CubeSat Competition 2016 - Closed

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The Museum of Science Fiction believes that science fiction is rich with ideas that can serve as a springboard for curiosity and project-based learning activities. Based on the belief that science fiction holds educational value for all ages, the Museum and its partner organizations will endeavor to develop and tailor our educational competitions to appeal to a wide variety of students, as well as the general public.

The Museum of Science Fiction’s CubeSat Competition aligns with its educational vision and encourages innovative thinking within the commercial space technology sector. This competition is open to all high school students. Student teams from the United States or abroad can participate.

The Museum of Science Fiction is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to make a measurable positive impact on STEM-related educational activities. The purpose of the competition will be to:

  • Reward innovations that are possible by leveraging off-the-shelf technologies, small teams, and other agile approaches to creating next-generation spacecraft
  • Motivate the next generation of explorers to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown, on their own terms.
  • Broaden public participation in space exploration as part of a larger goal to commoditize space technology
  • Bring a consumer model to the business of space, which promises to accelerate the pace of space science and human settlement of the solar system
  • Break the paradigm of large-scale, expensive, government-driven science and exploration by offering successful alternatives in the form of a small-scale, revolutionary flight demonstration
  • Infuse creativity and innovation into STEM education at the high school level

Student competitors will submit a mission design proposal for evaluation by a panel of industry experts and academic practitioners. Submissions to the CubeSat Competition shall consist of a 20-page research design and mission proposal based on the Submission Requirements (below) and a five to seven-minute narrative video. Submissions will also describe how the CubeSat will be de-orbited after completing its mission to be consistent with the existing practices and requirements for preventing orbital debris.

The competition registration and submission period will open on October 19, 2015
Proposals are due on April 18, 2016.

  • Judging and proposal evaluations will begin on April 19, 2016
  • Award notifications will be made on May 9, 2016
  • Awards will be made at Escape Velocity 2016 on Saturday, July 2, 2016

Research Design and Mission Proposal
The CubeSat mission design proposal (for competition participants) should include the following information:

  • A “killer graphic:” an image of the proposed spacecraft and any unusual project elements other than the CubeSat, such as unexpected ground or space facilities. (1 page, 10-30 seconds of video)
  • Description of the mission: its objectives, mission-success criteria, and a likely sequence of events with timeline. (2-6 pp, 1-3 minutes of video)
  • Technical detail: explanation of the spacecraft’s technologies and how it will be built and operated sufficient to enable the judges to assess the project’s feasibility and compliance with the publicly available CubeSat Specification. Unknown details should be described as “trade studies” to be completed during the project. This section of the proposal must include a mass budget, power budget, and communications (link) budget. (2-6 pp,  1-3 minutes of video)
  • Business case: explain how the proposed CubeSat leverages commercial space principles and/or will demonstrate a business case for a new space-business enterprise. (1-2 pp, 1 minute of video)
  • Budget and teaming approach: a summary of costs for fabricating the CubeSat (not launching it), and an explanation of the team’s composition, affiliated organizations, any other sources of sponsorship, and organizational approach. (1-2 pp, 1-2 minutes of video)

The research design proposals will be evaluated by a volunteer panel of commercial space industry experts and academic practitioners. The research design proposals will be judged on the following criteria:

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  1. Innovation: a central element of the proposed mission must be a line of scientific inquiry, a spaceflight technology, a destination, or a system that demonstrates a space-business model that is new to the world.
  2. Commercialization: some central aspect of the spacecraft, the mission, or the combination of space and ground segments must leverage commercial-space principles, such as a pervasive use of COTS components, commercial or
    commercializable approaches to software and hardware
    development, or economies of scale.
  3. Technical feasibility: the spacecraft may involve some risky technical development as part of its key innovative element(s), but overall the CubeSat must be within the capabilities of current technology.
  4. Budget realism: the cost of all the components, including labor to produce any custom parts, must be shown not to exceed $10,000. Labor for integration, test, and launch of the spacecraft system is not part of this $10,000.

Submission Requirements

  1. Research design proposals must comply with the Submission Requirements, Parental Consent (if applicable), and Official Rules (see below).
  2. Research design proposals may be submitted as a PDF file, not to exceed 20 pages. The file must not be larger than 5 MB and must include a registration number in the file name. Files may be submitted to:
  3. Research design video narratives must include a link/URL to the video (Please do not submit attached video files) and the registration number in the email submission and may be submitted to:

To register, click the Registration Form button

Registration and Submission Deadline
The registration and submission deadline is April 18, 2016 at 5 PM EST.
After completing the registration form, a number will be assigned to you and must be included with all submissions.

Awards at Escape Velocity

Nine prizes will be awarded. The winners (or winning teams) will have their mission design proposal funded, built, launched, and orbited/de-orbited. Data collected from the mission will be shared with participating schools and other research organizations for analysis and contribution to the field of study. Research findings will be published in the Museum’s triannual Journal of Science Fiction.

Winners will be notified by email on May 9, 2016.
Awards will be made at Escape Velocity 2016 on Saturday, July 2, 2016.
Please email any questions to:

Questions | Responses | Additional Information

The CubeSat Competition deadlines have been extended. Please see above information for details.

Updates and Additional Information on: Facebook and Twitter

Registration Cost:  Free.

Registration Process:  Complete the registration form to obtain a registration number
anytime before 5pm EST on Friday, April 18, 2016.

Parental Consent Form: Click to download (if you are under 13 years old).

Press Release: Click to download.

Official Rules: Click to download.