Proud of our FireWay team – NASA Space Apps Challenge 2020 Global Winner

08 Feb 2021

The FireWay team triumphed at the NASA Space Apps Challenge 2020. Their Universal Space Connector earned top marks in the “Best Use of Technology” category, an achievement  that demonstrates the most innovative use of technology. A total of 2,303 teams from more than 150 countries took part in the international hackathon in 2020.

At the hackathon in Dnipro, which was, per tradition, held by Noosphere in October, FireWay emerged as one of the two winners. By the way, this is not the first time that projects from our hackathon have shone brightly in the international arena. In 2017, the Spacer team’s Diversity project was included in the TOP-10 in the People’s Choice nomination.

FireWay introduced a universal space connector – a device that allows spacecraft to dock in space and transfer liquid, gasses or electricity between them. Thus, the connector can increase the service life of the devices and significantly reduce the cost of space missions, in particular, the launch of satellites.

The team members shared the details of their project and impressions of participating in the hackathon.

The team was formed just before the hackathon. FireWay boasts engineers, programmers and scientists. “Among us are Kirill Andriyets – a graduate of the Faculty of Information Technology at Shevchenko National University, Dmitry Ivannik – an electronics developer and programmer, Roman Malkevich – a graduate of the Law Academy and a programmer at heart, Maksym Kopystko – a business school graduate, Ivan Hryshko – a graduate of the Faculty of Radio Engineering at KPI Sikorsky and design engineer, and me, Olena Kompaniets – a graduate of the Faculty of Physics of Shevchenko National University and now a junior researcher at the Main Astronomical Observatory of NAS Ukraine,” explained teammember Olena.

Despite not knowing all their partners prior to the event, the young scientists found common ground in the space theme of the hackathon, which was close to each in some way. “Some of us knew each other. I have known Vanya since high school,” explained Dmytro. “Kirill and I worked together at our first place of work (about 5 years ago). I met Roma last year during a rocket modeling competition. Other team members I met at the hackathon for the first time.” 

Olena added that “For me, this is an extremely new experience. I work at the observatory, and when I was called to the team, I was very interested. This is NASA. As a child, I dreamed of becoming a scientist and working at NASA!” As their main assistant, all the team members recognize… the cat! It was left for the night to watch and follow the printing of the connector model on the 3D printer!

The challenge “Let’s Connect” (development of solutions for assembling and docking spacecraft in outer space) was not chosen by chance– the team sought a project that would combine engineering and space. “We looked for challenges dedicated to hardware. And here we are,” – remarked Maksym.

Ivan shared details of the project: “We have developed a prototype device that can be used to connect and refuel spacecraft in orbit. It is very unfortunate when an efficient, costly satellite is taken out of orbit simply because it has run out of fuel. You don’t throw the car away when its tank is empty. “

“And I still remember a moment we talked about fuel and drainage. ‘Imagine, if you do not take into account the chractertistics of the components, then everything will flash when they come in  contact! Both the satellite and the station may explode. And all said like: ooops’. Therefore, as it turned out, even in a purely space project you can’t ignore physics, ”says Olena.

The team created a 3D model of the connector, which they presented in a video. By the way, The mentoring sessions gave FireWay the chance to work with Oleksandr Butkalyuk, the Space Apps Challenge 2016 People’s Choice winner and a permanent mentor with Space Apps Dnipro.

FireWay team members advise future hackathon participants to believe in themselves and to make sure they create a stellar team of kindred souls. After all, without harmony it is impossible to implement even the most ingenious idea.

Congratulations to the winners and we look forward to the further development of their project and new victories!