Frequently Asked

Competition Related Questions

Categorized FAQs

Here is where you will find answers to our ever growing library of Frequently Asked Questions

IF you can’t find your answer here, make sure you get in touch at so we can help!


SpaceSet events are specifically designed to emulate the industry experience, where large numbers of people must cooperate to produce a product. As such all events are team-based, and all direct entry into the ISSDC is team based.

Please consider entering the Space Settlement Design Contest hosted by the National Space Society and NASA Ames Research Center (, which accepts entries by individuals and small teams.

The answer depends on where you live. If you live in a Region that hosts a Regional National or ISSDC Semi-Finals, you should be able to take part as an individual in their (normally) weekend-long event.

The Competition organizers have observed that the Finalist Competition is so physically demanding, students younger than 15 years of age have difficulty contributing to their teams’ products. Entries by Middle School teams are discouraged; please consider entering the Space Settlement Design Contest hosted by the National Space Society and NASA Ames Research Center (, which accepts entries from students in 6th through 12th grades.

Yes, unless otherwise specified by your Regional Coordinator. Just as in industry, proposal teams may find it advisable to change staff during different phases of the proposal process. Your team will be asked to list its members at each phase of the Competition; the organizers will not question differences in these lists.

NB. Semi-Final organizers may opt to not allow team member substitutions; this is entirely at our partners discretion, and outside the sphere of influence of AEC.

Registration + Teams

Competition organizers reserve the right to invite Non-Finalist Teams to the Finalist Competition. Prior to 2009, this usually occurred if a Finalist Team was smaller than the requested 12 members and its partner team could not add enough members to staff a Competition “company” with 36 to 40 students (24 prior to 2007). The Competition organizers then invited a runner-up team to “fill out” the company. Starting in 2009, Competition organizers allowed company sizes larger than 40 students, and adopted a practice of inviting teams that show promise and are likely to improve future performance through exposure to a Finalist Competition experience.

In industry, everything has a budget, and people = money. The limitation on team size emulates industry requirements to complete projects within authorized budgets. The Competition organizers also have a target budget, and more participants incur more costs for food, lodging, and printing. For 2008 and beyond, the number of participants is approaching the practical maximum for the Competition format; limiting team size to 12 enables a dozen Finalist teams and four or more Invited Teams to compete.

Every Qualifying Competition team is a potential Finalist Team. We do a lot of communicating with Finalist teams, starting with a telephone call to announce the good news (even though the website only promises an e-mail). Having multiple postal addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses enables us to get information to the teams in a timely manner. The list of student names and ages is used in the process of grouping teams to form balanced Finalist Competition “companies”.

Each form has a different purpose; we do not want to convey superfluous information to vendors who provide services to the Competition, and we do not want to risk making an error in transcribing information you provide. We also find that names are often misspelled on team-provided forms; having names written more than once gives us a better chance to create accurate name badges and certificates before the teams arrive.

Global SpaceSet

Very simply, every Semi-Finalist Competition requires funding and volunteers to make local arrangements. The Competition organizers are actively seeking sponsors for new Semi-Finalist Competitions in North America, which will enable more students to experience the added challenges of participating in a high-pressure “live” Competition. A Regional Coordinator is in the process of organizing a Semi-Finalist Competition in Africa. Semi-Finalist organizers in Asia, Australia, the UK (for Europe), and Latin America are actively making arrangements to arrange more participation in their Regions.

ISSDC Finals

Sorry; everything we do in designing Competition processes is intended to emulate the industry experience. In industry, we frequently work on different teams, with people and managers we do not know. The Competition organizers will do their best to keep teams out of a “comfort zone”, so expect each year to have different partner teams and CEOs.

Much of the similarity seen in RFPs from year to year is absolutely intended, e.g., people need a structure for protection, air, water, electrical power, a private place to live, computers, and robot helpers. These paragraphs will not substantially change for each scenario; there is no alternative to these requirements. The challenge is to figure out how these words in the RFP mean different things, depending on the location and details of the scenario. For example, the amount of light available is different in Earth orbit, Mars orbit, and the asteroid belt–affecting power requirements and options for producing electrical power. Transportation requirements, available resources, and psychological factors are different in each location. There are, however, huge differences between each RFP and prior ones, even for the “same scenario” every five years: Paragraphs 2.4, 2.5, 3.4, 3.5, 4.4, 4.5, 5.4, and 5.5 and Section 7.0 are crafted to cause design changes so major that a prior year’s design will not meet minimum requirements of a new RFP. If your team does not recognize the impacts of these differences, then you’re missing some things in your design.

College / University Students

No; the Competition is only for High School students. If students are in their final year of high school during a Qualifying Competition and their team is selected as an ISSDC Finalist, they are permitted to participate in the Finalist Competition even if they have since entered college (this ruling accommodates the Southern Hemisphere school year and students who go directly to college without Summer vacation after their Senior year of high school). Please respect eligibility requirements specified on the Competition Home Page.

Not at the present time. If a sponsor asks the Competition organizers to conduct a Competition for college students, the request will be considered, although the sponsor will be expected to make all arrangements for the event.

Yes, although they are not for space settlements. College students may join the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); despite the name, it is an international organization, and student memberships are inexpensive. The AIAA Foundation offers competitions for college student members, two of which are space vehicle designs. Go to, click on “Students & Educators” in the orange bar near the top of the screen, then “Design Competitions” in the menu on the left side of the screen. We are in the process of encouraging the AIAA Foundation to add a college Space Settlements Competition to the current eight competition formats.

Absolutely; the Competition organizers have already provided materials that two Universities have adapted for classroom applications. The Competition organizers do, however, suggest that classes address not only technical issues involved in the Competition scenarios, but also management, teamwork, and presentation skills that will be valuable in industry.

For Teachers & Parents

Some schools have initially been skeptical of engaging in SpaceSet competitions because students and teachers are very busy and the Principal asks, why would they want to get involved in another activity?  To respond to this try any or all of the following:

  • Identify an interested teacher. They do not have to from the traditional STEM subjects.  We have passionate teachers from all backgrounds – from English, Music, and Trades / Manual Arts, all of whom have bee very supportive. The key is finding a teacher who ‘gets’ it!
  • Engage with the other interested parents and as a group tell the school you are behind the students.
  • Contact an AEC representative to make a presentation to the teachers and./or students.
  • Invite the schools to send representatives to a SpaceSet event and experience it from themselves.
  • Suggest a trial. It’s easier to get a decision when there is no ongoing commitment required. SDCA offers places as “special participants”. This allows students to be immersed in the experience and report back to their parents and the school.

The competitions are designed to support students who are seeking extra challenges beyond their existing workloads.  Certainly, if your child is struggling with their existing workload, don’t give them more to do.  It is surprising how often by getting involved, students actually increase their success in regular school-work.

Also, involvement in the SpaceSet competitions expose students to a range of life skills not traditionally available in the school structure.

Most parents aren’t!  We are there to support our children.  This can be as simple as driving them to meetings, reviewing their draft submissions, showing interest in their ideas, talking about the challenges they are facing around the kitchen table.

All parents report enjoying the chaperone experience as they spend a special time with their child/children.

As a chaperone, you are the responsible adult.  This means helping them through airports; reminding them to be on time when required; ensuring they get adequate sleep; and most importantly, spending those quality moments helping them learn from the experience.


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