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SPACE Economy - NASA's Lunar Delivery Challenge

Landing on the Moon with all that we need is just the beginning. Now we have to unload it. Your ideas can help jump-start the space economy

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It's Friday, let's have some fun. We have been talking about space and policy, but it is always more than that. There are science limitations. There are also, when creating a whole new industry or economy, several questions that should be asked, like are we setting things up right? Here is an opportunity to challenge your thoughts as a team.

Kindly put together a team answer for this Challenge. Discuss options here and do your research. Finally, have fun- its Friday!!!

Challenge Overview

The goal of NASA’s Artemis program is to land the first woman and the next man on the surface of the moon in 2024. By the end of the decade, NASA wishes to create a sustainable base camp on the lunar surface which will serve as a hub for scientific research and can also be a base for future exploration of Mars. A critical component of this program's success is the delivery of supplies and systems to the lunar surface and eventually Mars.  Building a base camp on the moon is no small task! From small scientific instruments to large rovers and habitat modules, the Artemis program will need a robust and reliable cargo-handling system that can effectively operate in the lunar environment and is compatible with a broad array of lunar lander configurations. NASA welcomes ideas that address how to unload payloads from the lunar landers. 

Payloads of varying mass and volume will be sent to the moon in one of several commercial landers and once they arrive at the lunar South Pole,  they need to be unloaded. These landers will range in size depending on the program requirements, so ideally the solution should be flexible enough to handle a variety of payloads being off-loaded from a range of different vehicles. Current Earth-based logistics systems are too massive to easily be packaged and deployed on the lunar surface. This is why we are asking for your help! We are looking for practical and cost-effective solutions to unload payloads to the lunar surface. Landing on the moon in 2024 and establishing a sustained human presence will be one of the most challenging logistical efforts ever attempted. NASA is excited to get your ideas on systems that will make lunar exploration a reality.

What You Can Do To Cause A Breakthrough

  • Click the orange button below to sign up for the challenge

  • Read the Challenge Guidelines to learn about the requirements and rules

  • Share this challenge on social media using the icons above. Show your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for human exploration of space.

  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.

Challenge Guidelines

Background We are going to the moon, to stay. As the future of a lunar outpost unfolds, NASA is teaming up with commercial partners who will supply the landers and capabilities for the delivery of payloads. Most recently, NASA has selected three providers for human landers (HLS) as well as commercial lunar payload service providers (CLPS) for robotically delivering payloads to the lunar surface (learn more about lunar deliveries on Houston we have a Podcast). Once the cargo has landed, they will need a system to unload the payloads from the landers onto the lunar surface. NASA is looking for autonomous or semi-autonomous, scalable systems that can be launched, landed, and deployed without crew set up that could support a wide range of payloads and landers. Ideally the solution would be fully autonomous so it can operate without human interaction for several years; however, ideas that are not fully autonomous are also acceptable if they have the potential to become autonomous. Manual operations in nominal and off-nominal conditions are also desired, but not required. The images below show examples of the three human landers and are meant to offer further insights into potential height and volume conditions that landers may impose. Future cargo landers are subject to change.  NASA has selected three American companies – Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX – to design and develop human landing systems for the Artemis program. With these awards, NASA is on track to land the next astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024, and establish sustainable human exploration of the Moon by the end of the decade. For more information about the human landers and Commercial Lunar Payload Services (HLS and CLPS) please visit the HLS website and the CLPS website. Credits: NASAAs Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” Before investing in and building a large-scale logistics infrastructure, NASA wants to engage the community for ideas that provide high reliability. Solutions can be part of the lander, located separately on the lunar surface, or be a combination of approaches.  The environment on the moon is distinctly different from Earth’s. Among other things, the lunar environment has no atmosphere, broad temperature swings, reduced gravity, abrasive dust, and uneven terrain with potential obstacles.  Proposed ideas should consider how systems would work in such conditions. Also, note that landers must land well away from key infrastructure to reduce the risk of damaging it.  NASA has developed some concepts and prototype systems for handling cargo from lunar landers. While these systems are effective at some operations, they may not optimize cost, mass and simplicity. Before baselining a large scale system, NASA is seeking ideas from the public to inform the direction of future development. For this challenge, NASA is looking for concepts and innovative approaches that may have been proven in other fields, or are based on sound reasoning and proven methodologies. Such approaches typically have a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 3-4; however, solutions with lower TRLs are acceptable. See the Resources tab for complete definitions of TRLs. The payloads will range in size and shape and can be categorized into three weight classes: <2 metric tons, 2-8 metric tons, and 8-12 metric tons. Ideally, NASA would like solutions that can handle multiple classes of payloads so that the system can be broadly used. Solutions that are able to successfully unload one class are also acceptable. For the purpose of this challenge, these payloads can be considered black boxes so that the focus is on how the design addresses either one or multiple payload classes. The figure below provides examples of possible payloads in the different classes.  A detailed list of specific examples of payloads is available in the Resources Tab. The individual components of the unloading system you propose are intended to be sent to the moon in a lunar lander and must fit inside the payload fairing of the launch vehicle. It is important to consider how the mass and volume of your system impacts what else can fit inside the payload fairing and how this impacts mission operations. For instance, you could propose an unloading system that takes up most of a lander’s payload mass but could be left on the moon and used for many deliveries. You could also propose an unloading system that takes up only a small portion of the lander’s payload fairing and may be brought on every trip, leaving room for other payloads.  For the purposes of this challenge, you can broadly assume that the payload fairing can accommodate a total of 3-5 metric tonnes and has a diameter of 5-8 meters. There is potential to have your unloading system shipped on a larger lander if the cost of doing so is justified by the value your system brings. You can learn more about the different launch options and estimated capacities in the SLS (Mission Planner’s Guide) or the guides for commercially available launch vehicles. Optimizing mass and volume for the overall mission in this way will be an important factor of a successful submission. Since launch vehicles also have challenging volume constraints, packaging efficiency of your concept will be very important. As a reminder, mass and volume are related but not always correlated - consider the difference in volume between a kilogram of feathers and a kilogram of lead!
  Standardizing interfaces is a priority for NASA when designing a logistics infrastructure on the moon. The Artemis program is an international one, and integration of different elements on the lunar surface requires a variety of compatible mechanical and electrical interfaces. Imagine seamless integration of systems on the Moon. Just like the iPhone or Android phones having the ability to be charged by USB or being made to a certain spec so that they can use a standard phone cover, your ideas should consider how they can efficiently interface with a variety of systems. The types of landers and payloads will vary. For cargo applications, features such as power standards, robotics interfaces, and external mounting interfaces will need to be defined and optimized. Ideas should include suggestions for how these parts of the system can be standardized. This includes not only the unloading system but also ideas on how the lunar payloads can be packaged and configured on a lander to simplify offloading. Additional capabilities that are desired but not required as part of your submission include:

