Spaceport America Cup


Spaceport America Cup 2021

Join us as we host hundreds of the worlds most ambitious collegiate rocketeers in a one of a kind event.
2021 Virtual Spaceport America Cup Conference Day 3

Challenge Overview


Over 1,500 students and faculty will gather in Southern New Mexico for the fourth annual Spaceport America Cup in 2021.  Drawn by the opportunity to collaborate and compete at a world class spaceport facility, you represented the best and brightest from more than 150 institutions located all across the USA and around the world. 

Join us as we host hundreds of the worlds most ambitious collegiate rocketeers in a one of a kind event. Part academic conference and part design-build-fly style competition, the Spaceport America Cup has something to offer students, faculty, industry representatives, and amateur aerospace aficionados alike.


The future beckons. 
​How will you answer the call?

Whether you are an academic, an industry representative, a retired professional, or simply a passionate amateur supportive of young minds who seek new horizons... there are many ways you may become a part of an event impacting the future of aerospace...

As a Sponsor...

You could interact with over a thousand talented STEM students from top ranked schools in a professional setting. You will see both them and their hardware perform in real world conditions. Furthermore, you will be helping make possible an event which helps make the best possible candidates for your company! 

As a Volunteer or Judge...

You will join the highly motivated team which brings together the thousands of moving pieces to build the worlds largest collegiate rocket engineering conference and competition. From directing crowds to directing launches and everything in-between, we need your volunteerism at the Spaceport America Cup! 

As a Student... 

You will demonstrate your hard work on an international stage, in front of hundreds of your peers, professors, and prospective employers. You will engage in design-build-fly style rocket and payload engineering competitions in a professional setting, at world class facilities, where the sky is not the limit!


Challenge Guidelines

Guidelines for Spaceport America Cup - Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) are hosted on our website! 

In particular, you'll want to review the following documents:

  • IREC Rules and Requirements Document
  • IREC Design, Test, and Evaluation Guide
  • Integrated Master Schedule

Updates 43

Challenge Updates

Final days to submit your 2022 Spaceport America Cup application

Oct. 14, 2021, 5:57 a.m. PDT by ESRA VP

ESRA has only received 30 applications so far even though there are well over 150 teams in our HeroX teams section.


To answer a very common question - YES - ALL 2020 and 2021 teams (including those who rolled over their applications) MUST SUBMIT A NEW APPLICATION!


PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, do not wait until the last moment to submit these.  Don't miss out on this opportunity!

2022 Spaceport America Cup Registration has begun! Deadline is October 15th

Oct. 1, 2021, 1:26 p.m. PDT by ESRA VP

Reminder to all 2021 teams,  YOU MUST REGISTER FOR THE 2022 event or you will not be allowed to compete.  That includes teams who ROLLED OVER THEIR fees from 2021.


Register at

2022 Spaceport America Cup - Registration begins Oct 1st, 2021. Look for the new link to the 2022 HeroX site SOON!

Sept. 15, 2021, 11:15 a.m. PDT by ESRA VP

Mark your calendars and get your paperwork in order! Registration for the 2022 Spaceport America Cup is just around the corner.

Registration will be live on the HeroX platform Oct 1-15, 2021. Monitor the ESRA Facebook, website or any of the other social media platforms for additional details over the next week.

#spaceportamericacup #irec16 #sac2022 #soundingrockets #stem #space #spaceportamericacup2022 #collegerocketry #esrarocket #rockets #rocketscience #spaceportNM #engineering #aerospace #rocketcompetition #irec #irec2022 #IntercollegiateRocketEngineeringCompetition #Students #sponsors #spectators #10kSRAD #10kCOTS #30kCOTS #30kSRAD #payload #hybrids #liquids #solids


May be an image of text that says 'Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition ESRA SPACEPORT AMERICA CUP 2022 June 21-25, 2022 Las Cruces, NM USA Registration opens Oct 1-15, 2021 SPACEPORT AMERICA® CUP More information: 2022'

Hey! What ever happened to the patches and stickers for the 2021 Virtual Spaceport America Cup?

July 19, 2021, 6:14 p.m. PDT by ESRA VP

Beginning this week, ESRA has begun sending out packages of patches and stickers to the teams.

US based teams packages have been shipped via USPS and should be arriving within a week.

International teams will begin being shipped out next week.  Delivery will be via UPS and delivery times will vary.

Addresses were extracted from the original applications for 2021 (Awards Shipping Address).

If a package is returned to us for any reason (bad address, refused, etc), we will attempt to contact the team leads to determine next steps.  If the team updates their address and request we re-ship their package, they will be responsible for all shipping charges.


Cheers to everyone!   -Andy Berger

Virtual Cup Videos uploaded to ESRA Youtube channel - Please subscribe

July 3, 2021, 1:40 p.m. PDT by ESRA VP

With a great deal of effort, ESRA has managed to upload a majority of the Virtual Cup Keynotes, Technical Sessions, SDL Payload and Poster Q&A Sessions.

SDL Payload Challenge Reviews:


Forum 157
Teams 2K

Frequently Asked Questions

This is  the  location for all of the FAQs associated with the 2021 Virtual Spaceport America Cup Competition.


What's the deal?

ESRA and Spaceport America have been  working hard behind the scenes and were very hopeful that the 2021 Spaceport America Cup could be held as-planned in June.  However, due to conditions in the State of New Mexico (such as large group restrictions, many  facilities are not available), global travel restrictions (almost all international teams are facing restrictions on travel to the USA), and even  travel restrictions by domestic US universities, we made the collective decision to turn the 2021 event into a virtual competition.  We hope you'll join us as this provides all teams an opportunity to compete for awards as well as participate in technical forums, keynote speeches, and the many sponsors we have who are interested in recruiting talented college students.


