JROTC earns top two spots at national space competition

  • Published
  • By R. Wayne Barron
  • Headquarters AFJROTC

Air Force Junior ROTC teams were #1 and #2 at the StellarXplorers Nationals at the NASA Space Center in Houston, Texas, April 22, 2023.

StellarXplorers is the nation's premier STEM space design competition, and for the first time an Air Force Junior ROTC team came away with the top prize.

The winning team came from Edmond North High School in Edmond, Okla. Finishing in second place was the Air Force JROTC unit from North Allegheny High School in Pittsburgh, Pa.

In another first time for the competition, a Space Force Junior ROTC made the final round from Huntsville High School from Huntsville, Ala.

“StellarXplorers has been a great program to introduce cadets to the world of space exploration, teamwork, and analytical thinking,” said the unit’s team director, retired Lt. Col. David Murphy.  “The scenarios challenge their ability to think critically while working as a team. As one of the first Space Force JROTC units, it is an honor to be the first to reach the finals and we are proud to represent Space Force and our home Rocket City."

StellarXplorer IX kicked off in mid-October 2022, with an initial field of 350 teams.  Through a series of online practice and qualification competition rounds, students were challenged to solve a variety of realistic space operation missions. Solutions included orbit determination, satellite design or launch vehicle selection.  To assist in these solutions, teams had access to Ansys Systems Tool Kit, a physics-based modeling environment for analyzing platforms and payload in space missions. 

At the conclusion of the third qualification round, the field of teams narrowed to 78 and teams entered the semifinal round.  Ten teams came out on top, earning a spot in this year's national finals.

During the National Finals Competition, they briefed their solutions to a panel of space experts, which score each of the teams.

Thanks to the generosity of StellarXplorers sponsors, team members on the first, second and third place teams will be awarded educational grants.