Describe your technology for autonomous observation.
Photo Credit: Airborne Systems

Please read all of the application requirements before completing each section. All applications must be in English. The Technology Title and Technology Description may be published on this website; the remainder of your submission will only be viewed by challenge administrators and judges.

Be sure to review your application as it will appear after it’s been submitted (link at the bottom of the page) and confirm your changes have been saved. When you have completed all of the requirements, a message will be displayed on the screen. At that point, you can submit your final application. Once you have submitted the application, you will no longer be able to make changes and the status on your dashboard will confirm submission (you will not receive an automated email confirmation).

You must submit no later than Wednesday, August 11, 2021, at 5:00 PM Pacific.


Offer a brief and compelling overview of your technology. Avoid using jargon, abbreviations, or language that a layperson may not understand.


Provide a title for your technology. Choose a name that easily identifies your solution and distinguishes it from any other technology.


Provide a short description of your technology.


The following information is required to capture a basic understanding of the leadership, structure, vision, and capabilities of the people working on this technology.

CAPABILITIES (150 words)

Describe the skills, capacity, and experience of you or your team to execute your plans to deliver a flight-ready payload. Be sure to include core competencies and how they apply to your technology, any relevant past projects or experience, and any other additional details that support your ability to develop a flight-ready payload.


In order to be eligible for an award, individuals must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States and be 18 years of age or older, and organizations must be an entity incorporated in and maintaining a primary place of business in the United States. If you are selected as a potential Winner and you are an individual, you will be asked to provide proof of citizenship or permanent residency. If you are selected as a potential Winner and you are an organization, you will be asked to provide proof of the location of your primary place of business. Please confirm that you will be able to provide one of the options below:

  • Yes, I can provide proof of citizenship or permanent residency.
  • Yes, my organization can provide proof that the location of our primary place of business is in the United States.


In order to participate in the TechLeap Prize, you must demonstrate that you have at least $250,000 liability insurance coverage. You will be asked to provide proof of your insurance coverage or otherwise demonstrate financial responsibility for that amount at the time you are selected as a potential Winner. See the Insurance Guidelines for additional details about this requirement. Do you have and are you able to provide proof of at least $250,000 liability insurance coverage or demonstrate financial responsibility at that amount?

  • Yes, I can provide proof of at least $250,000 liability insurance coverage or demonstrate financial responsibility at that amount.


Here is your opportunity to provide the details of your proposed solution for the Autonomous Observation Challenge No. 1. Be sure to emphasize how your technology and payload development plans align with the four criteria that will be used to assess each valid submission (see Scoring Rubric).


This challenge focuses on integrated, compact precision pointing systems that can be used to autonomously detect, track, and collect data on transient terrestrial events such as aerosol dispersion in the atmosphere or maintain line of sight communication with an object on the lunar surface from a small spacecraft. In particular, NASA is seeking technologies that are at a level of development where testing on a suborbital flight is a logical next step for advancing the technology. Describe your technology. How does it address this challenge?


Describe how your technology offers substantial benefits relative to the current state of the art. Explain how your technology advances NASA needs and will have a high impact on performance, manufacturability, reliability, or other metrics. How does the technology address key elements, such as size, weight, power, and cost (e.g., SWaP-C), that are critical for small spacecraft applications? Consider using quantitative figures of merit, with supporting data, to describe how the proposed technology will improve upon that state of the art. Focus on how your technology meets the Technical Guidelines that NASA has identified.


Please upload a PDF that contains drawings, illustrations, schematics, charts, graphs, or other visual representations of your technology that help convey what it is and its benefits. You must upload a single PDF file that does not exceed five pages. The maximum size of the file is 10MB. The PDF should not simply be a bullet-point summary of your solution. While the PDF may contain some additional text explaining your technology, it should primarily be visual and not be used to circumvent word counts on this submission. If it does, your submission may be disqualified.


Explain how this technology has been successfully tested in the laboratory (at least the component or breadboard level) to demonstrate that it could be ready for a flight test in eight months. Provide evidence to support your explanation. You may cite test results or other evidence by providing URLs.

NOTE: If you choose to provide URLs, they cannot be password protected. This information will be shared with judges and prize administrators so be mindful of what you share. It will primarily be used for due diligence on your technology. Judges are not required to read this content.


Describe how a suborbital flight test could help advance the technology. What would a flight test enable you to evaluate that is not possible through other means of testing (e.g., ground testing)? Why does your technology need a test flight now?


Describe how you plan to turn your technology into a payload that could be tested on a suborbital flight. Highlight any potential risks associated with your payload development plan, as well as how you plan to mitigate these risks.


