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Space Exploration

UW Aero & Astro is advancing key elements of space exploration from design and construction to launch of CubeSats and sounding rockets, autonomous control and navigation, precision landing on lunar and Martian surfaces, rendezvous and docking, constellations and cooperative robotics. We are developing new materials for spacecraft structures, crucial mechanisms such as reusable landing gear based on principles of origami, better methods for space launches for both crewed and uncrewed missions, advanced propulsion systems for long-range spaceflight, and techniques to slow a spacecraft during reentry.

Award-winning student clubs

SEDS logo

SEDS: Students for the Exploration and Development of Space

SEDS is a national student organization that advocates for space exploration and development. Our UW SEDS chapter engages members with engineering challenges and competitions, space policy, and networking within the industry. We empower students to learn about space and engineer the solutions to reach it. 

Aeronautics & Astronautics CubeSat Team (AACT)

AACT is an organization of faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students working together to design, build and test CubeSats. Our mission is to teach students the fundamentals of space systems and provide a hands-on experience that complements academic work.


As UW's student-run rocketry organization, we design, construct, test, and launch a hybrid engine rocket from the ground up every year. We participate in the international Experimental Sounding Rocket Association’s (ERSA) Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC). In 2018, we placed first in the highest altitude category at 30,000 feet with a student-researched and designed propulsion system.

Research highlights

Danylo Malyuta standing next to a whiteboard

Updating Apollo 11

Researchers show us what we gain by applying optimization algorithms to the iconic mission.

James Koch

More efficient rockets

Ph.D. student James Koch's research on rotating detonation engines may aid in building cheaper, lighter spacecraft.

two students in a lab

Landing big on Mars

A&A is researching supersonic retropropulsion, a leading technique to slow down and land large spacecrafts on Mars.

Origami could soften space landings

A&A researchers have developed a novel solution, inspired by origami, to help reduce impact forces.

Award highlights

Carter Vu

A&A’s Carter Vu named 2020 Astronaut Scholar

Carter Vu was selected for the elite Astronaut Scholarship, established to support rising STEM leaders in the US.

satellites floating in space

A&A CubeSat secures exclusive NASA spot

A&A’s CubeSat Team, launched only in 2018, has secured one of only 18 spots for its “SOC-i” CubeSat in the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). 

A&A leads $1.2M NSF grant to advance autonomy through Mars missions insights

A research team spanning three universities led by A&A professor Behçet Açıkmeşe received a total of $1.2 million from the NSF.

SARP wins Spaceport America Cup

SARP, the UW rocketry team, clinched the top spot as the 2019 Judge’s Choice and Overall Winner with its hybrid rocket.

Related News

Chris Hayner

Tue, 05/23/2023

Chris Hayner awarded NASA NSTGRO Fellowship

A&A’s Chris Hayner awarded NASA fellowship to develop a trajectory planner for planetary landing missions.

Quentin Roberts

Wed, 05/03/2023

A&A’s Quentin Roberts places 2nd at AIAA competition

Quentin Roberts wins an AIAA second place for research on pre-ignition propellant mixing for an RDRE.

Starfish Otter pup in space

Wed, 05/03/2023

Tugs in space

A&A is working toward trajectory planning for precise space maneuvers with electric propulsion for Starfish Space.

Thomas Key headshot

Mon, 04/24/2023

Graduate student Thomas Key heads to Brazil with Boren Fellowship

A&A grad student Key will head to Brazil to work on small satellites to aid environmental conservation.