NASA International Space Apps Challenge 2021
October 2-3, 2021

Last updated: October 1, 2021


  1. Overview
  2. Save the Dates
  3. Website and Community Engagement
  4. Participant Registration
  5. Forming a Project Team
  6. The Challenges
  7. Project Submission
  8. Judging and Awards


What is the NASA International Space Apps Challenge 2021?

On October 2-3, NASA is inviting coders, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, artists, and technologists to come together in a global, virtual hackathon. During a period of 48 hours, participants from around the world will come together to create virtual teams and solve challenges using NASA’s open-source data.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the interest of our global community’s health and safety, this year’s hackathon will be an all-virtual event. In other words, all local events will take place online. Through the website, participants will be able to meet teammates and create their teams; talk with other participants and space agency experts in our online chat rooms; and submit their projects. In this unprecedented time, the Space Apps community exists as a reminder that we have the tools and talents to tackle the challenges that face our planet, as well as the ability to unite across boundaries and borders of all kinds.

What is the purpose of Space Apps?

Space Apps, which started in 2012, has now become the largest global hackathon. While NASA provides awards to the top projects (see more below), Space Apps is all about collaboration! Our mission is focused on the following objectives:

  • 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.

To find out more about the purpose of Space Apps, please see this page.

What is the theme of Space Apps for 2021?

This year’s event theme is “The Power of Ten.” This theme was chosen by NASA for several reasons. One, it celebrates the fact that this year’s event is the tenth annual event. Since 2012, Space Apps has grown leaps and bounds -- thanks to you! Two, it reminds us that the next ten years have much in store, both for NASA and for Space Apps. Three, the theme captures some of the ways that we are celebrating the tenth annual event this year, which includes our inclusion of additional space agency partners and additional Global Awards -- among other things! Read more about our theme and related activities here.

Who should participate in Space Apps?

Space Apps is for everyone! This includes those who have never “hacked’ before! All passionate problem solvers are encouraged to join - students, experts, engineers, makers, artists, and storytellers. While some of our challenges are technical, others ask you to use your artistic skills, your business acumen, and your historical imaginations!

In other words, you do not need to be a coder or data expert to be part of Space Apps. In fact, the most diverse teams are often the most successful.

The challenges summaries are now available here! Full challenge statements and resources will be posted by mid-September.

If I still have questions after reading this FAQ, what should I do?

We have prepared detailed guides to help you navigate your hackathon journey. See our Resources page to access the following guides:

  • Chat Guide
  • Team Formation Guide
  • Project Submission Guide
  • Project "Demo" Guide
  • Judging and Awards Guide

Another great resource is the Space Apps Virtual Bootcamp. Through a series of videos, you will hear from our Space Apps community of Ambassadors, past Global Winners, Space Agency Partners, Local Leads, Global Collaborators, and Subject-Matter Experts about Space Apps 2021 challenges, tools, resources, and more!

During the hackathon, members of the Space Apps Global Organizing (GO) Team will be available in our chat rooms to answer your questions and point you to the correct resources.

If you still have questions, please contact [email protected], and we'll get back to you!


What are the most important dates and times for Space Apps 2021?

The Space Apps Challenge will start on October 2 at 9:00AM (local time) and end on October 3 at 11:59 PM (local time), when project submissions are due. However, many of the activities start before October 2. Once you sign up for a Space Apps account, start checking your messages from the Space Apps GO Team to get the most up-to-date information.

Please also look on the location page for your event and talk with your Local Lead to find out about other events and deadlines that are specific to your location.

Here is a list of the most important dates.

Starting July 15: Sign up to be a participant and register for a location

  • Sign up for Space Apps 2021 here and verify your account.
  • Once you have your Space Apps account, make sure you’re registered to participate at a local all-virtual event near you. Visit this page to see all of the participating cities (more locations will be added throughout July and August, so check back and update your registration, as desired). Is there no event in your city? Register for the Universal Event -- welcoming participants from all over the globe!
  • Please note that you MUST be registered for one of the locations to participate in Space Apps. Do this as soon as possible to connect with your Local Lead and other participants.
  • Once you’re registered for a location, connect with your Local Lead(s) to ask questions and find potential teammates. You can find the names and email addresses of your Local Lead(s) on your location page. They should be reaching out to you, but don’t hesitate to get in touch with them. Each virtual event will operate somewhat differently depending on the plans of the Local Lead, so please make sure you’re plugged in.
  • Bring your friends and family along with you!

