You have the passion, the talent, and the knowledge – so how can you put it together to develop a winning Space Apps solution?

Here are some tips from the very people who will be judging your solutions, so listen closely!


We know that judging and awards are exciting and compelling reasons to participate in Space Apps, but we can’t emphasize enough that Space Apps is a collaborative enterprise — not a competitive one. Consider the goals of the International Space Apps Challenge as you create your teams and craft your solutions:

-To inspire collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking

-To foster interest in Earth and space science and exploration

-To raise awareness of NASA data around the world

-To encourage growth and diversity of the next generation of scientists, technologists, designers, engineers, artists, etc.


Space Apps offers local and global awards. Solutions with intriguing and innovative insights and compelling storytelling rise to the top in the judging process. Eligible solutions may compete for two different levels of awards: local and global.

To be eligible for awards, YOU MUST:

-Develop a project in response to one of the official Space Apps Challenges

-Clearly show how NASA data, products, or other resources were integrated into your project [1]

-Include a link to code in a public repository on your project page (if applicable)

-Keep any code developed during the event open-source. We <3 open data!

-Ensure that all your team members are registered and identified on the team’s webpage

-Finish updating your project page on the Space Apps website by midnight, Sunday, October 20 in your local timezone

-Use English language on your project page and English language or English-language subtitles if you’re asked to create a video

Local Awards

Each Space Apps location conducts its own judging during hackathon weekend. NASA provides the location leads with guidance about the global judging criteria below, but ultimately, local judging is left to the local judges’ discretion. Local awards may differ by location, and this type of diversity is welcome in the Space Apps universe!

However, when it comes to global judging by NASA, everyone is subject to the same process and consideration. On the Sunday night of the hackathon, each location lead is invited to submit two local projects to move on to NASA’s global judging process. The two nominations must be received by 11:59 PM (local time) on Monday, Oct 21. These teams are known as the “Global Nominees.”

For Virtual Event participants, the judging process is a bit different. You will be making a 30-second video pitch during the hackathon to explain your challenge solution to a panel of NASA Virtual Event judges. These judges will select nominees for global judging from among the Virtual Event projects. These teams are also known as Global Nominees and enter the global judging process with the other Global Nominees from the physical Space Apps locations around the world. Virtual Event participants, see the guidance on developing your 30-second pitch for the Virtual judges.

Global Awards

The brightest ideas across the Space Apps universe receive global recognition. Global award winners are featured on the Space Apps website and will receive an invitation to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with the Space Apps Global Organizing Team in 2020 [2]. Winners are selected by NASA according to the process below.


The global judging process is coordinated by the Space Apps Global Organizing team, but NASA personnel conduct all global judging of the projects themselves. Teams nominated for global judging will be asked to create a 30-second video about their project using effective storytelling techniques (see 30 Seconds of Glory graphic). Teams will submit videos by 11:59 PM (local time) on Sunday, October 27, 2019, by embedding a link to their video in their project page.


The video is essentially your “presentation” or “pitch” to the NASA judges, but that’s not all they look at. Make sure your project page on the Space Apps website is up-to-date with any material you want the judges to read, including the video, links to open source code and demos (if applicable), and references. The judges are not required to look at your project updates page— that is for your own purposes during the hackathon. If you make your video too long, please know that the judges are not required to watch your video past second 30.

The NASA expert that wrote your challenge will lead the judging of all projects submitted under that challenge. Each project is evaluated by three NASA experts blindly according to the judging criteria, below. The judges vote on whether each project should advance to the next judging stage, and the average of the votes determines whether the project advances into the top 30 projects.


  • Impact: How much impact (quality and quantity) can this project have? Does it solve a big problem or a little problem? Will it inspire or help many, or a few?
  • Creativity: How creative/innovative is the approach? Is the project novel and something that hasn’t been attempted before, or is it an incremental improvement on something that already exists?
  • Validity: Is the solution scientifically valid? Will it do what it sets out to do? Can it work in the real world?
  • Relevance: Is this project responsive to the challenge for which it was submitted? Is it a complete solution or does it have a long way to go? Is it technically feasible? How usable or user friendly is the solution?
  • Presentation:** How well did the team communicate their project? Were they effective in telling the story of the project: the challenge, the solution, and why is it important?


The top 30 projects (approximately) are known as the “Global Finalists,” and are presented as candidates for one of six global awards. There are approximately five projects nominated for each global award, though NASA reserves the right to change the total number of finalists per category [3]. The 2019 award categories are:

Best Use of Data

Best Use of Hardware

Galactic Impact

Most Inspirational

Best Mission Concept

Best Use of Science

The approximately 30 Global Finalist teams are announced in December.


The Global Finalist projects are evaluated by an entirely new panel of executive judges at NASA. These judges are leaders and executives at the agency with a variety of subject matter expertise. Each Global Finalist project is evaluated by each executive judge, and the top six projects are announced in January 2020.

You can find last year’s Global Nominees, Global Finalists, and Global Winners here.


While many Space Apps teams consider the first four judging criteria carefully and excel at developing solutions with great potential, the best of these teams pay equal attention to the final criterion, presentation. After all, how can your solution make a difference if you can’t effectively present and explain your solution in a way that will convince people to implement it?

We recommend devoting time and resources to develop your pitch and build a great story around your project. Be sure to recruit team members with expertise in storytelling, design, and other skills to help document your project and share the value of your solution!

For on-the-ground participants at a Space Apps location, the 240 Seconds of Glory guide should help you develop the perfect presentation to give your audience on Sunday.

For virtual participants, you will be making a 30-second video to pitch your challenge solution, so refer to the 30-Seconds of Glory guide for some tips. The two global nominees from each Space Apps location will also be making a video, so bookmark this page! What are global nominees? See above….

Happy Hacking!

[1] Projects that fail to describe clearly their tie to NASA (be it data, or products, or references) are not eligible to advance in global judging.

[2] Each member of each winning team and one guest each will be invited and will be responsible for their personal travel, meals and incidental expenses, and accommodation expenses. Winners typically conduct fundraising activities to cover the costs of their trips.

[3] Please note that local leads may select their own judging and award categories. While local leads may conduct a people’s choice award at their location, there is no longer a people’s choice award for Space Apps at the global level.