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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

MagQuest Phase 2

A $1.2 million competition to advance how we measure Earth’s magnetic field.

Department of Defense - National Geospatial Intelligence Agency

Type of Challenge: Scientific
Submission Start: 06/20/2019 09:00 AM ET
Submission End: 08/28/2019 04:59 PM ET


Visit the official MagQuest website at Receive timely updates by signing up for the MagQuest newsletter.

What is the World Magnetic Model?

Earth is a giant magnet. Compasses — both digital and analog — are oriented by the magnetic force at a user’s location. Since geographic and magnetic poles do not align, geomagnetic models like the World Magnetic Model (WMM) correct for this difference.

As the Earth’s magnetic field is constantly changing, the difference between geographic and magnetic poles also changes, and the WMM must be regularly updated.

An opportunity to rethink geomagnetic data collection

Production of the WMM currently uses space-based magnetic field measurements that the European Space Agency (ESA) Swarm mission has provided since 2013. Swarm mission satellites contain several instruments capable of producing a variety of measurements, including magnetic vector field measurements. To ensure sustainability of the WMM, the U.S. government is taking a proactive approach to identifying new methods of data collection independent of Swarm.

The World Magnetic Model is used every day around the world

The WMM is embedded in thousands of systems. More than a billion smartphone users depend on the WMM to point them in the right direction when they use mobile navigation apps. Drivers rely on the WMM to power the compasses in their cars. The WMM is also critical for military and commercial uses around the world. Among other applications, it supports navigation and attitude determination for submarines, satellites, and aircraft, while also informing operational logistics like the numbering of runways.

MagQuest, a multiphase open innovation challenge

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) calls upon solvers to submit novel approaches to geomagnetic data collection for the World Magnetic Model. This open innovation challenge is designed to attract new ideas to increase the efficiency, reliability, and sustainability of geomagnetic data collection. With MagQuest, NGA aims to inspire domestic and international solvers to apply their expertise to spaceborne, aerial, terrestrial, and other potential solution areas. Solvers from small businesses, academic institutions, labs, startups, and other organizations are encouraged to enter the competition. (See Additional Resources for an overview of potential solution areas.)

Challenge Phases (Overview)

MagQuest Phases 1-2 (March 2019 through September 2019) will award a total of $1.2 million.

Phase 1

In Phase 1, MagQuest sought concepts that proposed novel methods or technologies that may be promising to provide sufficient data for the WMM. Submissions opened March 21, 2019 and closed May 16, 2019. 10 winners were nominated by the judges according to official Phase 1 selection criteria and the total Phase 1 prize pool of $200,000 will be distributed evenly across Phase 1 winners.

Phase 2

Phase 2 is open to solvers from Phase 1, as well as new solvers who did not participate in the first phase of the challenge. Success in Phase 2 may require greater breadth of expertise, and participants have the opportunity to form expanded teams. See the Solver Community for information on potential team collaboration.

In Phase 2:

  • The challenge seeks detailed designs and plans for data collection methodologies, including a concept of operations, a description of expected performance and potential risks, and an overview of potential future program management.
  • A successful Phase 2 design will detail all elements of a solution: sensor, platform, and data analysis. The sensor is the instrumentation that makes geomagnetic field measurements, the platform holds or carries this instrumentation, and data analysis refers to the mechanism for processing and distributing data.
  • Submissions will open June 20, 2019 and close August 28, 2019.
  • Educational webinars will be hosted in Phase 2 for interested solvers. Potential webinar topics include an orientation to Phase 2 submissions and teaming information, a technical deep-dive on relevant submission topics, and an overview of regulatory or commercialization considerations. More webinar details will be provided as they are confirmed.
  • Up to five (5) winners will be nominated by the judges according to official Phase 2 selection criteria. The total Phase 2 prize pool of $1 million will be distributed across Phase 2 winners. 
  • As part of their acceptance of the associated Phase 2 monetary prize, winners will agree to have a brief synopsis of their concept published on the MagQuest website.


Phases 1-2 Total Prize Pool: $1.2 million

Phase 1: $200,000

Ten (10) winners were nominated by the independent judging panel according to official Phase 1 selection criteria. The total Phase 1 prize pool of $200,000 will be distributed evenly across Phase 1 winners. 

Phase 2: $1 million

Up to five (5) winners will be nominated by the independent judging panel according to official Phase 2 selection criteria. The total Phase 2 prize pool of $1 million will be distributed across Phase 2 winners.

Please refer to the official Rules, Terms & Conditions for further details.


The rules for MagQuest Phase 2 can be found here:

Judging Criteria

Performance. The degree to which the integrated design (including sensor, platform, and data analysis) indicates an ability to achieve or exceed the necessary data requirements for production of the WMM (see target performance metrics in Additional Resources).

Technical Feasibility. The extent to which the design uses technically sound methods, the solver identifies potential risks, and proposes credible mitigation strategies.

Operational Feasibility and Cost Fidelity. The degree to which the design accounts for real-world implementation and operation in the near term (e.g., 5 years), as well as the ability to continuously and reliably collect data for several WMM iterations (e.g., 30 years).

Innovation. The degree to which the design creates potential efficiencies in time, money, or other resources.

Team. The extent to which the solver or team demonstrates sufficient expertise that may be needed to advance their integrated design to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of at least 5, and preferably 6, within a potential timeframe of two years (e.g., by September 2021). (see Technology Readiness Assessment in Additional Resources for more information on TRLs)

How To Enter

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To register and participate in this competition, visit the official MagQuest website at