challenge, you must first register no later than 5:00 PM Eastern on Thursday, February 1, 2024. Registration is a simple two-step process. First, create a username and password, then check your email inbox to confirm your registration. Next, complete the online registration form. Once you are registered, applications are due no later than 5:00 PM Eastern on Thursday, February 22, 2024.
There will be three types of evaluation. During Evaluation Panel review, each valid application will receive scores and comments from a highly qualified panel of expert judges who will use a scoring rubric to evaluate their assigned applications. Potential biases in Evaluation Panel review are addressed through our training, which includes unconscious bias training for each member of the Evaluation Panel. All scores are normalized to ensure fairness for everyone.
The Selection Committee judges will review top-scoring submissions and select up to three Winners based on the resulting rank order from the Evaluation Panel, scoring rubric, and diversity of solutions. Winners will each receive an initial award of $200,000, with the chance to win a total of up to $650,000 each and the opportunity for a flight test of their system.
During System Build Round 1 and System Build Round 2, Winners each will have the opportunity to win additional awards of $200,000 and $100,000, respectively. Field Judges will conduct on-site visits in October 2024 and March 2025 to score the progress each Winner has made.
To win an additional award of $150,000 during the Performance Incentive Phase, a System Build Round 2 Winner must meet or exceed targets outlined in the Technical Guidelines and integrate a payload into a flight vehicle – both of which will be assigned by NASA – within a five-month timeframe. NASA also intends to provide the opportunity for a flight test to each of the Winners.