International Space Settlement Design Competition

Frequently Asked Questions

May I enter the Qualifying Competition if I am not part of a team?

The Competition is specifically intended to emulate the industry experience, where large numbers of people must cooperate to produce a product. The Competition organizers discourage attempts to compete as an individual. Please consider entering the Space Settlement Design Contest hosted by the National Space Society and NASA Ames Research Center (, which accepts entries by individuals and small teams.

This sounds great, but I don't have time for another extracurricular activity. Is there a way for me to have a Competition experience without forming a team and creating a Qualifying proposal?

The answer depends on where you live. If you live in a U.S. Region where a Semi-Finalist Competition is conducted, you can register as an individual, show up at the Competition venue on the designated Friday evening with no advance preparation, and experience the entire design process by Sunday late afternoon. If you live in the UK, several "mini" competitions are conducted throughout the country; the organizing team for these events also occasionally creates a similar experience abroad. The Competition organizers are also in the process of developing an international "pay for play" Competition experience in Houston that will require no advance preparation.

I am in Middle School (eighth grade, Junior High School). May I participate in the Competition?

The Competition organizers have observed that the Finalist Competition is so physically demanding, students younger than 15 years of age have difficulty contributing to their teams' products. Entries by Middle School teams are discouraged; please consider entering the Space Settlement Design Contest hosted by the National Space Society and NASA Ames Research Center (, which accepts entries from students in 6th through 12th grades.

Is it OK for my team to add or change members between the Qualifying and Finalist Competitions or between a Semi-Finalist and Finalist Competition?

Yes, unless otherwise specified by your Regional Coordinator. Just as in industry, proposal teams may find it advisable to change staff during different phases of the proposal process. Your team will be asked to list its members at each phase of the Competition; the organizers will not question differences in these lists. (Notes: Semi-Final organizers may opt to not allow team member substitutions. The Competition organizers respectfully request that teams resolve disputes internally. We find that squabbling about team membership usually occurs among adults. Please do not involve us, and remember: it's all about the kids.)

On the list of past Finalists, you show "Invited Teams". What does this mean?

Competition organizers reserve the right to invite Non-Finalist Teams to the Finalist Competition. Prior to 2009, this usually occurred if a Finalist Team was smaller than the requested 12 members and its partner team could not add enough members to staff a Competition "company" with 36 to 40 students (24 prior to 2007). The Competition organizers then invited a runner-up team to "fill out" the company. Starting in 2009, Competition organizers allowed company sizes larger than 40 students, and adopted a practice of inviting teams that show promise and are likely to improve future performance through exposure to a Finalsit Competition experience.

Why do you not show the Finalist Competition winners in the website?

The Competition organizers consider the importance of the Finalist Competition to be the opportunity to learn from the experience; the declaration of a winning team is a necessary but not important part of the process. Furthermore, winner selection is not a perfect process; differences between proposals are often insignificant and subjective.

Why are Finalist teams limited to only 12 members?

In industry, everything has a budget, and people = money. The limitation on team size emulates industry requirements to complete projects within authorized budgets. The Competition organizers also have a target budget, and more participants incur more costs for food, lodging, and printing. For 2008 and beyond, the number of participants is approaching the practical maximum for the Competition format; limiting team size to 12 enables a dozen Finalist teams and four or more Invited Teams to compete.

Why are Semi-Finalist Competitions only conducted in some areas of the world?

Very simply, every Semi-Finalist Competition requires funding and volunteers to make local arrangements. The Competition organizers are actively seeking sponsors for new Semi-Finalist Competitions in North America, which will enable more students to experience the added challenges of participating in a high-pressure "live" Competition. A Regional Coordinator is in the process of organizing a Semi-Finalist Competition in Africa. Semi-Finalist organizers in Asia, Australia, the UK (for Europe), and Latin America are actively making arrangements to arrange more participation in their Regions.

Why do you ask for so much information on the Qualifying Competition Registration and Proposing Team Data Forms?

Every Qualifying Competition team is a potential Finalist Team. We do a lot of communicating with Finalist teams, starting with a telephone call to announce the good news (even though the website only promises an e-mail). Having multiple postal addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses enables us to get information to the teams in a timely manner. The list of student names and ages is used in the process of grouping teams to form balanced Finalist Competition "companies".

Why do you ask Finalist Teams for all of that information on so many forms?

Each form has a different purpose; we do not want to convey superfluous information to vendors who provide services to the Competition, and we do not want to risk making an error in transcribing information you provide. We also find that names are often misspelled on team-provided forms; having names written more than once gives us a better chance to create accurate name badges and certificates before the teams arrive.

We really liked our partner team and/or assigned CEO from last year's Finalist Competition. Can we be assigned the same partner team and/or CEO next year?

Sorry; everything we do in designing Competition processes is intended to emulate the industry experience. In industry, we frequently work on different teams, with people and managers we do not know. The Competition organizers will do their best to keep teams out of a "comfort zone", so expect each year to have different partner teams and CEOs.

This year's RFP looks almost the same as last year. Why don't you make it different?

Much of the similarity seen in RFPs from year to year is absolutely intended, e.g., people need a structure for protection, air, water, electrical power, a private place to live, computers, and robot helpers. These paragraphs will not substantially change for each scenario; there is no alternative to these requirements. The challenge is to figure out how these words in the RFP mean different things, depending on the location and details of the scenario. For example, the amount of light available is different in Earth orbit, Mars orbit, and the asteroid belt--affecting power requirements and options for producing electrical power. Transportation requirements, available resources, and psychological factors are different in each location. There are, however, huge differences between each RFP and prior ones, even for the "same scenario" every five years: Paragraphs 2.4, 2.5, 3.4, 3.5, 4.4, 4.5, 5.4, and 5.5 and Section 7.0 are crafted to cause design changes so major that a prior year's design will not meet minimum requirements of a new RFP. If your team does not recognize the impacts of these differences, then you're missing some things in your design.

May College students enter the Space Settlement Design Competition?

No; the Competition is only for High School students. If students are in their final year of high school during the Qualifying Competition and their team is selected as a Finalist, they are permitted to participate in the Finalist Competition even if they have since entered college (this ruling accommodates the Southern Hemisphere school year and students who go directly to college without Summer vacation after their Senior year of high school). Please respect eligibility requirements specified on the Competition Home Page.

Are you planning to do Competitions for college students?

Not at the present time. If a sponsor asks the Competition organizers to conduct a Competition for college students, the request will be considered, although the sponsor will be expected to make all arrangements for the event.

Are there other space design competitions for college students?

Yes, although they are not for space settlements. College students may join the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); despite the name, it is an international organization, and student memberships are inexpensive. The AIAA Foundation offers competitions for college student members, two of which are space vehicle designs. Go to, click on "Students & Educators" in the orange bar near the top of the screen, then "Design Competitions" in the menu on the left side of the screen. We are in the process of encouraging the AIAA Foundation to add a college Space Settlements Competition to the current eight competition formats.

Can Competition materials be made available for college classes?

Absolutely; the Competition organizers have already provided materials that two Universities have adapted for classroom applications. The Competition organizers do, however, suggest that classes address not only technical issues involved in the Competition scenarios, but also management, teamwork, and presentation skills that will be valuable in industry.

Why do the Competition organizers not conduct a similar event for college students?

One purpose of Space Settlement Design Competitions is to help high school students determine if an engineering career is the correct choice for them. College students have already made that decision. Although the Competition is a fun and enlightening learning experience, the Competition organizers choose to invest their time for high school students.