Research Projects and Competitions

From SEDS-USA Wiki
Revision as of 08:18, 3 November 2019 by Charlie.Nitschelm (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This page is intended not only as an introduction to the research projects and competitions that SEDS-USA hosts, but as a resource for other competitions that chapters may be interested in.

Technical projects and competitions can keep your current members engaged and active, help recruit new members, and give your chapters exposure within SEDS-USA and within the space industry as a whole.


SEDS University Student Rocketry Competition

The SEDS University Student Rocketry Competition (SEDS USRC) is an annual rocketry competition hosted by SEDS-USA. The competition topic varies year by year, but the usual structure challenges teams to build and launch rockets to the highest possible altitude given some set of constraints. These constraints usually come in the form of a total impulse limit on any motors used.

In addition to physical constraints on the motors used, there are often additional challenges of each year's competition. One common challenge for example is that the designed rocket must be at least 2 stages.

This competition is not intended as a pure introduction to rocketry, but beginner teams have had great success in the past and have used SEDS USRC to jump-start their rocketry programs to bigger and more complex competitions.

Past Winners

2018: University of Tennessee Chattanooga – 11,562 ft AGL

2017: Mizzou – 7,094 ft AGL

2016: Mizzou – 5,714 ft AGL

Spaceport America Cup

The Spaceport America Cup is hosted by the ESRA and takes place in New Mexico every June. It allows teams to compete in COTS and hybrids/liquids trying to achieve a apogee of 10k or 30k feet. Here is the website for the competition. It is very popular and has many international teams!

NASA Student Launch

NASA Student Launch is a rocketry competition that is not affiliated with SEDS-USA, but multiple SEDS chapters often participate.
Given that this competition is run by NASA, teams will go through a more structured design process than most other rocketry competitions. Teams will write a formal proposal, prepare Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and Critical Design Review (CDR) presentations, and if selected as a finalist, will travel to Huntsville, AL to launch their rockets in front of representatives from NASA and multiple rocketry companies.

General Research Project Ideas

How about landing that shit? Guidence control to follow a pre-programmed path? There are so many cool things to do with rockets.

Satellite Design

SEDS/SSPI Satellite Design Competition

The SEDS/SSPI Satellite Design Competition is an annual competition held by SEDS-USA and Space and Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). The project does not ask teams to develop hardware, but challenges them to take a broad look at problems in the satellite industry, often considering technical design, business cases, and spectrum allocation/debris mitigation regulations.

Overall, the project has a somewhat low barrier to entry and is a fantastic introduction to the satellite industry.

Past prompts have included:

  • Space Solar Power
  • Satellite Communications Networks for the Cislunar Economy
  • Solar Electric Space Tugs
  • Space Debris Mitigation and Removal


SEDS-SAT 2 was a satellite design competition hosted by SEDS-USA and Astranis in late 2018 and the first half of 2019. The competition requested proposals for a student-built 1U CubeSat to be deployed from the ISS. Astranis agreed to fund all launch costs.

Judging is still ongoing to determine a winner.

There are currently no concrete plans to have another competition, but the SEDA-USA projects team is in the process of looking for additional CubeSat flight opportunities.

Weather Balloons

A lot of universities have research programs that involve weather balloons. It is also pretty common to have a few professors that work on balloons or electronics/hardware on them, if the school has any kind of space program. Seek that out and do your due-diligence. This can be hard, but the research and learning that can come out of it is quite huge.


NASA hosts a MARS mining robotic compeition that you should look into if you are interested in doing a competition! Basically, you need to design and build a robot to mine simulated soil on mars and return it to a bin. Robotics can be a great project to start at your school, and is fun right off the bat!


Quadcopters are a great project to work on, and is usually done by self-research and presenting results whereever you want, including Spacevision if they are doing a poster session! It is also going to be a booming industry in the next decade... good to know and work on quadcopters. Look online for tutorials on how to get started!

Space Business Pitch Competitions

SEDS Student Business Pitch Competition

The SEDS Business Competition is a SEDS-hosted competition held nearly annually, usually concluding at SpaceVision. While the exact format changes every year, most competitions are open-ended and allow student teams to start from scratch, with no business experience. They are paired with a mentor, familiar with entrepreneurship in the space industry, and work to develop an idea into a basic business plan/pitch.

At SpaceVision, each team presents their plan to a panel of judges, also familiar with entrepreneurship in the space industry, and a winner is declared based on the presentations.

This competition is intended as an introduction to space entrepreneurship. In the past, the SEDS Board and Staff have considered "real" prizes for the competition (small amounts of seed funding, consulting with angel investors, etc.), but for now, the competition is meant primarily as an introduction for students who may be new to business ideas in the space industry.