What about  team entry fee deposits?  Will there be additional costs for the 2021 Virtual Spaceport America Cup?

All teams MUST choose one of the following options with respect to their deposits (see form on HeroX):

  1. Choose to roll their deposits and reserve a spot for the 2022 Spaceport America Cup
  2. Choose a  refund and lose their guaranteed spot for 2022

The 2021 Virtual Spaceport America Cup will be a  special and separate competition.   Teams who plan to participate should continue to provide  progress reports and technical reports per the timeline on HeroX.  There will be a  small fee to  attend the virtual event and ESRA is working hard to keep costs as low as possible.  Pricing details are being worked now and will be announced when available.  


Should we provide the 2nd Progress Report on March  5th and the Project Technical Report on  May 14th?

Yes, if you plan to compete this year.  The 2021 Virtual Spaceport America Cup will be evaluating progress reports, technical paper submissions, podium session presentations, and  poster sessions as part of the regular scoring criteria defined in the IREC Rules and Requirements Document.   If your team does not plan to participate in the virtual competition, then no further submissions are required.


Is the SDL Payload Competition still happening?

Yes, if you plan to compete this year.  The SDL Payload competition is also virtual this year.  SDL will be evaluating your submissions for awards and prizes as defined on the SDL Payload Competition page.


Should we continue building our rocket?  Can we include test results in the technical report?

ESRA is working with the TRA (Tripoli Rocketry Association) to offer some limited opportunities for launches at regional Tripoli Prefectures around the US.  Please consider reaching out to one of these groups to see what would be required to launch your rocket at one of their sites.  

Teams are encouraged to include any test results in their technical paper submissions.

There has been a lot of confusion on this topic, even within the leadership of ESRA.  It's important that teams understand the following roles:

Team Mentor - ESRA HIGHLY RECOMMENDS all teams have a team mentor. This mentor should be considered an expert with experience flying high power rocketry projects similar or greater in scope to the rockets being designed and built by the team. 

  • The MENTOR does not have to be an employee of the university, but it is highly recommended that your mentor should reimbursed for time and travel expenses involved in supporting the team.
  • The MENTOR should provide active onsite supervision of all major design reviews, manufacturing and testing activities as well as participating in all launch operations by the team.
  • The MENTOR is not required to be HPR certified but it is highly recommended. The Mentor's expertise and experience should be substantial enough to be considered a senior technical authority.
  • The team's FACULTY ADVISOR can be the MENTOR if he/she is qualified to do so.
  • ESRA Range Safety Staff can be a MENTOR as long as they are actively involved with the team year round.

Level 3 Certified HPR Flyer of Record - The L3 Flyer of Record is a new requirement for all COTS and SRAD Solid category rockets beginning in the 2021 Cup.  

  • All COTS or SRAD solid rocket teams MUST HAVE an appropriately HPR certified flyer of record ONSITE at the launch who will be the official Flyer of Record.
  • This Flyer of Record must provide up to date credentials for an approved HPR certification that is accepted by TRA. A full listing of reciprocity certified rocketry organizations can be found here: 
  • The Flyer of Record DOES NOT have to be the TEAM MENTOR but they must be very familiar with the specific project being launched in order to sign the flight card onsite just prior to launch.

ESRA support for the L3 Flyer of Record requirement

  • ESRA acknowledges that many international teams (Europe, Middle East, etc.) have no ability to gain access to a L3 Flyer of Record.  ESRA Range Safety Reviewers will work directly with these teams to address possible options to have ESRA provide the L3 Flyer of Record.
  • Teams in the United States, Canada and even in Australia have access to a large number of potential Flyers of Records. ESRA cannot commit to provide L3 Flyers of Record for all teams.
  • International teams should MAKE SIGNIFICANT EFFORTS to find a local/regional Flyer of Record for their project.

No, but it is highly encouraged.  Critical communications and updates are provided through the HeroX platform.  If your team fails to monitor these official communications, your team may be penalized or removed from the competition.  Team leads and delegates are required such that entry, progress, and final reports can be submitted prior to the deadlines.

All teams MUST read the IREC Rules and Requirements Document as well as the IREC Design Test and Evaluation Guide available on our website at   


For any specific questions, post a question on the HeroX forums and an ESRA staff member will respond.

Yes, but it’s quick and easy. Just click the “Accept Challenge” button on this page and follow the instructions to complete your registration. All you need to provide is your name and email address.

The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 for the purpose of fostering and promoting engineering knowledge and experience in the field of rocketry. ESRA's current focus is in the field of experimental sounding rocketry, which we define as roughly between "experimental" or "research" high-power rockets and sounding rockets capable of reaching space (generally defined as 100 km altitude).

ESRA hosts Spaceport America Cup - Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) for teams from across the USA and around the world.

More information can be found at our website

ESRA hosts the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) for student rocketry teams from across the USA and around the world. With a payload size of 8.8 pounds and target altitudes of either 10,000 or 30,000 ft. above ground level, competing rockets are typically 4 to 8 inches in diameter and 8 to 20 ft. long. Multistage rockets and all chemical propulsion types (solid, liquid, and hybrid) are allowed.

Beginning in 2017, ESRA's Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) became the flagship activity of a new annual event called the Spaceport America Cup (SA Cup).

More information can be found on our website at

If you have a question not answered in the FAQ, we recommend that you post it in the Forum where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it.