Ukrainian team FireWay wins NASA Space Apps Challenge 2020

A Ukrainian team FireWay has won the largest international hackathon NASA Space Apps Challenge 2020 in the category “Best Use of Technology.”

As stated on the NASA website, the Ukrainians have designed a universal space connector, which allows refueling satellites directly in orbit, extending their lifetime.

The average communications satellite costs about $300 million to build, about $100 million to launch, and works for about 15 years. When the fuel is completely used up, the satellite cannot keep the orbit and begins to drift, losing communications and becoming useless.

Refueling would extend a satellite’s life cycle, saving companies and governments money on the development and launch of replacements.

“We have searched for existed refueling missions – now they are too complex and expensive. We have discovered that some research and communication satellites can cost more than $500 million and most of them have to be retired due to run out of fuel. In opposite, rocket launches are getting cheaper and can carry extra fuel to existent missions,” says the team.

The FireWay solution allows refueling with both liquid and gas fuels.

“For two-component fuel – the transportation will be implemented through two different channels. But the number of different channels for liquids or gasses can be extended, to match any needs,” the project description says.

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The FireWay team includes engineers, astrophysicists, and developers – Roman Malkevych, Olena Kompaniiets, Ivan Hryshko, Maksym Kopystko, Dmytro Ivannyk, and Kirill Andriets.

NASA Space Apps Challenge

The NASA Space Apps Challenge is a 48-hour competition for engineers, programmers, designers, and space technology enthusiasts. During the hackathons, participants from all over the world work to create projects that use space data.

As reports, NASA Space Apps Challenge has been held in Ukraine since 2016. Since 2017, the local organizer of NASA hackathons in Dnipro is the Noosphere Association founded by entrepreneur Max Polyakov.

The international jury of NASA Space Apps Challenge includes experts from NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and other partner agencies, picking the winners in 6 categories:

  • Best Use of Data
  • Best Use of Technology
  • Galactic Impact
  • Most Inspirational
  • Best Mission Concept
  • Best Use of Science