NASA Selects University Nanosatellite Program Summer Series Winners

A pair of students install a solar array panel during the flight assembly of LightCube.
A pair of students from Arizona State University install a solar array panel during the flight assembly of LightCube. From left to right: David Ordaz Perez and Chandler Hutchens. Image courtesy of Jaime Sanchez de la Vega.

NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) has partnered with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force to select eight schools for the University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) Mission Concepts-1: 2023 Summer Series. Running from May through August, the program provides students with systems engineering training, preparing them to work in the space industry while simultaneously enhancing small satellite expertise among faculty at U.S. universities.

A total of 21 universities applied for this year’s UNP Mission Concepts-1 Summer Series. Proposals were reviewed by a mix of NASA, Air Force, and contractor personnel who selected universities based on the educational impact, university program impact/development, minority outreach/support, and NASA/Department of Defense relevance. This year’s selections are:

  • Florida Institute of Technology – Melbourne, Florida
  • University of the Virgin Islands – U.S. Virgin Islands
  • University of South Florida – Tampa, Florida
  • University of New Mexico – Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology – Rolla, Missouri
  • New Mexico State University – Las Cruces, New Mexico
  • Columbia University – New York City, New York
  • Tarleton State University – Stephenville, Texas

Of this year’s awardees, one is a historically Black university, marking the first time a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) has won a UNP competition and the second time in 12 years a HBCU has won a CSLI competition. Two other awardees are Hispanic serving institutions. The teams will meet at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-day kickoff meeting in May, followed by a month-long stay at the Air Force’s UNP facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico in June, where four students will be hired as interns with the Space Dynamics Laboratory.

After spending one month in New Mexico, they will return to their university for the following month where throughout the summer they and other participating students will take part in educational workshops and exercises. The students will be seated near SmallSats experts for continuous feedback and guidance to help improve university proposals and increase those teams’ potential of being selected to fly to space as part of NASA’s CSLI and the U.S. Air Force UNP. Both CSLI and UNP will make their selections for future flights in 2024.

Final presentations will take place in Albuquerque and although not required, participants are encouraged to also attend the Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah. The program provides funding for all travel – including kickoff, final event, and in-person reviews – allowing faculty and students to formulate teams without straining university resources.

CSLI is one of many ways NASA is attracting and retaining students in STEM disciplines. This strengthens NASA’s and the nation’s future workforce. Further, the initiative promotes and develops innovative technology partnerships among NASA, U.S. industry, and other sectors for the benefit of agency programs and projects.

For more information about NASA’s CSLI, visit: