The Student Astronaut Challenge is an aerospace-related High school and Middle school STEM competition. Student teams of five initially participate in a test based run-off competition. The top fifteen High school and the top fifteen Middle school teams then compete in a four event final competition that is held annually at the Kennedy Space Center.
Event One: - Space Flight Simulation Challenge: three rounds (including a semi-final and final) where teams are required to perform the pre-flight operation, launch, orbit and landing of the Space Shuttle Enterprise flight simulator and the operation and responsibilities of the mission control team. During the semi-final and final rounds, students are provided with in-flight emergencies that must be managed to safely complete their mission.
Event Two - Engineering Challenge: a hands-on challenge where students are provided an aerospace related problem. Working as two teams – mission control and Skylab flight crew - they are required to use teamwork and collaboration to solve a series of challenges and reach a solution.
Event Three - Design Challenge (previously known as the Lab Challenge): a physical design challenge to solve a specific space-related issue. Teams submit a typed design proposal due approximately 2 weeks before the finals competition and present their solution, including a prototype model, to a team of judges during the competition.
Event Four - Landing Simulation Challenge: two rounds (including run-offs and finals) where team members work in pairs to perform one of three types of landings of the Space Shuttle Enterprise flight simulator and the operation and responsibilities of the mission control team.
Event Five - Patch Design Challenge: a design challenge to create a team flight patch related to a specific space-related theme. Teams will submit a color drawing of their patch along with a typed design description due approximately 2 weeks before the finals competition. The patch design will be judged based on NASA's mission flight patch criteria and its relevance to the theme.
When the finalists are selected, a school representative (coach) is required to come to a free three day training session in Tallahassee, Florida. This coach training, held in October, focuses on how to prepare the students for all four events including the space flight simulation. Team members are not permitted to attend coach training and the coach is responsible for all costs to attend the training.
The run-off competition:
The final competition: