Ohio State's Electric Moon advances in NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge

Posted: August 20, 2022

An Ohio State University power electronics team is among seven nationwide advancing in a NASA mission to land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon.

Electrical and computer engineering professors Jin Wang and Wu Lu, representing Ohio State’s team Electric Moon, won the first stage award from NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge.

The challenge stems from the planned August 29 Artemis 1 launch, an uncrewed test flight for NASA's Artemis program. It is the first flight of the agency's Space Launch System super heavy-lift launch vehicle and the first flight of the full Orion spacecraft.

According to NASA, the Watts on the Moon challenge was created because “future Artemis astronauts living and working on the lunar surface will require rugged technologies that can store energy and deliver continuous, reliable power.”

The $5 million prize competition challenges innovators to develop pioneering power systems light enough for spaceflight and tough enough to withstand the harsh lunar environment.

Prof. Jin Wang

Wang said it is exciting to learn Electric Moon is among the seven to advance, considering 336 teams applied nationwide.

The seven winning teams receive $200,000 each from NASA and move on to compete in Phase 2, Level 2.

“Watts on the Moon is a multi-stage competition,” Wang said. “In the next six months we will build prototypes that enable power transmission in the extreme environment on the lunar surface. If we are successful, we will enter the final competition and perform an onsite demonstration in a NASA facility.”

The second phase of the challenge kicked off in February with a design competition. Phase 2, Level 1 challenged solvers to submit concepts for drawing power from an existing source and delivering it over nearly two miles (three kilometers) under the same temperature extremes and vacuum conditions found on the lunar surface. 

The winning teams were chosen from submissions of technical documentation, including detailed engineering designs and analyses. A panel of judges reviewed, evaluated, and scored 336 submissions based on key performance metrics such as minimal mass and maximum efficiency.

Phase 2, Level 2 challenges the seven teams to develop and test key parts of their solutions. Up to four teams will win equal shares of $1.6 million and move on to compete in the Watts on the Moon Challenge finals. To close out the challenge, the four finalist teams must prove the success of their solution inside a vacuum chamber for two top prizes worth a total of $1.5 million.

The Watts on the Moon Challenge is a NASA Centennial Challenge led by the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. NASA contracted HeroX to support the administration of this challenge. Marshall Space Flight Center manages NASA’s Centennial Challenges on behalf of the agency’s Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing Program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

For more information on NASA’s Watts on the Moon Challenge and the seven advancing teams, visit: https://nasa.gov/wattson

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