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NEWS | July 13, 2022

NRL, Aerospace Industry Hosts 18th Annual CanSat Student Challenge

By Samina Mondal, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

After countless hours of preparation, flight testing, and launching, 23 student teams from universities and colleges around the world participated in the CanSat Aerospace Competition at ​​Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia, June 11-12, 2022.

Since 2005, the CanSat Competition, organized by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) alongside the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), has organized an annual student design-build-launch competition for space-related topics. Although similar competitions exist for other fields of engineering (robots, radio-control airplanes, racing cars, etc.), most space-related competitions are paper design competitions. Throughout the past years, NRL has been devoted to supporting CanSat in its efforts to further student’s aerospace exploration through the development of aeronautical exploration and STEM education.

This year’s competition tasked teams to design a CanSat consisting of a container and a payload, that teams designed around the structure of a container by a 10-meter long tether. Once the CanSat deployed from the rocket, it was to demonstrate the ability to descend at a rate of 15 m/s using a parachute. During that time, the payload must have maintained the orientation of a video camera pointing in the south direction and 45 degrees downward to ensure terrain was in the frame.

Ivan Galysh, Section Head of NRL’s Digital Signal Processing Section of the Precise Navigation and Timing Branch, CanSat competition director, recounted being impressed by the teams’, “documentation provided displaying a very detailed outline of their payload. This truly shows that they have dedicated themselves and their skills to a successful launch.”

Throughout the second day of the competition, students gathered around the Kentland Farm of Virginia Tech to place the final touches on their models. On launch day, tensions were high amongst teams as they eagerly anticipated a successful deployment. University of Alabama at Huntsville’s leader of Team Star Saber, Tristan McGinnis, explained his team’s desire to not only execute a successful launch, but utilize their time at CanSat to enjoy collaborating and learning with one another.

“As a computer science major, I initially came into the competition wanting to engage in programming the payload. But along the way, hurdle after hurdle, I found myself engaging in different forms from aerospace to electrical engineering. It is such a well-rounded project,” said McGinnis, who indicated his team is looking forward to participating in the competition again next year.

After a full day of launching rockets for 23 present teams, first place in the 2022 CanSat competition went to Team Descendere of Assumption College, Bangkok, Thailand. The remaining winners were:
  • Second place - Team PWr Aerospace Team of Wroclaw University of Science and Technology Poland, Wroclaw, Poland
  • Third place - Team Bamantara EEPISAT of Politeknik Elektronika Negeri, Surabaya, Indonesia
  • Fourth place to Team Heriot Watt CanSat of Heriot-Watt University, UK, Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Fifth place to Team Soton CanSat of University of Southampton, UK, Southampton, United Kingdom.Jim Way, executive director of the American Aeronautical

Society, emphasized the importance of CanSat facilitating student’s ability to interact with like-minded peers from across the world. He noted how the teams came together to express their love of science, and feel a sense of pride in their hard work.

“It is a phenomenal competition for aspiring aerospace professionals – truly the closest you can get to a realistic project for their future careers in the field,” said Way.
NRL’s continued investment within CanSat is representative of its current and future Department of the Navy workforce, which enhances the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to meet present and future war-fighting challenges. NRL science, technology, engineering, and mathematics serves to inspire, engage, and educate the next generation of aeronautical scientists and engineers.

If you are interested in participating in CanSat or are a government agency looking to support the next annual competition, please log onto: or contact NRL Corporate Communications at (202) 480-3746 or

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C. with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Key West, Florida; Monterey, California, and employs approximately 3,000 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.

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