July-August: Connect with the community and get informed

  • The challenges summaries are now available here! Full challenge statements and resources will be posted by mid-September.
  • Start following news about Space Apps 2021 on the website and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
  • Share your excitement and stories from your hackathon journey using #SpaceApps
  • Check your dashboard messages! Once you register, you will start receiving messages from the Global Organizing (GO) Team through our online communications portal located on your user dashboard on the website. Check your communications frequently for updates and news about the launching of challenges, Virtual Bootcamp videos, special events, etc.
  • Watch videos and tutorials about the hackathon to fulfill your curiosity and learn valuable insights that will prepare you for your hackathon experience! Guests include NASA experts and Local Leads, among others. All videos will be posted on the website and on our YouTube site.

September: Browse the challenges, join the chat rooms, and start forming teams

Friday, October 1 at 9:00 AM (local time): Join SMEs in the chat channels!

  • On Friday, October 1 at 9:00 AM (local time), our challenge channels will open.
  • Each challenge will have a dedicated channel.
  • Experts from NASA and some of our partner space agencies will be available in the challenge channels to answer questions about the challenges and data. Don’t miss out! The challenge channels will be open until the hackathon closes on Sunday, October 3 at 11:59 PM (local time).

Saturday, October 2 at 9:00 AM (local time): The hackathon begins!

  • Login to the website to begin hacking!
  • At this time, project submission opens. Teams will be able to edit and submit their projects. See the Project Submission Guide and the Project Demo Guide for details.
  • During the hackathon, we know you’ll be working with your team tirelessly to create your solution. Don’t forget to take breaks, stay hydrated, and balance your hard work with fun!

Sunday, October 3 at 11:59 PM (local time): The hackathon ends

  • Project submission closes at this time. Make sure that your project is submitted on the website by the deadline! Teams must submit their projects in accordance with the location for which your team is registered. *If your team is registered for the Universal Event, your project must be submitted in accordance with the local time of the person who created the team (colloquially known as the “Team Lead’).
  • Pat yourself on the back for making it through the hackathon! What an achievement!

October - December: Judging and Announcement of Global Winners

  • Experts from NASA and our partner space agencies will evaluate the projects and select the winners.
  • Your team will be notified if you’ve been selected as finalists or winners. Best of luck!
  • See the Judging and Awards Guide for details about the 10 Global Awards and the judging process.


When is the Space Apps website launching?

The Space Apps 2021 website is now live at Check the website frequently for updates and to see new material.

What social media is used for Space Apps?

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are four of the primary channels we use to connect with the global Space Apps community. We encourage Space Apps participants to communicate with us and with each other on social media by using the hashtag #SpaceApps! Let us know how your Space Apps journey is going!

What is the “Virtual Bootcamp”?

Prior to hackathon weekend, please tune into our website and social media accounts to access exclusive content from NASA, Local Leads, Space Apps Ambassadors, previous Global Winners, and more. Guests will provide relevant workshops and tips for having a successful hackathon experience. This is a wonderful opportunity to tap into the broader Space Apps community. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and turn on notifications to be the first to see our Space Apps 2021 Virtual Bootcamp in the lead-up to October 2-3.

You can also view previous Virtual Bootcamp videos to help you prepare! Please see our YouTube channel or Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge Virtual Bootcamp webpage.

What is Space Apps Chat? Can I meet people there?

Join us in the chat rooms starting September 22. In the Space Apps chat rooms, you will be able to connect with other participants and a number of community members who are available to support your journey. This includes:

  1. The Global Organizing Team (GO-Team): The team behind Space Apps dedicated to guiding and supporting you through a successful Space Apps journey!
  2. The GO-Team’s work is bolstered by a committed Community of Volunteers:
    • Subject-Matter Experts: NASA and partner agency experts, including many who have developed the challenges and have knowledge about the “Example Resources” provided for each challenge statement.
    • Local Leads: Volunteers based in cities all around the globe who organize the Space Apps local virtual events (known as locations). Visit this page to find a location in a city near you! Or join the Universal Event.
    • Ambassadors: Volunteers supporting you over the course of Space Apps weekend by providing their expertise in Space Apps and NASA data.

