A Fresh Take on Space Safety: Crowd-Sourced Innovation Triumphs in Toxic Fuel Detection Challenge for NASA

The Client

The Challenge:

NASA’s Material and Components team faced a critical safety issue – the need for an improved method to detect Hydrazine/MMH, highly toxic liquids used as rocket fuel propellant. This detection is a vital safety procedure in space flight, especially for crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) who need to detect these substances in the airlock after spacecraft docking. The existing method was not efficient enough, and a more effective, innovative solution was urgently required.

The Solution (and our approach to it):

Leveraging our expertise in innovation, crowd sourcing, and public engagement, Floor23 executed a three-phase challenge and prize competition to meet NASA’s need. Our approach was to tap into a curated community of education institutions, freelancers, startups, and individuals, drawing from our accessible databases and partners. We onboarded a subject matter expert in Organic Chemistry to support the challenge design, ensuring the solutions met a specific set of targeted criteria. Our method was not just about finding a solution, but about engaging a diverse community to foster innovation and collaboration.


The challenge, currently in its setup phase, is expected to yield 3-5 qualified solutions that will be tested at the NASA White Sands facility. The winners will be partnered with the government for downstream use. The total prizes awarded will be up to $47,000 in cash awards, and four non-monetary awards across the three-phase competition. The total in-phase duration of the competition is 22 weeks. This approach demonstrates our commitment to harnessing the power of crowd-sourced innovation and public engagement to solve complex problems.