NASA Special Notice: Request for Information: Request for Flagship and Keystone Challenges


General Information

Document Type: Special Notice
Solicitation Number: NASA-SNOTE-041105-004
Posted Date: Nov 05, 2004
Original Response Date:
Current Response Date:
Original Archive Date: Nov 05, 2005
Current Archive Date: Nov 05, 2005
Classification Code: B -- Special studies and analysis - not R&D

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Headquarters Acquisition Branch, Code 210.H, Greenbelt, MD 20771

Description

External organizations are sought to support Centennial Challenges (www.centennialchallenges.nasa.gov) within the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (www.exploration.nasa.gov) of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.    

These organizations will help with the planning, coordination, and execution of the following elements as they relate to individual challenges:

  • Challenge Formulation
  • Co-Sponsor Recruitment
  • Competitor Recruitment
  • Challenge Administration
  • Challenge Publicity
  • Challenge Event Management

It is expected that this effort will consist of one or more traditional, competitively bid contract(s).    

This Request for Information (RFI) is intended to identify the field of possible supporting organizations based on the responses received and to obtain information that will help guide the development of future procurements.    

Please respond to any or all of the RFI elements provided below.

CENTENNIAL CHALLENGES OVERVIEW

NASA Centennial Challenges was established to conduct prize competitions in support of the Vision for Space Exploration and ongoing NASA programs.    

Centennial Challenges is modeled on past and ongoing prize competitions, including the 18th century British Longitude Prize; early 20th century aviation competitions, such as the Orteig Prize won by Charles Lindbergh; the ongoing Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge; and the recently won, privately funded, Ansari X PRIZE.    

By making awards based on actual achievements instead of proposals, Centennial Challenges seeks novel and lower-cost solutions to engineering obstacles in civil space and aeronautics from new sources of innovation in industry, academia, and the public.

CATEGORIES AND TYPES OF CHALLENGES

NASA plans four categories of prize competitions under Centennial Challenges, two of which are covered in this RFI - Flagship Challenges and Keystone Challenges.    

It is important to differentiate between these Challenge categories because each will make different demands on support functions.    

The third and fourth Challenge categories, Alliance and Quest Challenges will be covered in separate documents.    

The Alliance Challenge category will be covered in an Announcement of Partnership Opportunity.    

The Quest Challenge category will be covered in a separate RFI. Individual Challenges will take one of two forms:     "first-to-demonstrate competitions", like the Longitude Prize, Orteig Prize, and X PRIZE; and "repeatable contests", like the DARPA Grand Challenge.      

It is also important to differentiate between these types of Challenges because each will also make different demands on support functions. Flagship Challenges Flagship Challenges are intended to encourage external teams to independently design, develop, launch, and operate space missions and thereby generate innovative and/or low-cost approaches to various civil space goals that would not otherwise be pursued.     It is envisioned that all Flagship Challenges will be "first-to-demonstrate" competitions. NASA hopes to offer cash purses ranging from millions to tens of millions of dollars to the winners of individual competitions.     It should be noted that NASA must first obtain and is currently seeking necessary legislative authority to offer such large cash prizes. Flagship Challenges will be open to competitors from private sector companies, non-profit research institutions, university researchers, student teams, hobbyists, and any combination thereof.    

Examples of Flagship-type prize competitions include the Orteig Prize and the X PRIZE.       Candidate Flagship Challenges under consideration by NASA include prize competitions for:

  • A soft robotic lunar landing,    
  • A micro reentry vehicle,    
  • An aero-assist demonstration, and
  • A station-keeping solar sail.

Keystone Challenges Keystone Challenges are intended to encourage the development and demonstration of advanced technologies and/or innovative capabilities that support NASA's mission areas, and, where possible, have strong synergy with other applications.    

Keystone Challenges may be component-, subsystem-, or system-level demonstrations, and may involve robotic contests, drop tests, and/or atmospheric flight tests.      

Depending on the technical goal, Keystone Challenges may take the form of "first-to-demonstrate competitions" or "repeatable contests", and hopes to offer cash purses ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to the winners of individual Challenges. As noted above, NASA must first obtain and is currently seeking necessary legislative authority to offer such large cash prizes.      

Keystone Challenges will also be open to private sector companies, non-profit research institutions, university researchers, student teams, hobbyists, and any combination thereof.    

The Longitude Prize and the DARPA Grand Challenge are two examples of Keystone-type prize competitions.    

Candidate Keystone Challenges under consideration by NASA include: "First-to-demonstrate competitions" for:

  • Lightweight radiation shielding,
  • A mobile power storage breakthrough,
  • Improved and new physical and chemical lunar resource processing techniques,
  • An advanced astronaut glove,
  • An autonomous drill,
  • An autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for cargo,
  • A long-duration, station-keeping UAV, and
  • A hybrid airship.

