Princeton Rocketry Club to Launch First Student Rocket into Outer Space

Wednesday, May 23, 2018
by Ian D. Deas

Several members of the Princeton Rocketry Club are traveling to New Mexico to launch what will be, if successful, the first rocket built by college students to ever reach outer space. Over the course of the year, the SpaceShot team of the Princeton Rocketry Club spent thousands of hours designing, building, and testing their rocket which will reach outer space, defined at 100 km altitude. The SpaceShot team is made up of just two members: project manager Saad Mirza ’21 and chief engineer Coleman Merchant ’19.

The design started with months of research into NASA sounding rocket designs. Professor Luigi Martinelli, professor of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering said “the students’ rocket is, to my knowledge, the smallest rocket that has ever been built that is capable of reaching outer space. We are very proud of the students for this fantastic achievement. Building and flying a real rocket provides experience that cannot be duplicated in the classroom.” With the help of world class faculty and labs, the Princeton Rocketry Club worked with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation and White Sands Missile Range to successfully obtain federal authorization to launch into outer space. Students will launch from Spaceport America, an FAA-licensed space launch facility located in New Mexico. Students have the opportunity to interact with the commercial space launch facility, furthering their opportunities to make an impact on the world through future breakthroughs in the aerospace industry. Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks said, “We are very proud of the Princeton SpaceShot team’s attempt to reach space. These students have a very bright future in the rapidly expanding space industry. I’m sure some of them will help take us to Mars and beyond.” 

If successful, this will make Princeton the first university to reach outer space. Over the last several years, other schools have been racing to the Karman line, which at 100 kilometers, is the internationally accepted definition of outer space. Other schools that have been working to launch rockets past the Karman line include the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, Georgia Tech, and Boston University. Dean Dunne, Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students, said, “the rocket launch is a stellar example of how undergraduates move ideas from the academic to co-curricular sphere. In a moment of full disclosure, when I first heard this idea, I said to a colleague “this will never happen.” It seemed too audacious a project—I recall the ordering of hazardous materials being part of the discussion. I’m so pleased to have been proven (emphatically) wrong; it’s inspiring to work at a place where students dream big dreams and then put forth the sustained effort to bring ideas into action. It’s a case study on how learning can and should happen everywhere at Princeton.”

Thank you to our corporate donors for making this project possible: Micro-Vu Inc., SolEpoxy Inc., Blue Origin, Norman R. Augustine '57, and the Cutco Corporation.

The launch is scheduled for Sunday, May 27th at 10AM EST and will be streamed live at

Additional information on the Princeton SpaceShot Project is located here: