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Frequently Asked Questions

The Contest

1. Who can enter?

All active student members – high school, undergraduate and graduate -- in good standing with both ASGSR and their own university/school are eligible to enter. Multiple students and/or advisors may collaborate on a single proposal, but a single lead advisor must be named to receive the payload development award.  The competition is open to both US and International ASGSR students. To become a student member, click https://asgsr.org/index.php/joinsupport/individual-membership.

2. What role does the faculty mentor play?

Each student proposal requires the signatory support of an academic research advisor, who agrees to provide mentorship to the student as needed and to receive and distribute the $1,000 payload development award.  Advisors are expected to hold an academic or research appointment at the student’s university or school.

3. What should I include in the proposal?

A successful proposal will include all four required proposal elements, collected into a single PDF no longer than 9 pages total:

i)  Signature form (1-2 pages): includes basic information about the proposal team and faculty mentor

ii) Research and Outreach Proposal (Up to 3 pages): details your proposed research and outreach plan. This should explain to evaluators the big picture value of your proposal (Why?), your scientific/technical objectives (What?), and your implementation strategy (How?). Include research objectives, hypothesis, data collection strategies, the design of your experiment, and the justification for using suborbital flight to meet your objectives. 

iii)  Budget (1-2 pages): Outlines the materials and/or services you intend to purchase with your $1000 development award and any matching funds.  Wherever possible, prices should be backed up with quotes or other justification.  All hardware development, fabrication, and testing are the responsibility of the proposal team and should be included, as should any associated travel expenses.

iv)  Schedule (1-2 pages): In your format of choice, show your path from award to flight. 

v)   Use single-spaced, single column Times New Roman Western Font size 12, and at least 2.5 cm margins on all sides. English language text.

No supplementary materials will be accepted, and over-length proposals may not be considered for review.

4. What is cost sharing?

Proposals that leverage co-funding (e.g., universities, sanctioned club organizations, etc.), overhead waivers, Space Grant awards, student fundraising, hardware loans, or other forms of investment to maximize the impact of their research and outreach will be favorably reviewed. Such cost sharing should be explicitly called out in the budget.

5. What is awarded to the winner?

The winning proposal, via the Faculty Mentor and Institution, will receive:

i)  A pre-paid Student Mini-Payload slot for the proposed payload on a future flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle (paid by ASGSR, and contracted with the Institution);

ii)  A $1,000 discretionary award, intended for payload hardware development, research materials, and travel in support of this experiment; and

iii)  An invitation to present the project at the 2018 ASGSR Annual Meeting to be held in Washington, DC Fall 2018


The Flight

6. What is the flight profile for this research mission?

Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle carries payloads on a suborbital mission in a pressurize capsule that provides a shirt-sleeve environment. With an apogee of around 100 km, payloads experience about three minutes of milli-g level exposure before returning to the launch site. The total mission lasts approximately 11 minutes. A detailed Payload User’s Guide with flight environments and operational details is available via email to payloads@blueorigin.com.

7. What is the payload design envelope?

Each payload should contain a single experiment (multiple samples are welcome).  Payloads should have external dimensions of 10x10x20 cm, and a total mass of no more than 1.1 pounds (500 grams).  5V of 0.9A power is provided via a single USB connector from about 5 minutes before liftoff through about 5 minutes after landing. Experiments are welcome to use existing hardware, purchase commercial systems, or develop their own in accordance with the Blue Origin Payload User’s Guide and guidance provided during payload development and safety reviews.

8. What other constraints should I take into account?

Payloads should contain no significant hazards (chemical, biological, stored energy, or RF transmitters). They should be designed to be flexible to re-orientation. Operationally, student payloads will typically be loaded into the rocket ~3 days before flight and removed ~12 hours after flight. All payloads are subject to the Blue Origin Payload User’s Guide and standard terms and conditions.  Questions may be addressed to payloads@blueorigin.com.

9. What is the process for getting ready for flight?

To be approved for a flight on the New Shepard vehicle, payloads must pass through a three-stage review process with Blue Origin, outlining first the design intent and constraints of the payload, then the safety concerns and mitigations of the design, and finally the launch readiness of the as-built system. The winning student team will be responsible for working their payload through this review process with Blue Origin.

10. When and where will the flight take place?  Can I watch?

Blue Origin’s West Texas Launch Site is located about two hours east of El Paso, near the town of Van Horn, Texas.  While not required, up to four participants in the winning research proposal may be on site for up to two days of pre-flight research activities, as well as for launch viewing and post-flight payload receipt.  Participants onsite for launch must be at least 18 years old and directly involved in the research or outreach pursuits of the payload.  (Participants under the age of 18, as well as additional collaborators, friends, and family are welcome to watch the flight from a more remote viewing location.)  NOTE: travel expenses are the responsibility of the research team, but may be included in the proposal budget.

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