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UAH teams win NASA Artemis Student Challenges

HUNTSVILLE – The University of Alabama in Huntsville has claimed the top prize for two NASA Artemis Student Challenges.

The 2023 Human Exploration Rover Challenge and the 2023 Student Launch Challenge, led by the Marshall Space Flight Center, mark a historic achievement, as no other university has ever won two NASA Marshall-led Artemis Challenges in the same year.

The challenges represent two of NASA’s nine Artemis Student Challenges, annual national and international events aimed at fostering student ingenuity to support NASA’s return to the Moon under the Artemis program in preparation for human exploration of Mars.

“The 2022-2023 academic year has been special, and I would daresay spectacular, for our Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering seniors,” said Dr. Shankar Mahalingam, dean of the UAH College of Engineering. “They won two major NASA-sponsored competitions: a national event, the 2023 Student Launch Challenge, and an international competition, the 2023 Human Exploration Rover Challenge, something that has not occurred in a single year, which we will refer to now on as ‘Earth2Sky Eagle Crown’ to inspire future UAH teams to even greater accomplishments in the future.”

HERCules rover crew (L-R), Chrys Arreola Padilla and Annika Nittmo. (Rylie Livingston/UAH)

Both team challenges are part of senior design courses in the UAH Department of
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with students majoring in one or both disciplines.

The UAH Charger Rocket Works team competed against 51 university level teams from
20 states and Puerto Rico to win the Student Launch challenge. The Student Launch event is a NASA-conducted engineering design challenge that involves the design, documentation, fabrication and testing of a rocket and payload in support of a particular NASA mission.

In addition to the overall victory, the UAH Student Launch team placed first in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Reusable Launch Vehicle Innovative Payload Award; took second place in the Safety Award; and placed third three times: in the Altitude Award; the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Reusable Launch Vehicle Award; and the STEM Engagement Award.

The UAH HERC challenge team competed against 49 teams from 20 states and eight countries at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The UAH rover, nicknamed “HERCules,” was guided by a two-person crew. Rover crews were tasked with designing, developing, building and testing human-powered rovers capable of negotiating difficult terrain, as well as a task tool for completion of various mission tasks.

Both UAH teams were funded by the Alabama Space Grant Consortium and the UAH College of Engineering, the UAH Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, Jacobs Space Exploration Group, Women in Defense Tennessee Valley Chapter, the National Space Club, the UAH Propulsion Research Center, Northrup Grumman, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Association of Rocketry, Relativity Space, Bastion Technologies, Siemens Digital Industries Software and other sponsors.

Taking two victories in these challenges serve as a special point of pride for the entire
UAH community, said Mahalingam.

“Our student accomplishments indeed make us extremely proud,” he said. “It is their incredible success that attracts highly talented high school graduates and transfer students to come to UAH to study engineering.

“In addition to developing award-winning vehicle designs, we take great pride in the fact that these students do an outstanding job in outreach to K-12 students in Alabama.”

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