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

1st Interim Progress Report Due, Entry Fee Due

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

Share Your Team's Content on ESRA Social Media!

Jan. 22, 2023, 5:51 p.m. PST by ESRA Media

Want to share info on your team and promote ESRA and the Spaceport America Cup? Well now is your chance! 

As ESRA is strictly a volunteer force, it is difficult for us to create and post media on a regular basis. What we are looking to do is ask the teams for help. ESRA has a media service called Cloud Campaign and we can load it up with media post and set up schedules for when to post media. If you want to feature your team and promote the event, simply email us at the email below and send a picture(s) or a short video and once approved we will add it to the social media and start posting on a regular basis. 

What we need:

  • Email Subject: Team [###]: [Brief Description]
  • Media: Picture(s) or a video. Please attach in email, or send an easily sharable link. We have google drive accounts, but outside of that, we should not be requireed to set up an account.
  • Description & Twitter Description: Send us your text to go with the post and be sure to include appropriate hashtags. Twitter is the limit on text size at 280 characters. Anything more will not be posted to Twitter, but we will still post to our other platforms. If you are exceeding 280 characters, please include two versions of your text, a "Description" and "Twitter Description".
  • Social Tags: We need your tags for social media so we can tag you and send you more potential subscribers. These should be split up into the following accounts like the example below. Multiple tags per social are allowed. 
    • Facebook: @ESRA.Rocket, @spaceportamericacup
    • Instagram: @ESRA.Rocket, @spaceportamericacup
    • LinkedIn: @esra-rocket
    • Twitter: @SoundingRocket, @Spaceport_Cup
  • Send email to:

Themes to consider:

  • Updates specific to your team, test flights, fun build time-lapses
  • Fun tutorials on how you build, simulate, etc. (Keep it ITAR safe) 
  • Shorts on what you love about the event
  • Tips for new teams coming for the first time
  • Throwbacks and highlights to past SA Cup and IREC events
  • Team bios, or just a tour around your lab

Fine Print: Keep in mind all content is subject to review and not all may be posted. We may make minor changes to text as needed. In some cases, we may reach back with request for adjustments to your content. We may even request future collaborations with teams depending on the quality of the content. There is no promised timeline for posting. We will upload a backlog of posts, and depending on how much backlog we have, we will adjust the frequency of the scheduled posts. Initially we will do weekly, but eventually we would love to make daily posts. This does not give you bonus points for the competition. While you can reuse this content in any video challenges at the event, this is seperate from the video challenge. By submitting this footage you are giving us permission to post on the social media platforms above, and any possible future platforms. ESRA can also use footage in Youtube Videos, and Event Livestreams. ESRA acknologes that you own full rights to the media and we are not permmitted to sell or give rights to other persons or organizations.

Reminder - Issues that are created by Payloads that are deployed

Jan. 19, 2023, 12:06 p.m. PST by ESRA VP

Student Teams,

If your student team's payload remains within your rocket throughout your flight, you do not have to read any further.


If your payload is deployed at or above 5,000ft. it is a significant concern to ESRA.  


ESRA requires dual deploy recovery on all rockets.  We also require GPS tracking on all rockets.  Both of these requirements are necessary to help students quickly and easily recover their rockets.  With potentially 150 rocket launches, ESRA must limit the amount of time teams spend looking for rockets.


Your team COMPOUNDS this problem when you deploy a 2nd (or more) payload object from apogee or above 5k'.  More falling object increase risk and danger.  It also requires longer recovery times.  And it could lead to more lost rockets and payloads.

The number of ejecting payloads increases every year.  If this trend continues, ESRA will be forced to respond by further restricting or completely removing this option all together.


For 2023, ESRA Range Safety Officials will be spending significant more time evaluating ejected payloads.  Test flights and testing payload tracking should be included in all testing plan schedules.  

Student Resources Available to All Teams

Jan. 19, 2023, 12:48 a.m. PST by ESRA President

We're proud to announce that several companies have stepped up to offer unique support offerings for all Spaceport America Cup Teams!