Propose a plan for demonstrating your payload during a suborbital flight. At a high level, describe an experimental design for a suborbital flight test of your payload. Be sure to include the following items in your description:

  • What you plan to test and how
  • What your flight test plan objectives are and each of their corresponding success criteria
  • What type of data you expect to collect
  • What type of vehicle would best support your test objectives

NOTE: When describing the type of vehicle needed, consider the type of vehicles currently available from the vendors contracted to provide flight services for NASA government-sponsored research (e.g., high-altitude balloons, rocket-powered vehicles). NASA intends to award a suborbital flight test to each of the Winners of Payload Build Round 2 and will work with the vendors listed below to identify the most suitable vehicle. If you have questions about a specific vehicle or flight provider, please contact them directly.


Masten Space Systems

Raven Aerostar

UP Aerospace

Virgin Galactic

World View

To learn more, view the Suborbital Flight Testing Profiles.


Explain who owns the intellectual property of your proposed technology. If you are building on existing or off-the-shelf technology, detail the permissions you have to use that technology. If you are part of a team, indicate which team members own the intellectual property.


If your technology does not meet some of the requirements in the Technical Guidelines, please describe why you’ve made the choices you did in proposing your technology. Your explanation may include how your technology better meets the overall objectives of the challenge, how your technology exceeds what the Technical Guidelines specify, or how aspects of your technology may need to be adjusted to be flight ready. This is also your opportunity to describe any outstanding issues that you could not explain in any other sections.


If your team is named a Winner, you will have eight months to build a flight-ready payload. Use this section to describe your plan for successfully developing a payload in that timeframe.

PROJECT PLAN (150 words)

In bulleted chronological order, describe your project plan and the timeline needed to prepare your flight-ready payload in eight months. Include a plan to mitigate any risks.


Enter the total cost to build and prepare your flight-ready payload. (NOTE: Although the award amount is up to $500,000, this amount may be more than, less than, or equal to that value).


Provide specific line items from the budget narrative above. You may include any cost categories, including contingencies for risk mitigation, that support the development of your technology and payload. (NOTE: Although the award amount is up to $500,000, this amount may be more than, less than, or equal to that value).


If the total cost to develop your technology and payload exceeds $500,000, explain how you plan to fund the remaining costs. If your total cost does not exceed $500,000, enter “Not Applicable.”


You are required to submit a video that describes your technology and why it should be selected. The video is an opportunity to showcase your technology and to describe it in a succinct format. We want you to share your vision with the judges in a way that is different from the written solution format. This DOES NOT need to be a professionally produced video; video shot on a smartphone is acceptable. Additionally, please take care to protect any intellectual property associated with your technology. Only judges and challenge administrators will view this video.

In order to complete this part of your submission, your team will upload a short digital film using YouTube. Set the Privacy Settings on your video to Unlisted – do not set them to Private.

Video submissions should follow these guidelines or else it will render the submission ineligible:

  • 90 seconds in length maximum.
  • Your pitch must be in English.
  • Your video must be captioned. See instructions here on how to caption YouTube videos.
  • Your video should not contain any images of identifiable children (under age 18) without express parental consent.
  • Your video should not include any copyrighted material (including, but not limited to, music) for which you do not have a license.

Here are general suggestions for delivering a high-quality video pitch:

  • Introduce yourself and your organization(s) and/or team.
  • Describe your technology, including what is unique about it.
  • Explain how you will know that you’ve achieved success.
  • Do not simply read a slide deck; instead, try to connect with your audience—the judges.


If you are identified as a potential Winner, you will be asked to provide the following information prior to any Award being made:

  • If you are an individual, proof of citizenship or permanent residency.
  • If you are an organization, proof that your location of business is in the United States.
  • Proof of $250,000 liability insurance or otherwise demonstrate financial responsibility for that amount. (See the Insurance Guidelines for additional details about this requirement.)
  • Details of any other funding opportunities for which this technology or a closely related technology is being considered.
  • A signed Purse Payment Form, Agreement for Winners, and any other required documentation.

Once your eligibility has been verified, and you have been named a Winner, please note the following:

  • You or your team will be invited to develop your flight-ready technology payload according to your application within an eight-month period.
  • You will receive an initial award of $200,000.
  • During Payload Build Round 1 and Payload Build Round 2, Winners will have the opportunity to compete for additional awards of $200,000 and $100,000 each.  Field Judges will conduct on-site visits in January and June 2022 to score the progress each Winner has made. Due dates will be provided to each Winner prior to the start of these rounds.
  • NASA intends to award a suborbital flight test to each of the Winners who successfully meet the Round 2 requirements. The suborbital flight test will be on an appropriate vehicle provided by one of the vendors contracted to provide flight services for NASA government-sponsored research.  
  • Once the suborbital flight has completed, each Winner will submit a final report, discussing flight test results and future plans for the technology.
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Photo Credit: Blue Origin