Design/Build/Launch Competition

BlueOrigin NewShepard M7 Launch

Credit: Blue Origin

AIAA and Blue Origin are excited to partner our program competition titled Design/Build/Launch (DBL).  DBL was created to incite innovation within the next generation of aerospace professionals. Focused on experimental payloads designed to study short-duration microgravity effects, AIAA invites high school students to develop creative research proposals in the fields of microgravity science or space technology, pairing your experiment with a public outreach plan to share the excitement of the field with others.  

The top proposal will receive a free spaceflight for your payload on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket and an $1,000 grant to prepare and develop your experiment for your flight.

AIAA and Blue Origin representatives will judge the submitted proposals on the basis of scientific/technical merit, outreach creativity, and feasibility.  The winning payload is expected to fly on New Shepard the following year. Post flight, the students will be invited to be recognized at an AIAA Forum and have the opportunity to deliver their final report in a public forum.


Sign up for updates

Credit: Blue Origin

The 2021 Competition
  • Webinar: April 1, 2021
     Watch On-demand
  • Proposals Due: May 1, 2021
  • Winning Team
    • Puneeth Bheesetty; Team Leader
    • Anna Porter Puckett
    • Jaden Shawyer
  • Final Report Presentation at ASCEND: November 2022 (for the 2021 winner) and November 2021 (for the 2020 winner)
  • Experiment Flies: TBD


Credit: Blue Origin


Credit: Blue Origin

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Who can enter?
All active high school students, between 9th and 12th grade (or equivalent homeschooling levels). Multiple students and/or advisors may collaborate on a single proposal, but a single lead advisor must be named to receive the payload development award.  The competition is open to both U.S. and international students (except embargoed countries).

2. What role does the faculty mentor play?
Faculty Mentor and Institution agree to Blue Origin’s standard Payload NDA and New Shepard Launch Services Contract Terms and Conditions, including a cross waiver of liability.

3. What should I include in the proposal?
A successful proposal will include all four required proposal elements, collected into a single PDF no longer than 9 pages total:
i)  Signature form (1-2 pages): includes basic information about the proposal team and faculty mentor
ii) Research and Outreach Proposal (Up to 3 pages): details your proposed research and outreach plan. This should explain to evaluators the big picture value of your proposal (Why?), your scientific/technical objectives (What?), and your implementation strategy (How?). Include research objectives, hypothesis, data collection strategies, the design of your experiment, and the justification for using suborbital flight to meet your objectives. 
iii)  Budget (1-2 pages): Outlines the materials and/or services you intend to purchase with your $1000 development award and any matching funds.  Wherever possible, prices should be backed up with quotes or other justification.  All hardware development, fabrication, and testing are the responsibility of the proposal team and should be included, as should any associated travel expenses.
iv)  Schedule (1-2 pages): In your format of choice, show your path from award to flight. 
v)   Use single-spaced, single column Times New Roman Western Font size 12, and at least 1 inch margins on all sides. English language text.
No supplementary materials will be accepted, and over-length proposals may not be considered for review.

4. What is cost sharing?
Proposals that leverage co-funding (e.g., PTAs, professional societies, local businesses, etc.), overhead waivers, student fundraising, hardware loans, or other forms of investment to maximize the impact of their research and outreach will be favorably reviewed. Such cost sharing should be explicitly called out in the budget.

5. What is awarded to the winner?
The winning proposal, via the Faculty Mentor and Institution, will receive:
i)  A pre-paid Educational Mini-Payload slot for the proposed payload on a future flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard  vehicle (paid by AIAA, and contracted with the Institution);
ii)  A $1,000 discretionary award, intended for payload hardware development, research materials, and travel in support of this experiment; and
iii)  An invitation to present the project at an AIAA Forum, post flight. 

The Experiment
6. Can you provide some examples of experiments?
Experiments should include specific science and/or engineering principles that support future living and working in space. For example:  How do you make food in space? How do you manage liquids in space habitats?  How would you make new microgravity materials?  

The Flight
7. What is the flight profile for this research mission?
Blue Origin’s New Shepard launch vehicle carries payloads on a suborbital mission in a pressurized capsule that provides a shirt-sleeve environment. With an apogee of around 100 km, payloads experience about three minutes of microgravity before returning to the launch site. The total mission lasts approximately 11 minutes. A detailed Payload User’s Guide with flight environments and operational details is available via email to

8. What is the payload design envelope?
Each payload should contain a single autonomous experiment (multiple samples are welcome).  Payloads should have external dimensions of 4x4x8 in (~10x10x20 cm), and a total mass of no more than 1.1 pounds (500 grams). 5V of 0.9A power is provided via a single USB connector from about 5 minutes before liftoff through about 5 minutes after landing. Experiments are welcome to use existing hardware, purchase commercial systems, or develop their own in accordance with the Blue Origin Payload User’s Guide and guidance provided during payload development and safety reviews.

9. What other constraints should I take into account
Payloads should contain no significant hazards (chemical, biological, stored energy, or RF transmitters). Up to 50 mL of non-hazardous liquids may be included in two levels of containment. Designs should be flexible to re-orientation. Operationally, student payloads will typically be shipped to Texas at least 2 weeks before flight, loaded into the rocket ~4 days before flight, and removed ~8 hours after flight. All payloads are subject to the Blue Origin Payload User’s Guide and standard terms and conditions. Questions may be addressed to

10. What is the process for getting ready for flight?
To be approved for a flight on the New Shepard vehicle, payloads must pass through a three-stage review process with Blue Origin, outlining first the design intent and constraints of the payload, then the safety concerns and mitigations of the design, and finally the launch readiness of the as-built system. The winning student team will be responsible for working their payload through this review process with Blue Origin.

11. When and where will the flight take place?  Can I watch?
Blue Origin’s West Texas Launch Site is located about two hours east of El Paso, near the town of Van Horn, Texas.  On site viewing is not available, but teams are welcome to watch the flight from a nearby viewing location.  NOTE: travel expenses are the responsibility of the research team, but may be included in the proposal budget as cost-sharing.

Students do not need to be AIAA members to participate in the Competition but are encouraged to join. Please go into the registration site to create a a new account that will be required to open the proposal application form.


All proposals are due May 1 at 12:00 midnight EST. Proposals submitted earlier than May 1 may be modified and edited until the May 1 deadline. You must use the “Save and Finalize” button when the application is complete and no edits are needed.


For more information about Blue Origin please visit:

Please use the following hashtags when posting on social media:

Twitter and Instagram: @AIAA and @BlueOrigin
#NewShepard #AiaaSTEM