StellarXplorers:National High School Space Challenge

StellarXplorers is a challenging, space system design competition involving all aspects of system development and operation with a spacecraft and payload focus.

Teams can come from any organized youth organization such as a high school (including home schools), JROTC, CAP, School Clubs, Boy/Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs. Teams consist of an adult Team Director (usually a teacher) and two to six students. We need to emphasize is YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE A SPACE EXPERT to have a team. You only need to find students interested in learning about space. Participation is free until after teams have had the opportunity to compete for the first qualifying round. There is a nominal $200 registration fee for each team, with waivers available to Title I schools upon request.

How does it work?

StellarXplorers provides specific training in the use of system simulation software, Systems Tool Kit (STK) as well as an online textbook as a curriculum supplement and study resource for online “team” Quizzes given during the competition. The actual competition is accomplished from the team’s home location. Teams are given a scenario describing the system’s mission and constraints and they provide a solution to a typical space design problem, such as orbit determination, satellite component selection, and launch vehicle planning. Practice Rounds begin in October with Qualification Rounds beginning in November that determine which teams advance to the Semi-Finals in February. The top 10 teams from the Semi-Finals will receive an all-expense-paid trip the National Finals.

How do you get started?

Go to the StellarXplorers Website at Register your team under the Registration Tab. You will not need to identify cadets until after the school year begins. Under the Competition Tab, click on STLX VI Starting Checklist. This gives a step-by-step for getting ready to field a team. Also, we are here to help, so do not hesitate to ask for assistance.

Benefits for Students

This is an exciting hands-on learning experience that develops commercially valuable skills and increases appreciation for the critical role of space in our daily lives. The competition attracts all types of students with diverse backgrounds who will establish their own experiential base off accomplishment, all while building teamwork and leadership skills. Most of all … it is FUN!!!

Benefits for Educators

Relevant and stimulating addition to your classroom with hands-on, real-world STEM applications that are widely embedded into your students’ lives.

Benefits for Sponsors

Offers the chance to “grow your own” future workforce! You’ll have access to a pipeline of talented individuals, interested your business, most U.S. citizens eligible for advanced clearances and uniquely positioned to be your interns and future employees. At the same time, you’ll boost US competitiveness and STEM education, while enhancing your visibility with customers and peers.

Questions? Contact us at

NASA’s 2021 Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge

The 2021 RASC-AL Special Edition: Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge seeks proposals from eligible teams of undergraduate and graduate students in the U.S. to design and build prototype hardwarethat canextract water and assess subsurface density profiles from a simulated off-world test bed to advance critical technologies needed on the surface of the Moon and Mars.
Up to 10 teams will be selected to receive $10,000 to build their proposed concept. Finalist teams will travel to NASA’s Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Hampton, VA* during the summer of 2021 to participate in a multi-day competition where the universities’ prototypes will compete to extract the most water from an analog environment simulating lunar and Martian surfaces, while using system telemetry to distinguish between overburden layers (i.e., prospecting) and create a digital core of the various layers. 
For full competition details, including design parameters, testing environment, and submission guidelines, please visit the RASC-AL Special Edition Website:
Interested student teams and their faculty advisors should submit an online Notice of Intent by October 1, 2020 and a detailed project plan proposal by November 24, 2020.
We invite you to view the NASA feature story announcing the 2021 Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge: “Moon to Mars Ice and Prospecting Challenge Aims to Break Through More than Just Ice
If you have any questions, please contact the RASC-AL Program Team:
*As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation continues to evolve, NASA and NIA will closely monitor and follow guidelines from federal, state, and community officials regarding the onsite competition at NASA LaRC next summer. Protecting the health and safety of team members, staff, and judges is our primary priority.

NextGen STEM CCP Expeditions

The NextGen STEM Commercial Crew Program Google Expeditions have been published by Google!  Here are the links, please note there are web-based versions, as well as app-based versions.  Feel free to take a look around and explore!  We will also be posting them to the NGS CCP web page.


App-based (Expeditions) – takes you to a QR code to scan and open on a mobile device with the Expeditions app:


Open to both undergraduate and graduate students studying fields with applications to human space exploration, NASA’s RASC-AL Competition is an engineering design challenge that allows students to incorporate their coursework into real aerospace design concepts and work together in a team environment. With nearly two decades of history, the RASC-AL Competition is one of NASA’s longest running and most robust student competitions.

Call For Proposals
The 2021 RASC-AL themes range from preparing for the next steps of our return to the Moon, to innovating solutions for returning from Mars, to designing architectures to visit Venus and Ceres. Teams are invited to design and propose innovative solutions with original supporting engineering and analysis in response to one of the following five themes:
Durable Low-Mass Lunar Surface HabitatMinimum Mars Ascent VehicleVenus Flyby MissionHuman Mission to CeresDistributed Lunar Sample Aggregation, Analysis, & Return to ISS

If you have any questions, please contact the RASC-AL Program Team:

NASA’s 2021 Big Idea Challenge Call for Proposals

NASA is seeking robust proposals from universities affiliated with their state’s Space Grant Consortium (or partnered with an affiliated school) to design, build, and test novel dust mitigation (or dust tolerant) technologies for lunar applications. This is an open innovation challenge with minimal constraints so that proposing teams can genuinely create and develop out-of-the-box solutions. Selected teams will receive awards ranging between $50,000 and $180,000 to bring their ideas to life!
Call for Proposals: Dust Mitigation Technologies for Lunar Applications
For the 2021 BIG Idea Challenge, NASA solicits team proposals from Space Grant affiliated universities and colleges for a wide range of unique lunar dust mitigation (or dust tolerant) solutions supported by solid engineering rigor in response to one of the following categories:Landing Dust Prevention and MitigationSpacesuit Dust Tolerance and MitigationExterior Dust Prevention, Tolerance, and MitigationCabin Dust Tolerance and Mitigation
Up to 10 teams will be selected to build their proposed technology for dust mitigation, and will be responsible for setting up and executing their own high-fidelity verification testing, based on what was described in the proposal. Teams are encouraged to be creative and design their own accurate and realistically simulated testing scenarios.
A wide range of award sizes is expected (in the range of $50,000 – $180,000), depending on the scope of the work proposed. It is anticipated that several larger-scope awards (typically $125,000 – $180,000) and several smaller-scope awards (typically $50,000 – $124,000) will receive funding. Proposers are encouraged to request what is actually needed to conduct the proposed work.
Interested and eligible teams of students and their faculty advisors should submit an online Notice of Intent by September 25, 2020. Written and video proposals are due on December 13, 2020. Minority Serving Institutions are encouraged to apply.
Finalist teams will receive funding to build and test their technologies, and will be invited to present their verification testing results to NASA and industry judges at the 2021 BIG Idea Forum, tentatively scheduled for November 17 – 19, 2021.
The 2021 BIG Idea Challenge Call for Proposals Flyer contains more information about this year’s challenge and is ideal for posting in classrooms and departmental bulletin boards. 
For full competition details, including eligibility requirements, design constraints, and submission guidelines, please visit the BIG Idea Website:

Former CaSGC Sponsored Student Accepts Position at NASA

Felipe Valdez was a student sponsored by the California Space Grant Consortium while he studied and did research with Prof. Jose Granda of California State University Sacramento. He graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Department at CSUS and then continued his graduate studies at UC Davis. After graduating with a Masters Degree in Aerospace Engineering Felipe has accepted a permanent position at NASA Armstrong Center.

To view a news story about this exceptional student please click here


The International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, American Astronautical Society, and NASA invite you to discover the future of the ISS. Join us on August 27, 2020 for day one of the ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) 2020 Online Series.

Day one session topics will include:

  • Welcome with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • NASA Biological and Physical Sciences Program Update
  • Panel Session on Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Commercialization
  • State of the ISS National Lab
  • ISS Program Office Updates
  • Building the LEO Economy

Save the dates on your calendar for the ISSRDC 2020 Online Series, and let’s start celebrating 20 years of living and working in space.


Day One, August 27: Outlook | Apple Calendar


Day Two, September 17: Outlook | Apple Calendar


Day Three, October 22: Outlook | Apple Calendar
All sessions are free! Registration coming in early August.

NASA Science Town Hall – July 9 at Noon PST

You are cordially invited to a virtual town hall meeting hosted by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate on Thursday, July 9 at 3 p.m. ET. Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen and other members of the Science leadership team will discuss updates on the agency’s science activities and welcome questions from the community. 

As you may be aware, the Space Biology and Physical Sciences programs within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate’s Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications (SLPSRA) Division are in the process of transitioning to the Science Mission Directorate where they will constitute the Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) Division. The Human Research Program will remain in HEOMD.

All are welcome to attend the town hall, but it will be of most interest to members of the Space Biology and Physical Sciences community. I hope that you can join us. Details may be found below.

To join the town hall:

Members of the science community, academia, the media, and the public are invited to participate by joining at:

To ask a question:!/dashboard

Participants must provide their first and last name and organization and can submit questions or vote up questions submitted by others. The hosts will try to answer as many of the questions as possible.


NASA Office of STEM education was recently awarded a 2-year project to UCSD, USC, and UC-Berkeley to develop an autonomous lunar landing vehicle and to develop a nation-wide Lunar/Martian Lander Skills competition using these landing vehicles.  This is an Artemis-relevant systems engineering and integration skills project that will require the students to develop critical thinking and hands-on skill sets that NASA needs for their upcoming (beginning 2024) Artemis missions to the moon.  UCSD students will work (remotely) with USC students and UC-Berkeley students to develop the vehicles, develop the autonomous control system, and design and develop the national competition.  The first flight competition is planned for fall of 2020.  

Are you interested in space engineering, flight hardware, autonomous controls, sensors, and/or software (python, C) programming?  Are you interested in flying the vehicle, developing the competition, writing software for autonomous flight competitions, and hosting the competition in San Diego?  Meeting and working with NASA Artemis experts from the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate?  Are you an Aerospace, Mechanical, Structural, ECE, or CSE undergraduate and available full time this summer?  Funding is available for up to three UCSD students.  Note:  You must be a US citizen to receive funding.  

If you are interested, send an email to ( by 5 PM Monday (June 1st, 2020) with your resume that includes relevant courses, experiences, demonstrated leadership, and other needed skill sets.  For example arduinos, raspberry pi, RC vehicles, cubesats, programming competitions, or club activities (AIAA DBF, AUVSI, SEDS), etc.  This is a three-campus team-project so you must be able to work remotely.