See the Chat Guide for complete details.

What should I do if experience or witness discrimination, harassment, or any form of bullying during the hackathon?

Space Apps is committed to providing a professional and productive forum for all participants to engage in a robust exchange of ideas regarding the challenges. At all times, participants are responsible for maintaining professional decorum and treating each other with respect and dignity. Bullying, discrimination, or harassment on any basis will not be tolerated in the Space Apps Challenge. We strive to ensure that Space Apps is a place where every person feels they belong, where they are comfortable being authentic, and where they are empowered to contribute to their fullest.

If you experience or witness discrimination, harassment, or any form of bullying during the Space Apps Challenge, or have any other concerns, please contact your Local Lead and/or the Space Apps Global Organizing (GO) Team at [email protected] The Space Apps GO Team will take appropriate action, which may include warning or expelling the offending participant from the event.

Read more about our values at Space Apps here.


When does registration open and close?

Participant registration for Space Apps 2021 will open on July 15, 2021 and extend through the end of the hackathon on October 3, 2021.

How do I register?

Registration for Space Apps requires that you sign up for a Space Apps account AND register for a location. You will not be able to participate in the hackathon until you have registered for a location.

  • If you do not already have a Space Apps account, please create one from the Sign Up page and verify your email address. Then choose one of the locations and select “Register Now” on the location page.
  • If you do have a Space Apps account, log in to the website and then select “Choose Location” from the user dashboard (see “Dashboard” in your menu bar). Or you can register through one of the location pages.
  • Everyone can change their location in the user dashboard, after creating an account. You can unregister yourself from the specific location’s page and then re-register on any other page. Or you can select a new location from the user dashboard by selecting “Change Location.”

While participant registration will be open throughout Space Apps weekend, we encourage all participants to create accounts and register for a location at least one to two weeks before the hackathon in order to join the chat rooms and form teams. You’ll begin to build your project submission pages over the course of Space Apps weekend.

How do I choose a location?

We have hundreds of local virtual events to make it easier for participants to find other potential teammates who may be located in the same city or time zone, or who may speak the same language. Because one of the goals of Space Apps is to build local communities, we suggest that participants join a location based on their physical location or their networks/connections to a particular location.

That said, if you have a connection to a city in which you’re not physically located and want to join that event, you are welcome to -- given that this year’s event is an all-virtual event. You can change your location at any time from your user dashboard by selecting "change" next to your location.

Teams themselves can be made up of participants from one location or from many locations. You may eventually choose to join a team that is tied to another location because you like their project idea. Or you may choose to invite people from other locations to join your team because you need their skills. Please just keep in mind that the first round of judging takes place at the local level. Thus, during the first round of judging, your project will be evaluated by the local judges at the location for which your team is registered.

Who are the “Local Leads” on my location page?

The location pages contain the contact information for your “Local Leads” -- Space Apps volunteers from your city who can answer your questions and help connect you to potential teammates prior to the hackathon. These Local Leads will be your primary point of contact and be there to support your virtual hackathon experience. They will also be available in the chat rooms in the week leading up to the hackathon and during the hackathon. Please reach out to them as you prepare!

Is the registration individual or by team?

Participants register as individuals, not as teams. Forming your team is a separate process. Please see below.

What is the minimum age for participants?

To register for the hackathon, all participants are required to agree to the following Participant Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. The Participant Terms and Conditions contains the following language:

“Participants who are under the age of 18 are required to be registered for the event by a parent or legal guardian and must be accompanied during the event at all times by a parent or legal guardian.”


For detailed information, see the Team Formation Guide on the Space Apps resources page.

Do I need a team?

An individual is allowed to submit a project independently. However, we encourage all attendees to be part of a team. We have found that the most successful solutions come from teams of individuals with diverse skill sets and backgrounds. If participants come from a non-technical background, we encourage them to connect with developers, designers, and people with scientific backgrounds to form a team.

How many members should a team have? Are there limits to the size
of my team?

The sweet spot for teams is typically 4 to 5 people. The limit for a team is 6 people. If a team gets too big, it can be difficult for the team to focus; if it is too small, the team may not have all the skills/knowledge needed to solve a challenge.

When are teams formed?

