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NASA Names Winners of Student Launch Challenge

For the third year in a row, Vanderbilt University of Nashville, Tennessee has been named the winning team in the NASA Student Launch challenge, earning the $5,000 prize.

The prize purse for the challenge, which took place on April 11, was provided by corporate sponsor Orbital ATK of Promontory, Utah.

Teams from the University of Louisville, Kentucky and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte won second and third place, respectively. The 2015 Rookie of the Year award was presented to the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Vanderbilt University team
Vanderbilt University of Nashville, Tennessee, won top prize in the 2015 NASA Student Launch challenge near NASA Marshall’s Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Credits: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

Student Launch is a competitive learning opportunity for teams of students from middle school to university level to conduct research and development in rocket propulsion systems. Students spend eight months designing, building and testing small high-powered rockets, scientific payloads and/or ground support equipment using the same launch criteria as NASA.

“Student Launch enables teams to research innovative solutions to technical problems, which could potentially advance future NASA missions,” said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Students demonstrate advanced concepts of 3-D printing, carbon-fiber engineering and autonomous systems, all which may benefit NASA exploration or the development of new aerospace industry or products.”

Thirty-five teams, from 18 states and Puerto Rico, launched their single-stage rockets during the 15th annual competition held near Marshall. To determine the winning teams, data from each of the flights was analyzed over the following weeks and the results of the analyses were combined with results from technical design reviews and other products required before launch day.

NASA and Orbital ATK presented a variety of preliminary awards during an April 10 banquet at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

For a complete list of winners and awards, and for more information about the competition, visit:

For information about NASA’s Office of Education and other educational opportunities, visit:


Sarah Ramsey
Headquarters, Washington
Angela Storey
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.