Editor’s note — June 23, 2020:
The Phase 3 deadline for all teams was extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Spire Global and SBQuantum (formerly SB Technologies, Inc.) have formed a new Phase 3 partnership as the Spire Global and SBQuantum team.

Six innovator teams have joined Phase 3 of MagQuest, a $2.1 million competition to advance how we measure Earth’s magnetic field. With MagQuest, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is accelerating novel approaches to geomagnetic data collection for the World Magnetic Model.

Over the next several months, the six teams will iterate and refine their designs and testing plans for data collection methodologies. Later this year, the judging panel will nominate Phase 3 winners, and the challenge will award $900,000 in cash prizes.

Meet the teams and learn about their novel approaches:

  • Compact Spaceborne Magnetic Observatory (COSMO) CubeSat — University of Colorado Boulder. A CubeSat specifically designed and tested for magnetic cleanliness and accurate data from a compact form factor. A compact scalar-vector magnetometer designed specifically for CubeSats enables high-quality collection of magnetic field data.
  • CubeSat-powered Geomagnetic Data Collection — Spire Global, Inc. A modified Cube-Satellite design that could provide greater redundancy and increased magnetic data quality. This system brings modified commercial magnetic sensor technology to Spire’s existing infrastructure for satellites, ground stations, and data processing.
  • Diamonds in the Sky: Vector Magnetometry for Spaceborne Platforms — SB Technologies, Inc. Diamond magnetometer technology integrated into a network of CubeSats. The quantum magnetometer features a high dynamic range and intrinsic calibrating capabilities, enabling greater accuracy.
  • Global Acquisition of Magnetic Measurements at Altitude (GAMMA) — Stellar Solutions. A solution that would add miniature magnetometers as hosted payloads to planned satellite missions and expand a ground-based magnetometer array. The miniature space sensors are cost-effective, and the combination of spaceborne and terrestrial data decreases risk.
  • Small Integrated Geomagnetic Array (SIGMA) — Iota Technology. A CubeSat featuring a 3D magnetometer array that could provide greater precision and accuracy than a comparable fluxgate magnetometer.
  • Terrestrial and Seafloor Automated Magnetic Observatories — Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium. An international network of 103 automated magnetic observatories on land and the seafloor. The observatories could be deployed at almost any global location; automation could deliver continuous data while decreasing staffing and support needs.

Inspiring innovators to rethink geomagnetic data collection

During Phase 1, NGA sought novel concepts for geomagnetic data collection and selected 10 winners from 40 submissions for space, aerial, oceanic, and land-based solutions. In Phase 2, five winners were nominated from 17 innovators who developed and submitted detailed designs and plans for data collection methodologies.

NGA invited six innovator teams to join Phase 3; this phase asks teams to demonstrate completion of major design decisions, describe specific hardware and software selections, detail testing approaches to mitigate risks, and provide evidence in support of overall performance. Subject matter experts from academia, industry, and government will provide expertise in sensors, platform engineering, mission operations, program management, the World Magnetic Model, and geomagnetism.

The teams will submit their refined designs and testing plans and convene in August 2020 to present to the judging panel. NGA plans to announce the Phase 3 winners in September 2020. At NGA’s discretion, additional phases of the challenge may follow Phase 3.

Stay up-to-date on the $2.1 million competition

Subscribe to the MagQuest newsletter to receive all challenge updates. If you are interested in collaborating with a Phase 3 team to support the development of their solution, please email hello@magquest.com with a brief summary of your interest and capabilities.