During the week prior to the hackathon, you will be able to officially register your team on the Space Apps website. (We will send a dashboard message to all registered participants when team formation and chat opens on the website.) You may also wait to form your team until hackathon weekend. You may add members to your team until the hackathon closes on October 3 at 11:59pm (local time).

Regardless of when your team forms, participants are not permitted to start working on their solutions until the Space Apps event begins on October 2 at 9:00AM (local time).

Does it matter who on my team officially creates the team?

One person from each team is responsible for creating/registering the team. That person is colloquially known as the “Team Lead.” Please note that the team will be associated with the location of the Team Lead, meaning that the team will appear on the location page associated with the Team Lead.

The location with which your team is associated affects two things.

  1. All projects must be submitted on October 3 at 11:59 PM (local time) in accordance with the location for which your team is registered. Please note: *If your team is registered for the Universal Event, your project must be submitted in accordance with the local time of the person who created the team.
  2. Your team’s project will be evaluated by the local judges at the location for which your team is registered during the first round of judging.

How do I find teammates?

We encourage you to invite your friends and community members along to participate. You can also self-organize into teams before the event with the help of your Local Lead, who may know other registered participants looking for teammates. Find the contact information for your Local Leads on your location page.

During the week prior to the hackathon, the Space Apps chat platform will open. (We will send a dashboard message to all registered participants when team formation and chat opens on the website.) In the chat channels, you will be able to search for teammates. We will send you a message when the chat rooms open.

You will also be able to search for and request to join an existing team! See the Team Formation Guide on the Space Apps resources page.

Can I remove someone from my team, leave a team, or delete my team entirely?

You cannot remove other members from the team once they have joined. But any user can leave a team by selecting the "Leave Team" option at the bottom of the Team Members tab on the team page.

In order to delete a team entirely, all team members must select the "Leave Team" option on the Team Members tab of the team page.

My team has decided to tackle a different challenge. However, we already created our team page. What should we do?

If you’ve already created a team but have changed your mind about which challenge you want to tackle, you are welcome to pick a new challenge. However, you will not be able to keep the same team page. Your team members must leave the current team (see the Space Apps 2021 Team Formation Guide instructions) and create a new team. 

If you are tackling a different challenge, you will be able to reuse the same team information, as long as another team has not already taken that name.


For each hackathon, NASA personnel develop challenges. These challenges encompass a wide variety of topics and encourage our community of artists, storytellers, coders, scientists, designers, engineers, and others to get creative and develop out-of-this-world solutions! Find a challenge, build a team, get started hacking!

When and where will the challenges be published?

The full challenge statements and resources are now available here!

Can people start working on the challenges as soon as they are published?

We appreciate the enthusiasm of participants who want to start as early as possible,
but we ask that participants start the actual work when the hackathon begins on October 2.

Because the hackathon is only 48 hours, please note that participants are not expected to have a fully developed project at the end. The purpose, rather, is to inspire innovative ideas and develop solutions in a collaborative, team environment.

What if I have questions about one of the challenges or datasets?

If you have questions about the challenges or resources, Subject-Matter Experts from NASA and partner space agencies will be available from October 1-3 in our chat channels. They will be ready to engage with your questions! Each challenge will have a dedicated chat channel.

“Space Apps Ambassadors” will also be in the chat channels. Ambassadors are experienced volunteers who will be available to provide support related to the challenges, data, and project submission.

Can I translate the challenges?

Yes! If you or your team do translate the challenges into other languages, we encourage you to share the translation with us.

Can teams work on more than one challenge?

Participants and teams are encouraged to focus on one project and one solution, as the hackathon only lasts one weekend! If your team feels that your solution is relevant to multiple challenges, please choose the challenge that is most aligned with your project.

Is it possible for a team to come up with their own project, or is it mandatory to pick one of the challenges?

To be eligible for Global Judging and awards, teams must respond to one of the given challenges.

However, you will have the option to “Invent your challenge” and create a solution of your choosing. While projects in this category are wonderful, please note that they will not be eligible for global judging or awards from NASA.


See the Project Submission Guide on the Space Apps resources page for complete details.

How are projects/solutions submitted?

Every team (whether you are working individually or with teammates) will need to create a project page on to describe their work. All teams will be answering the same set of questions in relation to their project.

We encourage teams to create their project page as soon as the hackathon begins and to add information as the week progresses. All members of a team must be registered for the hackathon and identified on their team’s project page in order to be eligible for judging and awards.

