Name a Flying Space Robot, and Win a Prize From NASA

NASA needs your help to name a new space robot, and you could win some cash doing it.

NASA officials are asking space fans around the world to help name, and design a mission patch for, a new free-flying robot expected to launch to the International Space Station in 2017. The first-place winner of the challenge will receive $1,000. Officials with the space agency put out the call to any interested space fans at New York Comic Con on Saturday.

"We have this new free-flying robot that we're building," Jason Crusan, director of NASA's Advanced Exploration Systems division, told a full house at Comic Con. "We don't know what to call it. 'Free-flying robot' sounds kind of boring and not all that exciting, so we're asking you to actually name the robot for us."

Image: Free-flying robot
A sketch shows how a free-flying robot on the International Space Station could be moved by remote control to get a better video angle. NASA / Topcoder

Second, third and fourth place also come with cash prizes. Second place will win $500, with third and fourth prize taking home $250 each. NASA has teamed up with Topcoder to organize the contest.

If an artist's depiction of the new space automaton is any indication, the new robot may look like something out of "Star Wars." In the artist's concept, the robot could appear as a small, ball-shaped droid that will use fans to move itself around the interior of the International Space Station. It is expected to be able to fly itself, or be operated by remote control.

The new free-flying bot would join a group of other free-fliers already on the station. NASA's SPHERES robots (the name is short for Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are already used on the orbiting outpost.

To participate in the NASA challenge to name the new robot, space fans need to register with Topcoder. Participants will reach a checkpoint where they will receive feedback on their initial designs on Oct. 22, and the challenge ends on Oct. 27. Officials will announce the winners of the competition on Nov. 2.

To participate in the challenge and learn more about it, go to

— Miriam Kramer,

This is a condensed version of a report from Read the full report. Follow Miriam Kramer on Twitter and Google+. Follow on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.