Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

About the Pioneer Cup

Student-developed and Built Vehicle Launches
Involves students in ‘real-world’ launch process

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – Amid victory yells a student-developed and built Pathfinder vehicle launched today from Launch Complex 47. A student team from Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech), with assistance from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), achieved the first student launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The students are involved in Florida’s Space Pioneer Cup, a university competition to launch a student-designed and built rocket into space.

“Hands on is always the best learning experience for the students,” said Rep. Thad Altman. “We are pleased with the potential career opportunities that this event will provide our next generation of space professionals.”

Chaired by Rep. Thad Altman, the Pioneer Cup advisory committee is composed of senior aerospace experts including retired NASA members Hugh Harris, Jim Harrington, and Bob Sieck, former 45th Space Wing commander Brig General Greg Pavlovich (USAF ret.), Range Safety Chief Engineer Pete Taddie, and Florida Space Authority Board of Supervisor Vice Chair Silas “Sy” Baker.

“Future plans for the Pioneer Cup include additional Florida universities in the competition and possibly growing to a national event,” said Glenn Vera, deputy director at the Florida Space Authority. The competition is co-sponsored by the Florida Space Authority and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing with funding from the Florida Department of Education. Expertise and launch support assistance is also provided by the Florida Space Grant Consortium and the Florida Space Institute.

The Florida Tech and ERAU students have developed and flown numerous test vehicles since last year’s competition announcement. The universities have also reached out to include high school and middle school students in their projects through tours, program briefings and participation in rocket design reviews.

The Florida Space Authority is working closely with 45th Space Wing Range Safety to develop a Pioneer Cup rulebook that details the critical design parameters and information student teams must supply to Safety in order to obtain acceptance for flight on the Eastern Range.

“We are excited to be involved in developing the next generation of rocket scientists and technicians,” said CAPT Winston Scott, executive director of the Florida Space Authority.

For further information on the Pioneer Cup competition contact Patrick McCarthy at

For more information about the Florida Space Authority, visit HYPERLINK ""

About the Florida Space Authority

Florida Space Authority provides economic development for Florida through space. Established in 1989 by Florida’s governor and legislature to support the retention, expansion and diversification of the state’s space-related industry; Florida Space Authority has generated more than $1 billion for Florida’s space-related businesses through technology, research, education, finance, tourism and launch. The Authority advances the state of space by helping space-related businesses, large and small, succeed in Florida.