At what time are project submissions due?

Teams are allowed to submit projects on the website up until October 3rd at 11:59pm (local time), in accordance with the location for which team is registered. *If your team is registered for the Universal Event, your project must be submitted in accordance with the local time of the person who created the team (colloquially known as the “Team Lead’).

I see that my local event is having a pitch/feedback/judging session on Sunday, Oct 3, before the official deadline for project submission that you mention above. Can you explain?

Local Leads have the option of doing a pitch/feedback/judging session for their local event on October 3, before the official deadline we mention above. At that time, they may decide to select local winners. We highly encourage that you participate in any such sessions!

That said, Local Leads/local judges should NOT be selecting any of the "Global Nominees" -- those teams that go on to "Global Judging" -- at that time. They have been asked to wait until October 4 or after to start selecting Global Nominees (so that they can be sure to judge all of the final projects that were submitted by the official deadline).

If you would like further guidance or clarity, please check with your Local Lead first. If you have additional questions after that, please email [email protected] or connect with a member of the Space Apps Global Organizing (GO) Team in Space Apps chat.

Please see the Space Apps 2021 Judging and Awards Guide for more information on the judging process.

What is expected in my project submission?

All of the project submission requirements are outlined in the Project Submission Guide.

At minimum, your project must respond to one of the official Space Apps 2021 challenge statements and clearly show how the data resources provided with the challenge were used in your project.

All projects must be submitted on the website by 11:59 PM on October 3 (local time), in accordance with the location for which your team is registered. *If your team is registered for the Universal Event, your project must be submitted in accordance with the local time of the person who created the team (colloquially known as the “Team Lead’).

Do I have to use code in my project?

Code is not necessarily required or not required for any given challenge. Whether you write code for your project may depend on both what the challenge is asking you to do and what you are actually able to accomplish in a 48-hr period. The key: if you do make something that uses code, your team must share the code.


For details, please see the Judging and Awards Guide on the Space Apps resources page.

Will participants get certificates?

Regardless of whether your team wins an award, participants who are on a registered team and submit a project by the end of the hackathon (October 3, 11:59 PM, local time) will receive a certificate recognizing their participation.

Will Space Apps 2021 have winners?

While the main purpose of the hackathon is to encourage collaboration and cooperation, Space Apps 2021 will have winners.

Many local events will be selecting local winners. Please contact your Local Lead for details.

NASA will also be offering 10 Global Awards. Six of them are awards we've used in the past. Plus, there are 4 BRAND NEW awards. This brings us up to a total of 10 awards in celebration of our 10th annual event!

  • Best Use of Science: The solution that makes the best and most valid use of science and/or the scientific method.
  • Best Use of Data: The solution that best makes space data accessible, or leverages it to a unique application.
  • Best Use of Technology: The solution that exemplifies the most innovative use of technology.
  • Galactic Impact: The solution with the most potential to improve life on Earth or in the universe.
  • Best Mission Concept: The solution with the most plausible concept and design.
  • Most Inspirational: The solution that captures our hearts.
  • NEW Best Storytelling Award: The solution that most creatively communicates the potential of open data through the art of storytelling.
  • NEW Global Connection Award: The solution that best connects people around the world through technology.
  • NEW Art & Technology Award: The solution that most effectively combines technical and creative skills.
  • NEW Local Impact Award: The solution that demonstrates the greatest potential for local impact.

Please note that NASA reserves the right to change the award categories at any time.

What will be the award for Space Apps 2021 winners?

Space Apps winners will be featured on the Space Apps website and social media.

Once travel is deemed safe, winning teams will receive an invitation to the Winners Trip, which could potentially include viewing a spacecraft launch at a NASA facility.

Each winning team member will be allowed to invite a guest of their choice. The Local Lead associated with each winning team, and a guest of their choice, will also receive an invitation. ALL invited guests will be responsible for arranging and financing their own travel, visas, meals, incidental expenses, and accommodation.

Please also note that winners’ and guests’ invitations and access to NASA facilities are subject to NASA security and United States regulatory screening and clearance.

The details of the Winners’ Trip are subject to change based on the evolving dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, since there are many factors, including weather, that determine the successful launch of a rocket on schedule, NASA cannot guarantee that travelers will actually see the launch.