The colonization of Mars has become a much-talked-about topic, from Elon Musk’s stated desire to end his days on the red planet to the Mars One campaign to send astronauts on a one-way journey there. One of the first steps required for successful colonization will be to put communication relay satellites into orbit to support robot landers and ultimately human settlements. Satellites are a well-established technology – but the challenges of getting them to another planet and operating them there will be vast.
The purpose of this annual 2014-15 project is exploring the feasibility of launching two communications satellites into Mars orbit to provide communications between the Martian surface and Earth. Project teams will form to focus on one of two sets of challenges:
- Engineering and technology requirements for building, launching and flying a satellite from the Earth’s surface into Mars orbit.
- Business analysis of the costs of designing and building the satellite, insuring it, launching it and operating it over the normal 10-15 year lifespan of a communications satellite.
Students teams are coached by SSPI Mentors, who will also evaluate the resulting reports. Winning teams receive cash awards and the Grand Prize winners will be invited (and provided a travel stipend) to attend the next year's SSPI Gala in Washington DC in March, where an audience of 1,000 industry professionals will hear about their work.