Spaceport America Cup


Spaceport America Cup 2023

Join us as we host thousands of the world's most ambitious collegiate rocketeers in a one-of-a-kind event.

This challenge is closed

2023 Spaceport America Cup - Closing Awards Ceremony

This challenge is closed




Over 1,500 students and faculty will gather in Southern New Mexico for the fourth annual Spaceport America Cup in June of 2023.  Drawn by the opportunity to collaborate and compete at a world class spaceport facility, you represent the best and brightest from more than 150 colleges and universities located across the USA and around the world. 

Join us as we host thousands of the world's 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 world's 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!


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

You'll want to review the following documents:

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


Challenge Updates

2023 Cup Mass Group and Team Photos

Aug. 8, 2023, 5:57 p.m. PDT by ESRA Executive Director

<As was posted on Social Media back on June 26th)

2023 SA Cup Group Photos We have the group photos and team photos posted. I am actively working on getting more media uploaded including video of the group photo from the drone. Please continue checking back. Also, ESRA now has a brand new Flickr Account!

2023 SA Cup Group Photos

Group Photos for the 2023 Spaceport America Cup

Lost Rocket information and recovery status

July 15, 2023, 11:08 p.m. PDT by ESRA Executive Director

Many teams were unable to recover their rockets during the 2023 Cup.  ESRA and Spaceport America have listened to your requests for assistance.  ESRA and Spaceport America staff are organizing a rocket search event in the near future.  

If your team was unable to find your rocket, the search team will need as much information about the predicted location as possible to localize a possible landing location. Maps and GPS coordinates would be very helpful and greatly increase the chances of success.  Photos of the rocket would also be very helpful

A special forum on the HeroX system has been set up for teams to submit their search information, and a description of the rocket, parachute colors, etc.  This information will be forwarded to the search teams.  Updates on search status will be posted in the HeroX forums.  

Any found rockets will be shipped back to the team.  Teams will be responsible for all shipping expenses.

Spaceport America Cup 2023 Scoring Updates

July 13, 2023, 8:40 p.m. PDT by ESRA Executive Director

ESRA received reports that some scoring anomalies were identified by teams for the 2023 Spaceport America Cup competition.  Upon investigation, we determined that some points were not properly assigned in all cases for some teams.  We have posted the corrected and updated scores on our website at  

In this update, Team 130 University of Minnesota, Twin Cities overtook Team 7 BYU by 1.2 points.  ESRA recognizes Team 130 for their achievement; however, the judges choice selection of overall Spaceport America Cup winner remains with Team 7 Brigham Young University.

Additionally, Team 118 - University of Canterbury now has more points than Team 22 - Ecole de technologie superieure (ETS) in the 30k COTS Category.  Both teams have done an outstanding job in their category and ESRA congratulates both teams as winners in this category.

Rest assured, our all-volunteer ESRA team takes these errors very seriously.  We have received a lot of feedback on ways we can improve our scoring accuracy and transparency to identify errors sooner for all teams.  These changes will be considered carefully as we look forward to the 2024 event.  Thank you all.


Cliff Olmsted

President & Chairperson

Experimental Sounding Rocket Association 

Ready to publish your rocketry project research? AIAA can help you!

July 3, 2023, 1:09 p.m. PDT by ESRA Executive Director

The best place to start for students and professors to get published is to have them go to one of the AIAA student conferences in the spring time. ESRA HIGHLY recommend this course of action because the opportunity for students to get published for the first time is exceptional - this program is designed to give students a leg up in the publishing world, so please encourage consider getting involved.

In particular, the non-US deadline is September, and the conference location is Australia.  US deadlines and regional conferences will be Spring 2024.

A note from Blue Origin - Our Lead Sponsor of the 2023 Spaceport America Cup

June 29, 2023, 12:10 p.m. PDT by ESRA Executive Director

<From Blue Origin>

Congratulations to you and your team for all the hard work that went into the Spaceport America 2023! 

We enjoyed connecting with you and want to invite you to stay connected with us so that we can let you know when our internship applications open and include you in our virtual events. 


To let us know that you were at Spaceport America Cup 2023, please complete this brief sign up form.

By registering, we’ll know that a member of our team connected with you and we’ll be sure to reach out with upcoming opportunities.


Congrats again and we look forward to staying in touch!


Mary Clements, Melissa Edwards, Maddy Jacobs, Raleigh Salazar & Emily Smith


University Recruiting



Frequently Asked Questions

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 be reimbursed for the 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 if they are actively involved with the team year-round.

Level 3 Certified HPR Flyer of Record - A L3 Flyer of Record is required for all COTS and SRAD Solids and Hybrid category rockets.  

  • All COTS or SRAD solid and Hybrid rocket teams MUST HAVE a Tripoli Level 3 certified Flyer of Record ONSITE at the launch.
  • The Flyer of Record must provide up to date Tripoli credentials.
  • The Flyer of Record DOES NOT have to be the TEAM MENTOR, but they must be familiar with the specific project being launched 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 viable 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 operates the 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 HeroX Forum where someone will respond to you. This way, others who may have the same question will be able to see it.

  1. This is a harsh, hot, dry, desert environment with potentially dangerous wildlife.
  2. Temperatures can reach 110 F (42 C)!   Team members look out for each other! 
  3. Dehydration injuries happen every year. BE PREPARED!  WATER WATER WATER!!! 
  4. Recovery team members need to have HARD SOLED shoes or hiking boots.  Normal tennis shoes will not keep the large bush thorns from penetrating your foot 
  5. Everyone should be drinking significant amounts of water.   
  6. Any team members wearing inappropriate/unsafe clothing will be asked to correct it immediately. Failure to comply will lead to points being deducted/you may be asked to leave.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED clothing for anyone recovering a rocket

  • Lightweight, Long Pants (Nylon/Poly)
  • Sun shade hat (Large brimmed)
  • Hiking Boots, Tennis shoes (Must be closed Toe)
  • Long sleeve, fishing-style shirt

Desert wildlife to avoid:

  • Tarantulas
  • Snakes
  • Scorpions

Clothing to AVOID:

  • Open toed shoes, flip-flops, sandals
  • Sleeveless T-shirts 
  • Shorts

Additional Items to carry with you:

  • Water, lots of it! Always have water with you
  • First Aid Kit (for your group)
  • Sun Tan Lotion – SPF 45+ (apply every 2 hours)
  • Insect Repellant 
  • Sunglasses

Click here for the detailed flyer with additional information