Spaceport America, NM– June 25, 2018Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport  and the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA), announced McGill University as the Champion of the 2nd Annual Spaceport America Cup. McGill University is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and was chosen from a group of notable category champions to receive the honor.

The Spaceport America Cup took southern New Mexico by storm as over 1,500 students housed in surrounding cities and traveled through multiple parts of the state to arrive to the competition destination, Spaceport America.

The event kicked off on June 19th at the Las Cruces Convention Center where students displayed their rockets for judges and the public to enjoy. The opening ceremony keynote speaker, George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, welcomed students to New Mexico and shared his excitement of being able to interact with some of the brightest university students from around the world. Top commercial space companies and recruiters spoke to students in the booth area throughout the day.

On June 20 – 23 students traveled to the Spaceport America Vertical Launch area for a week of rocket launching. 92 rockets launched from the launch pads with most reaching their intended altitude. For the first time in the competition history a liquid fuel, liquid oxidizer rocket was successfully launched by the University of Michigan.

“ESRA is very proud of the 102 teams that attended this year’s event. Especially the almost 60 schools that launched by the end of the first full launch day. It is very humbling to see the teams get better and better every year. By Friday morning we had launched every team that was prepared to fly, and we kept the range open and helped get every rocket that passed safety inspections a launch attempt,” said Dustin Koehler, ESRA Vice President.

After the final day of launching, students traveled back to the Las Cruces Convention center for the 2018 Spaceport America Cup award ceremony. Keynote speaker, Robert Meyerson, Blue Origin Senior Vice President, congratulated the students on their hard work and dedication and invited them to stay connected with the Blue Origin recruitment staff. The ESRA leadership then took the stage to kick off the awards phase of the evening’s festivities. Starting with a couple Spirit Awards, followed by the Payload Category Awards (sponsored by Space Dynamics Laboratory), the Honorary Awards and finishing with the six Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition Category Awards.   Thematic music played and students cheered as their schools were announced to receive their award. As the award ceremony came to a conclusion it was time to announce the winner of the 2018 Spaceport America Cup. Spaceport America CEO, Dan Hicks, had the honor of announcing the McGill University team as this year’s winner.

“Spaceport America is extremely proud to host to this international rocket engineering competition.  We congratulate each of the participants for their months of hard work and intense planning efforts leading up to this year’s Spaceport America Cup competition. It’s unprecedented and extremely exciting to have this many talented individuals from across the globe gather to competitively launch their rockets, collaboratively share and expand their knowledge, and initiate their careers with our space industry sponsors and partners. We look forward to continued success in the space industry as these future leaders are shown how welcoming and unique New Mexico is for space exploration and development, ” said Dan Hicks.

Competitors chose to compete in various technical categories of design, payload, and performance objectives.  The winner from each of the six categories then competed for the honor of the prestigious Spaceport America Cup – which demonstrates exceptional excellence of achieving their performance objectives.  A complete list of this years winners can be found below:

Spaceport America Cup Champion: Team 47 McGill University of Quebec, Canada

Category Awards for the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition:

10K Commercial Of The Shelf Components

First Place 10K COTS:  Team 47 McGill University

Second Place 10K COTS:  Team 84 Brigham Young University

30K Commercial Of The Shelf Components

First Place 30K COTS: Team 79 Concordia University

Second Place 30K COTS:  Team 111 Stanford University

10K Solid Rocket-Student Research and Developed Components

First Place 10K Solid SRAD: Team 60 The Ohio State University

Second Place 10K Solid SRAD:  Team 85 West Virginia University

30K Solid Rocket-Student Research and Developed Components

First Place 30K Solid SRAD:  Team 65 University of Illinois-Chicago

Second Place 30K Solid SRAD: Team 53 University of Minnesota

10K Hybrid/Liquid Rocket Student Research and Developed Components

First Place 10K Hybrid/Liquid SRAD:  Team 38 University of Waterloo

Second Place 10K Hybrid/Liquid SRAD: Team 108 University of California-Los Angeles

30K Hybrid/Liquid Rocket Student Research and Developed Components

First Place 30K Hybrid/Liquid:  Team 9 University of Washington

Second Place 30K Hybrid/Liquid: Team 105 AGH University of Science and Technology


SDL Payload Challenge Awards:

First Place: Team 79 Concordia University for their dynamic experiment. They also won first place in their overall category and were the runner-up for the overall Spaceport America Cup.

Second Place: Team 116 Ryerson University for their magnetic damping experiment.

Third Place: Team 83 University at Buffalo for their cubesat TLE demonstration. They will be at SmallSat 2018 to present their paper and findings.


SDL Payload Challenge Honorable mentions:

Team 117 University of Victoria for amazing science

Team 63 Union College for full cycle professionalism

Team 53 University of Minnesota – Duluth for complex engineering

Team 104 Colorado State University for their 4 chamber atmospheric sampler

Team 111 Stanford University for their software defined radio GPS demonstration


Honorary Awards:

Jim Barrowman Award: Team 40 University of Sheffield

Charles Hoult Award: Team 100 ETH Zurich

Jim Fufarro Award: Team 35 Ecole Polythechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Dr. Gil Moore Award: Team 59 Polytechnique Montreal

The Spirit Award: Team 123 Rutgers University

The Sportsmanship Award: Team 37 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

The Spaceport America Cup is an annual event that will be held each year during the third week of June. For more information visit


About Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA)

The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) is a partner on the Spaceport America Cup and 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 they define as between “experimental” or “research” high-power rockets and sounding rockets capable of achieving space altitude, generally defined as 100 km. Visit for more information.

About Spaceport America

Spaceport America is a FAA-licensed launch complex, situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. This spaceport was intentionally built for commercial and industry and has a rocket friendly environment. Spaceport America currently hosts Virgin Galactic, United Launch Alliance, Boeing, UP Aerospace, EnergeticX Pipeline2Space and EXOS Aerospace. Visit for more information.

Spaceport America is #NewMexicoTRUE.

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Event photos:


Media Contact:

Rosa Banuelos, Spaceport America