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Central Space Design Competition

Each year, 200 Students from across the central USA time zone meet at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in the spring to work with aerospace professionals on a design for a space settlement in the inner solar system. 

Students form 50-person companies and bid on a Request For Proposal (RFP) by delivering a 30-minute presentation to a panel of expert judges. One company is awarded the contract-- which earns them a coveted spot at the International Finals round at the Kennedy Space Center. 

For more information about competition format, check out our overview on Space Design Competitions.


The Central Space Design Competition puts out a detailed schedule sent to all registered schools a couple of months prior to the event. Here is a sample schedule below, which may look different than the actual event schedule.

  • Thursday - Students arrive at the Johnson Space Center in late afternoon, and have the opportunity to meet with aerospace professional community members, local colleges and universities, outreach groups, and more over dinner. Students will learn more about the competition and what to expect this weekend.

  • Friday - After meeting their fellow company members and holding company elections for leadership roles, students will attend training classes to learn about engineering disciplines, leadership, and marketing. Then, the Request For Proposal (RFP) is released and companies begin designing! Presentation files are due Saturday Morning, so use your time wisely.

  • Saturday - Companies give 30-minute presentations to a panel of judges. The judges are current or former aerospace industry professionals, and will ask technical questions about designs. The judges choose a winning company, and the competition concludes on Saturday afternoon.


Each year, companies design a different space settlement around the solar system. 

  • 2023 (Last year): initial settlements and establishing manufacturing in Earth orbit, cis-lunar space, and on Earth's Moon Luna

  • 2024 (This year): expanding human economy and settlements in Earth orbit, cis-lunar space, and on Earth's Moon Luna

  • 2025: initial settlements and beginning economic activity near and on Mars

  • 2026: expanding human economic activity and settlement into the Asteroid Belt, and beginning Terraforming of Mars

  • 2027: exploiting ores with unique properties on Mercury, enabling settlement on Venus


It's important to remember that even companies that are not selected as winners at our competitions still have a lot of be proud of-- but if you want to take home the title of winning company, here are some tips.

  1. When you receive competition materials, read them! Much of what the judges want to see in your designs can be found in your program book. Read it cover to cover.

  2. Follow instructions and competition rules, which can be found in your program book. No outside assistance from students or friends who are not at the competition is permitted. The judges require that you follow a specific format for your submissions, and going outside of that format will be penalized. See your program book for details.

  3. Do some research about living in space before you arrive. Check out the National Space Society Space Settlement Library. You'll find free online publications that may be helpful. We are not officially endorsing any of the materials you find there-- use your own discretion and consider the source when referencing materials.

  4. Ask questions! Your customer will be on-site at the competition and can assist with any questions you have about their requirements or what they are looking for in a winning design.

  5. Design the space settlement that the customer is asking for. We know you have awesome ideas, but giving the customer what they want is how you win. The RFP tells you exactly what the customer wants.

  6. Create a presentation that shows your design meets what the customer is asking for. If your great ideas are not in your final presentation turned in to the judges, they will not be considered. Don't let your hard work go to waste!

The 2024 Central Space Design Competition


When: March 21-23, 2024

Where: The Gilruth Center at the Johnson Space Center, 18600 Space Center Blvd, Houston, TX 77058.

Note: Be sure to arrive off of Space Center Boulevard, as your GPS may try to route you through restricted employee-only roads at JSC. 

Cost: $190 per person (students and chaperones) which covers meals from dinner Thursday to lunch Saturday, snacks and drinks, a T-shirt, and all competition materials during the event.

Overnight Arrangements: On site at the Gilruth Center. Campout style-- bring an air mattress, cot, or similar for your comfort. Showers are available.

Questions? Contact us here and include your name and school in your inquiry.

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