A student team from the KAIST Department of Aerospace Engineering won Best in Theme in the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition hosted by NASA. Graduate students Jaeyeol Ko, Jeongeun Seo, Jooseong Lee, Seokmin Choi, and Eunkwang Lee worked alongside students from Texas Tech University and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in a joint team.
RASC-AL is an annual human space exploration competition that challenges university students to develop new designs that will enhance future NASA missions. This year’s competition focused on developing novel and safe human spaceflight technologies for operations on and beyond the moon. There were four sub-themes student teams could choose to focus on: lightweight exercise suit, airlock design, commercially enabled Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), and logistics delivery systems.
The KAIST team chose the logistics delivery theme and participated with a design called “Earth to Lunar Interchangeable Transportation Environment” (ELITE). Its challenge was to develop a packaging system for use in long-term manned lunar exploration and future cislunar habitats, a subject the students had been researching for eight months with the joint teams. Long-term manned moon exploration missions are ridden with situations and perils that cannot be predicted in the system design and planning stage. In order to deal with these uncertainties, the KAIST team designed a system and operating concept that maximizes flexibility and cost-effectiveness of supply transport.
The design divided the spacecraft into propulsion and transport modules based on the function of each part. The switching of the modules allows the system to be flexible according to the needs of the moon base. With the use of several launch vehicles, multiple departure orbits can be set from Earth, providing enhanced flexibility and cost- effectiveness.
After two preliminary rounds, the team was chosen as one of 14 final teams to present at the main conference held from May 30 to June 3, where it won the award. Professor Ahn Jae Myung, the team advisor, commented, “I am proud of the students for leading the international joint team and achieving great results. I believe this is a result of our department’s continuous efforts to establish a system-design-oriented education. We will continue to provide quality education through international collaboration in the field of design.”
The ideas presented by the RASC-AL teams could be used by future astronauts and potentially serve to strengthen and broaden NASA’s mission capability.