  • Solutions that have the capability to load payloads for return to Earth

  • Solutions that have the capability of transporting payloads from landers to point of use

  • The system provides an option for the crew to provide override capability

You can assume the following will be provided: 

  • Power for unloading systems from the lander on which they are mounted and/or from a power source/charging station at the Artemis base camp

  • Commanding and telemetry systems to Earth-based ground control

  • Camera systems on the spacecraft and/or lunar surface to provide insight for cargo operations

  • Cargo operations are conducted during illuminated periods at the Artemis Base Camp for remote visibility

Prize This challenge will award up to $25,000 in total prizes to up to 6 teams:

  • One First place winner will be awarded up to $10,000

  • Two Second place winners will each be awarded up to $4500 ($9,000 total for Second place prizes)

  • Three Third place winners will each be awarded up to $2,000 ($6,000 total for Third place prizes)

In addition to the prizes discussed above, winners may also receive the following non-monetary incentives: 

  • An opportunity to meet with NASA engineers to more fully present the concept and answer any questions

  • If available, a conference or virtual event that allows all prize winners to present their ideas to and interact with NASA technical staff (some State Department restrictions may apply)

  • A press release or other publicity by HeroX and/or NASA announcing the winners

  • Wide promotion of the winner on social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

  • Participation in a webinar to showcase the winning solutions to the public.


  • Open to submissions: October 29, 2020

  • Submission deadline: January 19, 2021 @ 5pm ET

  • Judging: January 19 to March 9, 2021

  • Winners Announced: March 16, 2021

How do I win? To be eligible for an award, your proposal must, at a minimum:

  • Satisfy the Judging Scorecard requirements

  • Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions

  • Be scored higher than your competitors!

