At NASA, there is no ambiguity in our mission: we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind. Doing so however, doesn’t just require groundbreaking technologies, it requires visionary people – people who are unwilling to quit despite the most difficult of circumstances. Naturally, this environment lends itself well to the collaboration between diverse startup entrepreneurs, NASA scientists, and the Space Tech community.
The 2023 NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge recognizes and supports entrepreneurs and visionaries working on technology that advances the agency’s science goals, particularly in lunar exploration and climate science.
To increase participation of entrepreneurs in its technology portfolio, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) will award up to $1,000,000 in total prizes to participants who can successfully contribute ideas that advance the state-of-the-art in two, broadly-defined areas for 2023: Lunar Payloads and Climate Science.
Finalists will be invited to a live pitch event hosted at the Defense TechConnect Innovation Summit and Expo in Washington, D.C. Participants will further benefit from the opportunity to network with top agency, military, and industry leaders representing billions in federal contracting authority and innovation prizes.
NASA is committed to a culture of diversity, inclusion, equity, and accessibility. Aligning with NASA’s core value of inclusion and the Science Mission Directorate’s Science Plan (see Strategy 4.1 in SMD Science Plan), SMD seeks to increase the diversity of thought and backgrounds represented across the entire SMD portfolio through a more inclusive and accessible environment. We strongly encourage applicants from historically excluded communities, especially women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities, to partake in this challenge and future NASA explorations.
In Round 1, applicants will submit a Pitch Deck of up to 8 Slides alongside a Technical Submission of up to 5-pages outlining a technology concept that addresses one of the Technology Focus Areas detailed below. A panel of judges composed of NASA personnel and external venture experts will then select up to twenty (20) companies to receive $16,000 each and an invitation to participate in Round 2 of the NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge.
In Round 2, participants will submit a Pitch Deck of up to 12 Slides with a more extensive 10- page Technical Submission further detailing their technological solutions and will also participate in a live pitch event at the Defense TechConnect Innovation Summit and Expo to present their ideas to a panel of judges. The panel of judges will score the Submission Materials alongside a live 5 minute pitch presentation. The judging panel will be composed of NASA personnel and venture experts. Industry representatives, venture capitalists, government funders, foundations, and NASA program managers will also be invited to the pitch event. Up to eight (8) winning participants will be awarded an additional $85,000 each in prize funding to further mature their concepts.
Technology Focus Areas
The 2023 NASA Entrepreneurs Challenge aims to address two critical areas of need for NASA: Lunar Payloads and Climate Science. NASA will be seeking solutions provide:
Lunar payloads that may attract non-governmental funding for delivery to the surface of the Moon by a commercial provider.
A means to obtain high quality climate science data from small hosted instruments and/or new business models for using existing climate data to address climate and environmental problems.
Learn more about the focus areas here, including topic specific judging criteria.
In Round 1, up to 20 organizations will receive $16,000 and advance to Round 2.
In Round 2, up to 8 organizations will receive an additional $85,000.
In addition to the monetary awards, winners will also receive:
Assistance from NASA researchers on understanding and implementing NASA priorities
Access to a live NASA session explaining relevant NASA Funding Opportunities for Round 2 participants
Promotion and recognition at the Defense TechConnect Innovation Summit and Expo in Washington, D.C.
Feedback from a live judging panel consisting of NASA researchers and venture experts
Networking opportunity with top agency, military, and industry leaders in addition to venture capitalists, philanthropists, and other private funders
Winners will be asked to participate in a follow up survey approximately one year after the announcement. Any follow-on successes may be promoted in future iterations of the Entrepreneurs Challenge.