"Repeatable contests" for:

  • Advances in materials, especially nanotube tethers;
  • Advances in lightweight power transmission, especially beamed power;
  • Advances in deployable telescope technology, especially those that could be applicable to space-based observatories;
  • Advances in general aviation technologies, especially those applicable to other modes of air transport;
  • A precision landing system;
  • An advanced tele-robotic construction system;
  • Highly mobile and cooperative autonomous robots; and
  • A human lunar all-terrain vehicle.

SUBMISSION DETAILS

Given the background provided above, describe your organization's experiences, capabilities, and ideas for supporting Flagship and Keystone Challenges.    

Where a more complete set of support functions can be provided, partnering between organizations is encouraged.    

Joint submissions between two or more potential partnered organizations are welcome. Attachment A provides a description of the anticipated support functions for Flagship and Keystone Challenges. Attachment B provides a list of general questions regarding follow-on procurements to this RFI, which may be used to structure future procurements for Flagship and Keystone Challenge contract support. Your organization's submission may be used by the Government to determine the degree of interest in the industry and capabilities for planning purposes. Submissions to this request shall be limited to no more than 15 pages, including attachments, and should be made electronically in the body of or as an attachment to an email sent to Rhett.A.Herrera@nasa.gov.    

All submissions must be received by December 17, 2004 at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

Questions regarding this RFI should be directed to: Ken Davidian NASA Headquarters 300 E Street, SW Washington, DC       20546-0001 Tel.:     (202) 358-0748

ATTACHMENT A: SUPPORT FUNCTIONS FOR FLAGSHIP AND KEYSTONE CHALLENGES

Challenge Formulation The Challenge Formulation function involves working with NASA and non-NASA groups to develop and review rules and other details of individual Challenges.    

Although the Centennial Challenges Manager will be responsible for final approval of Challenge rules, it is anticipated that support contractor(s) will play a significant role in guiding the formulation of individual Challenges from initial concept to final rules release.    

NASA anticipates that support contractor(s) will be especially involved in:

  • Gathering ideas for Challenges through internal NASA surveys, external workshops, and other inputs;
  • Defining and refining individual Challenge candidates selected by NASA through competitor inputs and independent reviews;
  • For Challenges that take the form of "repeatable contest events", identifying and evaluating potential event locations (such as test ranges) for appropriateness and cost; and
  • Defining competitor responsibilities, especially for Challenges that take the form of "first-to-demonstrate competitions", where the competitors will determine the location and timing of Challenge events.

It is anticipated that Challenge rules and details will include (but are not limited to):

  • Criteria for winning the Challenge,
  • Other competition rules,
  • Judging methodology (as needed),
  • Competition locations (as needed),
  • Competition dates (as needed),    
  • Purse size, and
  • Minimum entry criteria.

Areas that should be addressed in your response to this RFI should include, but not be limited to the following:    

  • What are the best methods for gathering Challenge ideas?
  • What are the best methods for defining rules and other Challenge details?
  • What are the best methods for reviewing and refining Challenge rules so they are transparent, unbiased, and fair, and so that competitors cannot cheat the rules?
  • What are the best methods for identifying independent, technically competent reviewers for Challenge rules?
  • What are the best methods for identifying unbiased, technically competent judges for individual Challenges?
  • What are the best ways to identify likely overhead costs for individual Challenges during the formulation process, especially for Challenges that take the form of "repeatable contests"?
  • What steps can be taken during the formulation process to keep overhead costs low, especially for Challenges that take the form of "repeatable contests"?

Competitor Recruitment

The Competitor Recruitment function seeks to ensure a strong competitive field for Challenges by making potential competitors aware of these Challenges and encouraging their participation.    

Under this function, NASA anticipates that Centennial Challenges support contractor(s) would be responsible for, or play a significant role in, developing and implementing an effective and efficient process for:

  • Identifying potential competitors for a specific Challenge;
  • Creating Challenge information and materials targeted at those potential competitors;
  • Identifying dissemination methods that target those potential competitors;
  • Disseminating information and materials to those potential competitors;
  • Discussing Challenges with potential competitors and answering their questions about Challenge rules and other details; and
  • Formally registering competitors for Challenges, including competitors' signatures on registration materials provided by NASA.

Areas that should be addressed in your response to this RFI should include, but not be limited to the following:    

  • What are the best methods for identifying potential Challenge competitors?
  • What are the best methods for making potential competitors aware of a Challenge?
  • What are the best methods for encouraging potential competitors to enter and compete for a Challenge?

