2009-10 Competition

UKSDC 2010 welcomed 160 students from 12 schools to Imperial College London over the weekend of 24-25th April 2010.

Stage 1: The Application Stage

To enter the UK Space Design Competition 2010, hopeful participants had to answer a series of challenging questions related to space exploration, science and engineering. The answers that we received were all of an extremely high standard and represented a very promising start to the first ever residential UK Space Design Competition to be held at Imperial College London.

Stage 2: The UK Space Design Competition Final 2010

The UK Space Design Competition 2010 welcomed 160 students from 12 schools to Imperial College London over the weekend of 24-25th April 2010.

After arriving at Imperial College London early on Saturday morning, each team was assigned to one of the four simulated design companies described below. The student’s first task was to sub-divide that company into 4 different operational departments (structural engineering, operations engineering, human engineering, automation engineering) and to appoint a student president to oversee the management of the company.

Given that most participants had never even met each other before, let alone worked out each other’s personal strengths and weaknesses, guidance on how to assign people roles was provided by the company CEO. But even at this very early stage of the competition, the final decisions to be made were all very much the student’s own.

Vulture Aviation: Boston Grammar School, Chatham Grammar for Boys, The Henrietta Barnett School
Dougledyne-Flechtel: Burntwood School, Furze Platt Senior School, Queen Elizabeth School
Grumbo Aerospace: City of London Academy, Pate’s Grammar School, Wallington County Grammar School
Rockdonnell Aerospace: Riddlesdown Collegiate, Dartford Grammar School, Harlington Upper School

Once they knew what company and department they would be working in, all competition participants attended an intensive departmental training session led by a subject-specific expert from either industry or academia. These sessions taught the students everything that they would need to know about the role of their assigned department within the company while a second session covered some of the personal and social skills that would help them function as a team.

The students returned to their company headquarters at around noon on Saturday and, once together, were given their first copy of the all-important Request for Proposal. The Request for Proposal, a document several pages in length, asked the students to design a space station occupying an elliptical orbit around the Sun, of such a size and shape that people and resources could be transferred between the Earth and Mars with a minimal expenditure of power.

Despite some initial shyness and reluctance to get involved, all four companies pulled together to produce some absolutely fantastic designs and over a man-year’s worth of engineering material. Lunch and dinner were eaten on the job and the college was occupied until 11pm on Saturday with many companies choosing to work on their designs (at home or in hotel rooms) all through Saturday night.

ISSDC Presentations

ISSDC Presentations

On Sunday morning the judging panel, which in 2010 included representatives from the International Space Settlement Design Competition, the UK Space Agency and Imperial College London, watched a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation from each company. The weary participants were questioned on what they had (or had not) included in their designs and were expected to come up with valid answers and justifications for their decisions in front of a crowd of over 100 people. All companies performed magnificently and, after much deliberation, the judges selected a weary-eyed but absolutely ecstatic Grumbo Aerospace to advance onto the international phase of the competition.

The winning design consisted of a 1km radius rotating spherical settlement called “BENEVECTORAS” with docking bays at either end of its rotation axis. Power was delivered to the settlement by a large array of solar panels (coating the entire surface of the sphere) and the interior environment was maintained by a novel and imaginative biosphere system. The settlement was predicted to cost 170 billion dollars and to take 11 years to build.

Joseph Dudley, president of the winning company, said of their success: “There was a moment of collective disbelief before we all jumped up in celebration.”

Imperial College London was keeping a close eye on the competition, as was Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham who visited the competition on Saturday.

Stage 3: The 17th International Space Settlement Design Competition

The 17th International Space Settlement Design Competition took place over the weekend of July 29-August 1 2010 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in America. Twelve students from Grumbo Aerospace flew to Houston with the UK Space Design Competition’s Science Chair, Daniel Went. They had an absolutely fantastic time at the competition and even found time to go sightseeing in down-town Houston and at the Space Center Houston Visitor Center.

2010 International Team

2010 International Team

At the international competition, the UK students quickly found themselves back at square one. As part of a completely new design company called Vulture Aviation, formed with colleagues from the USA and Pakistan, the UK team now had to deal with all of the added complexities (and rewards!) of working with students from other cultures and backgrounds at the same time as designing a new space settlement on the planet Mars.

The Request for Proposal asked students to design a new space settlement in the wall of the Valles Marineris canyon on Mars. With the international competition spread out over three days instead of the two days experienced in London, this was a long and tiring experience that pushed the students to their mental and physical limits. Their hard work and late nights were definitely worth the effort though as Vulture Aviation won the International Space Settlement Design Competition, amid stiff competition from several other countries from all around the world.

Vulture Aviation’s winning design consisted of an 11km long settlement cut into the canyon wall with twin elevators and a fleet of land rovers to transport personnel and supplies from one side of the canyon to another. The settlement, in line with ISSDC guidelines, was called “ARGONOM” and was predicted to take 13 years and almost 2 trillion dollars to build.

Vulture Aviation’s winning presentation can be viewed by clicking here.