Those companies and the resources they are offering include:

Ansys Student Team Partnerships - Free research software, learning resources, and support
Dassault Systèmes 3DS - We offer all student design teams our software every year.
Protocase - In-kind Manufacturing Sponsorship for Teams

Click on the "Resources" section of HeroX to visit the individual links.  We'll post occasional reminders and updates as other companies offer additional resources to you all.  Happy Rocketeering!

Tripoli Rocketry Association Memorandum of Understanding for the Spaceport America Cup

Jan. 16, 2023, 8:55 p.m. PST by ESRA VP

The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Tripoli Rocket Association (TRA) and Spaceport America (SPA). The agreement was signed and executed by ESRA President Cliff Olmsted, SPA Executive Director Scott McLaughlin and TRA President, Bob Brown. The MOU stipulates the adoption of rules and requirements for TRA membership and clearly explains who is covered by Tripoli insurance while participating in the Spaceport America Cup (SAC).

Key elements of the agreement are:

  • For the first time at SAC, hybrid flights which fully comply with the Tripoli Safety Code* will be covered by Tripoli insurance.
  • All flyers working on safety-related systems or present downrange must be active Tripoli members. This includes all 10k and 30k COTS/SRAD Solids and COTS/SRAD Hybrid flights. Liquid SRAD category rockets are not included in this MOU.  NAR membership does not meet this requirement.
  • Motors and energetic materials may only be possessed or handled by Tripoli members with appropriate high-power rocketry certification levels.   NAR membership does not meet this requirement.  NAR members must join TRA and have their certifications copied over.  This was agreed to by NAR President John Hochheimer and TRA President Bob Brown.
  • ESRA recommends student teams who have a NAR certified Flyer of Record should cover the cost of the TRA membership for their Flyer of Record.
  • Any Commercial Solid, Research Solid, Commercial Hybrid, or Research Hybrid flights must have a current Tripoli L3 certified member as Flyer of Record. Again, a NAR Certified Flyer of Record does not meet this requirement.  The Flyer of Record must be present at the launch. The Flyer of Record may be a student member, a team mentor, or other Tripoli L3 certified member as coordinated by ESRA.
  • The language of the MOU prohibits changes to the MOU within the last 30 days before or at the launch.
  • COTS and SRAD Hybrids and Solid rocket teams which do not fully comply with Tripoli Safety Code (described in the MOU as Non-Tripoli Safety Code Compliant) will not be approved to launch. Liquid category teams are solely responsible for arranging their own insurance in advance as per the ESRA Rules and Regulations.
  • Liquid category rockets will be segregated from all other operations and spectator areas by at least 1500 feet. Liquid launch operations shall be conducted by the student teams under ESRA coordination but different personnel than those operating ESRA's Launch Control Operations. The separation will be visibly and clearly marked.
  • ESRA will curtail all other launch operations when liquid category launches are underway.

A copy of the executed MOU will be available on the Tripoli website

* TRA Safety Code may be found at


Jan. 9, 2023, 7:12 p.m. PST by ESRA VP

ESRA has received multiple reports that Cesaroni Technologies (CTI) continues to experience serious component shortages and are unable to fulfill most orders for their high performance rocket motors (many 98mm reloads including the O3400 and N5800 motors).  

The delays mean that unless a team already has physical possession of their CTI motor(s), they are at serious risk of delayed delivery times (out to late summer).   Please understand that this issue affects the entire amateur high power rocketry community, and not just the Spaceport America Cup.

  • If your team has not placed an order for your rocket motor, your team is at extreme risk of not receiving one from any vendor.   
  • If your team has an order placed for a CTI motor, you should contact your motor vendor ASAP to seek clarity and confirmation on delivery dates. 
  • 30k COTS teams may downgrade to 10k (without penalty) if they are unable to secure an appropriate motor.  There are many more motor options that could be available for 10k launches.

ESRA's position on this issue is that we will do our best to recommend alternatives but your team is ultimately responsible for securing your rocket motor(s).  Aerotech does not appear to have any supply issues at this time.  More info coming soon.


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