Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Australian teams soared at Spaceport America Cup

  • Intercollegiate rocket competition has drawn international rocketry teams to New Mexico since 2017.
  • New Mexico State University wins local Chile Cup prize for first time.
  • University of Sydney took three awards including overall champion..

LAS CRUCES ‒ After a three-week delay that arose from technical problems last month, the winners of the Spaceport America Cup rocketry competition were announced last weekend in a livestreamed award ceremony.

New Mexico’s Spaceport America, which has hosted the annual contest since 2017, said more than 1,300 participants participated, mainly higher education students and their mentors, from 95 institutions in 16 countries. The competition begins and ends with presentations at the Las Cruces Convention Center, while launches take place over a few days at the spaceport’s vertical launch facility in Sierra County.

When the contestants gathered for closing ceremonies in Las Cruces on June 25, they learned that most winners would not be announced that night, because of problems collecting flight data from all of the rocket launches. The judges, volunteers who reside all over the United States, ultimately took three weeks to process the data and score the teams accurately.

In all, 14 prizes were awarded in addition to three cash prizes from Space Dynamics Laboratory research payloads flown by teams from the University of Queensland, West Virginia University and University of Sydney.

Once the winners were announced, it was clear that 2022 — the first Spaceport America Cup competition to happen in person since 2019, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic — was a big year for Australian teams.

The competition’s overall prize, the Cup itself, went to the University of Sydney, whose team launched a rocket named Bluewren to 30,000 feet with a research payload designed to assist in collecting space debris.

Sydney also took first place in SDL’s payload competition and achieved the top score for 30,000-foot flights by commercial “off the shelf” rockets, while three other Australian teams won prizes as well: The University of Queensland took third place in the payload competition, while the Charles Hoult Award for Modeling and Simulation was taken by the University of Melbourne, with Monash University’s team as runner-up.

More:Spaceport America Cup rocketry competition weather rain and mud

The Chile Cup, an award for teams based in New Mexico or Texas, was won for the first time by New Mexico State University’s Atomic Aggies, who prevailed over teams from the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech and the University of Texas at El pass

2022 Spaceport America Cup winners


  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Brigham Young University (runner up)

Nancy Squire’s Team Spirit Award

  • Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (runner up)

Charles Hoult Award for Modeling and Simulation

  • University of Melbourne, Australia
  • Monash University, Australia (runner up)

dr Gil Moore Award for Innovation

  • University of Michigan-Dearborn
  • Chulalongkorn University, Thailand (runner up)
  • Cornell University (runner up)
  • University of Leeds, UK (runner up)

Jim Furfaro Award for Technical Excellence

  • University of Akron
  • University of Waterloo, Canada (runner up)

James Barrowman Award for Flight Dynamics

  • Boston University
  • Brigham Young University (runner up)

10,000-foot COTS (commercial off-the-shelf)

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • The Citadel, South Carolina (runner up)

10,000-foot SRAD (student researched and designed), solid fuel

  • Kent State University
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology (runner up)

10,000-foot SRAD hybrid/liquid fuel

  • Polytechnique Montreal, Canada
  • Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, Poland (runner up)

30,000-foot COTS

  • University of Sydney, Australia
  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (runner up)

30,000-foot SRAD solid fuel

  • West Virginia University
  • Oregon State University (runner up)

30,000-foot SRAD hybrid/liquid fuel

  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • ETH Zurich, Switzerland (runner up)

Spaceport America Chile Cup

  • New Mexico State University
  • University of New Mexico (runner up)

Spaceport America Cup (overall winner)

  • University of Sydney, Australia
  • Case Western Reserve University (runner up)

The competition was founded in 2006 by the nonprofit Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC), which continues to manage the event in partnership with the spaceport. Among the sponsors are aerospace companies that meet and recruit talent at the competition, including main sponsor Sierra Space, spaceport anchor tenant Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin among others.

In a statement, spaceport director Scott McLaughlin said, “We have seen many rocketeers return to Spaceport America once they have graduated and joined the aerospace workforce.”

The competition was canceled in 2020 over pandemic conditions and held as a virtual event last summer.

Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, [email protected] or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.

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