Challenge Administration

The Challenge Administration function involves responsibility for day-to-day administration of Challenge competitions.    

Under this function, NASA anticipates that Centennial Challenges support contractor(s) would be responsible for tasks including (but not limited to): ? Responding to inquiries from registered Challenge competitors;

  • Collecting competitor information at regular intervals, such as progress updates, dollars spent, team member lists, and photos;
  • Monitoring competitor adherence to Challenge rules; and
  • Maintain information services, such as websites and databases.

Please address but do not limit your response to the following area:

  • How can day-to-day administration costs for individual Challenges be kept as low as possible?

Challenge Information

The Challenge Information function seeks to ensure that individual Challenges are well represented in the press and media and that public interest in and excitement regarding individual Challenges is strong.     Under this function, NASA anticipates that Centennial Challenges support contractor(s) would be responsible for, or play a significant role in:

  • Identifying desirable, likely, and/or other relevant press and media outlets for a specific Challenge;
  • Drafting press releases, other press materials, internet media, television media, and other media targeted at these outlets;
  • Creating dissemination plans, such as schedules for press and media events, over the life-cycle of a Challenge that target these outlets;
  • Executing this dissemination plan;
  • Discussing Challenges with press and answering their questions; and
  • Seeking and executing other methods for creating and maintaining public interest and excitement for individual Challenges.

Areas that should be addressed in your response to this RFI should include, but not be limited to the following:     

  • What are the best methods for creating press and media interest in ongoing Challenges?
  • What are the best methods for ensuring strong press and media attendance at individual Challenge events?
  • Besides press and media outreach, are there other methods that can help create public excitement for individual Challenges?
  • What methods will work best for creating public interest in individual Challenges?
  • How can NASA maximize public interest and excitement while keeping costs for the publicity function as low as possible?

Challenge Event Management

All Centennial Challenges will culminate in an event where a single competitor (in the case of "first-to-demonstrate competitions") or multiple competitors (in the case of "repeatable contests") will make attempts to win the Challenge.    

The Challenge Event Management function encompasses all the management functions needed to make these events successful.     Under this function, NASA anticipates that Centennial Challenges support contractor(s) would be responsible for, or play a significant role in:

  • Identifying and evaluating potential event locations (such as test sites or ranges) for "repeatable contests";
  • Potentially negotiating and contracting with event locations for various event needs, such as security, press management, etc.;
  • Obtaining services for those events needs not provided by event locations;
  • Notifying competitors, judges, Centennial Challenges management, and other VIPs of Challenge events; and
  • Coordinating lodging/meals/travel/hospitality for judges and other VIPs.

Areas that should be addressed in your response to this RFI should include, but not be limited to the following:     

  • For "repeatable contest events", what are the best methods for identifying, evaluating, contracting for, negotiating with, and otherwise obtaining event locations and their services, such as test sites or ranges?
  • What are the best methods for obtaining various event needs not provided by event locations, such as security, press management, lodging/meals/travel/hospitality for judges and VIPs, etc.?  

Note that event needs will vary between "repeatable contests", where the event location and time has been provided for all competitors, and "first-to-demonstrate competitions", where competitors will determine event location and time. ? How can costs for Challenge events, especially for "repeatable contests", be kept as low as possible? ATTACHMENT B: GENERAL QUESTIONS ON SUPPORT FOR FLAGSHIP AND KEYSTONE CHALLENGES Your organization should answer the following questions.    

NASA may use this information in structuring future procurements for Flagship and Keystone Challenge support.

  • How should NASA organize support contracts for Centennial Challenges?  
  

According to category of Challenge (Flagship and Keystone), by type of Challenge ("first-to-demonstrate competitions" or "repeatable contest events"), by support function, or by some other methodology?    

Why? Should one support contract cover both Flagship Challenges and Keystone Challenges or should NASA pursue two separate contracts?    

Why? Should one support contract cover both "first-to-demonstrate competitions" and "repeatable contest events" or should NASA pursue two separate contracts?    

Why? Should one support contract cover all support functions or should NASA pursue separate contracts for different support functions?    

Why?   How should these support functions be grouped?

  • How can NASA promote teaming between support providers to meet its Flagship and Keystone Challenge needs?
  • How can NASA structure Centennial Challenges support contract to keep overhead costs low and thus maximize the amount of funding available for prize purses?

Point of Contact

Ken Davidian, Deputy Project Manager for Centennial Challenges, Phone (202) 358-0748, Fax (202) 358-3342, Email kdavidia@hq.nasa.gov - Rhett Herrera, Contracting Officer, Phone (202) 358-3633, Fax (202) 358-3342, Email rhett.a.herrera@nasa.gov Email your questions to Ken Davidian at kdavidia@hq.nasa.gov

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