Judging Criteria Section Description Overall Weight Reliability/ feasibility Level of robustness; high degree of confidence that device or technique will be able to offload payloads.30Case for Mass and Volume Optimization Idea considers mass and volume: case is made for either leaving a solution on the moon or including it in the lander or a combination of approaches. Autonomy The degree to which the technique can work autonomously or has the potential to work autonomously15 Proposal quality

Quality of proposal: clear, concise writing;  thoughtful and complete explanations of how the unloading design concept meets the specifications listed. 10Flexibility of design The design considers the ability to work with a variety of payloads and landers. Proposes recommendations for standardizing mechanical and electrical interfaces.  Applicability to the lunar surface Ideas consider lunar environment factors such as: thermal, temperature, solar, dust, vacuum, etc. While complete solutions are likely to score higher in the judging criteria, NASA is also interested in partial solutions. If you have a partial solution, we recommend forming a team to submit a complete approach.  Submission Form Please complete your submission on the HeroX platform. We recommend opening the submission form early so you understand what formatting options are available to you. You can edit your submission up to the deadline, even if you have already submitted it. Character limits include spaces.   While not required, if you have CAD files, please include a PDF export and neutral 3D CAD files such as STEP (.stp and .step), Wavefront (.obj), or IGES (.iges and .igs).

  1. Technical Abstract: The Technical Abstract should be contained in a single paragraph. Focus on delivering a compelling overview so that the Judging Panel members assigned to score your application will want to read more. This is your opportunity to make a strong first impression, so make every word count! (max 1000 characters)

  2. Technical Approach: Provide a description of your concept and how it will unload payloads from lunar landers. Describe if the solution is standalone, part of the landers or a combination of both. Include any inputs that you think your solution will require, such as power consumption. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your approach, including any technical risks. (max 5000 characters, embedded images okay)

  3. Concept of Operations depicting how the proposed solution would be employed. (max 1500 characters, embedded images okay)

  4. Lunar Environment: Describe how the concept will work in the lunar environment with conditions such as vacuum, dust, solar, thermal, etc. (max 2000 characters, embedded images okay)

  5. Case for Mass and Volume Optimization: How does your solution optimize for mass and volume? As a reminder, your solution will need to be sent to the moon in the payload fairing. You can make a case for leaving a larger/heavier system on the moon, including a lighter/smaller solution in the lander on every trip, or a combination of approaches. If possible, please provide an estimate of mass and volume in your response. (max 2000 characters, embedded images okay)

  6. Reliability: Please discuss the reliability of your solution and offer any justifications for why you believe that your solution can successfully unload payloads. (max 1500 characters, embedded images okay)

  7. Autonomy: Please describe how your solution works autonomously. If not yet autonomous, please describe how your solution could be made to work autonomously. (max 1500 characters, embedded images okay)

  8. Capabilities: Can your design work with a variety of payloads and landers? What mass and volume of payloads do you think your system can handle? From what range of heights can your system unload payloads from? Do you have any recommendations for how to standardize mechanical and electrical interfaces to increase the flexibility of your solution? (max 1500 characters, embedded images okay)

  9. Additional Information: Upload any additional information you’d like to share including; product brochures, datasheets, ppts, links to videos, design documents etc.

    1. If you have multiple files, please upload them in a ZIP file.

    1. The content included in your submission form should stand alone. The information you share here may not be reviewed in the preliminary judging round.

  1. Please discuss the technical maturity of your proposed solution.  What TRL would you assign it?  Please provide a supporting rationale and/or evidence for this rating.  View the TRL definitions here:

  2. Sketches/Diagram or Designs of Concept. Upload multiple files in a ZIP folder. If you have CAD files, please include a PDF export and neutral 3D CAD file such as:

    1. STEP (.stp and .step)

    2. Wavefront (.obj) 

    3. IGES (.iges and .igs

Rules Participation Eligibility: The Prize is open to anyone age 18 or older participating as an individual or as a team. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (see: If you are a NASA employee, a Government contractor, or employed by a Government Contractor, your participation in this challenge may be restricted. Submissions must originate from either the U.S. or a designated country (see definition of designated country at , OR have been substantially transformed in the US or designated country prior to prototype delivery pursuant to FAR 25.403(c). 

Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.

You are required to ensure that all releases or transfers of technical data to non-US persons comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 C.F.R. §§ 120.1 to 130.17. No specific qualifications or expertise in the field of mechanical sensors is required. NASA encourages outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions. To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.

Intellectual Property Innovators who are awarded a prize for their submission must agree to grant NASA a royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license in all Intellectual Property demonstrated by the winning/awarded submissions. See the Challenge-Specific Agreement for complete details. You may be required to complete an additional form to document this license if you are selected as a winner.

Registration and Submissions: Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the website, on or before 5:00 pm ET on January 19, 2021. No late submissions will be accepted.

Selection of Winners: Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the weighted Judging Criteria section above. Judging Panel: The determination of the winners will be made by HeroX based on evaluation by relevant NASA specialists. Additional Information

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.

  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.

  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.

  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.

  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.


We are excited to hear from you and learn how you would solve this problem, click here to start your discussion:

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