Interview with NASA Space Apps Challenge winner
On 28th May, the SpaceTech Analytics team interviewed the Ukrainian team FireWay, which won the NASA International Space Apps Challenge hackathon award in Best Use of Technology. We spoke to Roman Malkevych about the most exciting topics, which we will describe here.
SA: How did the idea come up?
The future team members first got together while they were working in experimental rocket science and decided to take part in the contest. Some of the members had already participated in this challenge. This time they chose the topic ‘Assembling in space.’
Based on this, later in the conversation we began to think about what structures could be formed. In order for all these structures to work, they need to transmit electricity, fuel… Then during the conversation we came to creating a connector that will transmit all these fluids….
The idea was to refill satellites so they could work for five years or more. This practice could earn a lot of money because some satellites produce 100 to 500 million USD. It shows that even amateur teams can bring these useful inventions. So it doesn’t matter whether you are interested in this sphere specifically or just interested in anything relating to space. “
About The Contest
NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge has become the world’s largest global hackathon, engaging thousands of citizens across the globe to use NASA’s open data to build innovative solutions to the challenges we face on Earth and in space.
Among more than twenty thousand contestants, NASA chose five main winners in the following categories: Data, Mission, Impact, Science, and Technology.
As Roman says, one of the most important factors is visualization: “Visualization plays a very important role… If you create an animation, a video, it gives you a lot at once. All the people who won did a good visualization, even if it wasn't very friendly with physics. The jury does not just include professors of physics or rocketry - there are business people, amateurs. They take a good idea if it looks good.” Roman also said that most teams think one-sidedly, not paying attention to the physical or business side.
which was invented by the team, could be very useful in the future, but it can’t be used with old satellites: ”The problem is that the satellites that are now in that burial orbit can no longer be reactivated with a connector. Our technology can only work with new satellites that have a new connector. So I don't know when it will work. Probably in 7 years.”
So they have to integrate this technology on Earth and then it will be possible to reactivate satellites in the future, if they are designed to use it.
"The number of satellites will grow and this technology will be very useful."
Life After The Contest
After the contest, they had a moment of glory. They were interviewed by many channels, radios, and publishers. But they didn’t stand still; they were actively engaged in business development. Now one of their Ukrainian investors, whom they keep anonymous, noticed them and they are now at the right stage of negotiations, becoming a fully-fledged independent company. They are undergoing business development, talking to lawyers about patenting technologies, researching the market, and speaking to potential partners. The team of engineers is working on developing the technology. This year, FireWay aims to expand its search for investors.
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, for the last couple of years, NASA has not invited contest winners to its facilities, but it has promised to begin doing so later.
Also, one of the specifics of the contest is that you can’t patent: “We cannot patent what we have done on the hackathon. We can only create something new and patent it. Everything on the hackathon is already public. It can be used by anyone. We are just authors, and everyone else can use it.”
NASA is changing its means of doing business. Now it commissions researchers from private companies, who are doing it better and faster than the traditional ways.
SpaceTech Analytics concludes that NASA Space App Challenge is a great competition not only for people from SpaceTech, but it also for story writers, designers, animators, programmers, biologists, geneticists, and mathematicians – that is, people from a variety of different backgrounds. The contest is for anyone interested in space.