Contest Overview

The American Rocketry Challenge is the world’s largest rocket contest with nearly 5,000 students nationwide competing each year. The contest gives middle and high school students the opportunity to design, build and launch model rockets and hands-on experience solving engineering problems.

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Important Dates

  • 09.01.19

    2020 Registration Opens

    The start of rocketry season! Get your team of 3-10 students together to design, build, and launch your own model rocket.

  • 12.13.19

    2020 Registration Closes

    The last chance to register and compete in the world’s largest (and greatest) rocket contest!

  • 04.06.20

    Qualifications Scores Due

    Submit your three official qualification flight scores in the Rocket Contest portal. Qualification flights must be witnessed by an official NAR observer. No pressure.

  • 04.10.20

    2020 Finalists Announced

    The top 100 teams in the country find out if they’re punching their tickets to our nation’s capital.

  • 05.15.20

    Rockets on the Hill

    National Finalists spend the day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. showing off their hard work to members of Congress.

  • 05.16.20

    2020 National Finals

    The best day of the year. The top 100 teams compete Great Meadow Foundation outside Washington, D.C. to take home the American Rocketry Challenge crown.

Let's Talk Prizes

Teams that qualify for the American Rocketry Challenge National Finals in May have the chance to win a part of over $100,000 in prizes! The top 25 teams each year receive an invitation to compete in NASA’s Student Launch Initiative. The top team from the National Finals goes on to represent the United States in the International Rocketry Challenge, hosted this year at the Farnborough Air Show in London, England.

Find A Mentor

New to rocketry? Our nationwide network of official mentors can teach you everything you need to know about rocketry! From design and build specifications, to a list of supplies and the perfect launch site, these rocketry experts are here to help your team go from rocketry rookies to rocket scientists. Find out if there’s a mentor near your area today!

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The American Rocketry Challenge provides me the opportunity to give my students an endeavor that fosters curiosity, imagination, and scientific skills in the firmest spirit of collaborative enterprise.

Greg Severino, Teacher
Philadelphia, PA

The American Rocketry Challenge allows me to engage and participate in a nationwide competition while learning and having fun with people that have similar likes and talents.

Kyra Wagner, Team Captain
Webster City, IA

TARC introduces students to the realities of the real world engineering pursuits, teaching them to attack not just the solvable problems but also face and learn how to mitigate the factors that they do not have control over.

Pavel Pinkas, Mentor
Madison, WI

Frequently Asked Questions See All FAQs

Can you describe the 2020 contest in a nutshell?

  • Submit an application for a team of three to ten students (grades 6-12) on or before December 1, 2019.
  • Build a model rocket that carries one raw hen egg to an altitude of 800ft, stays airborne for between 40 and 43 seconds, and returns the rocket to the ground safely. The eggs and altimeter must be carried in a capsule that separates from the rest of the rocket and recovers together using one or more parachutes.
  • The rocket must have a gross liftoff weight of no more than 650 grams, a minimum length of at least 650 millimeters, and be powered by commercial rocket motor(s) of class “F” or smaller with no more than 80 N-sec of total impulse across all motors.
  • Fly your rocket in front of an observer from the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) for an official qualification score between September 1, 2019 and April 6, 2020.
  • If your score from the sum of two flights is one of the 101 best, you will be invited to compete for a share of the $100,000 prize package in a national fly-off on May 16, 2020.

Can team members be changed at a later date?

Yes, but they cannot be added after the team’s first qualification attempt. The only exception to this is that if a school has more than three teams that have qualification scores better than the national selection cutoff score for the Finals, membership of the three teams from that school that are invited to the Finals may be adjusted to include students from other teams with qualification scores better than the cutoff (within the limit of ten students per team).  You can drop a team member at any point.

What is the date of the National Finals this year and where will it take place?

  • The official date is Saturday, May 16, 2020 at Great Meadow in The Plains, VA, about 50 miles west of Washington, DC. The rain date will be Sunday, May 17, 2020

How did the winning teams prepare for previous competitions?

They got started early and they worked at the project steadily all year—time management is key! They flew lots of practice flights–in all weather conditions. They gathered a lot of data about how the weather, wind, and other factors affected each flight. They solicited help from local or online NAR mentors. They assigned specific responsibilities to each team member. They had great supervisors and most importantly, they had fun and never gave up.

What happens when we win?

After official qualification flights are submitted, the top 100 teams are invited to attend the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

Teams competing at the Final Fly-Off look to capture their share of over $100,000 in cash prizes. There are also special awards for activities throughout the day.

The team that places first at the National Finals wins an all-expenses-paid trip to represent the United States in the International Rocketry Challenge, hosted at the Farnborough Air Show in London, England in July 2020. The United States Rocketry Team competes against the winning teams from Japan, the United Kingdom, and France.


925 teams from 47 states and territories are competing in the American Rocketry Challenge in 2020- the MOST in contest history! Take a look at the teams competing this year.

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Marketing Competition

A 101st spot at the National Finals and other incredible prizes will be awarded to the team that creates the best video based on Strength of Message, Creativity, and Editing and Technical Skills. All entries are due via email no later than Sunday, March 22.

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Engineering Notebook Competition

A prize will be awarded at the National Finals to a team that skillfully crafts an engineering notebook that documents their design cycle for The American Rocketry Challenge. Every team is eligible to submit an engineering notebook and win this prize, regardless of whether it is selected as a national finalist.

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Get in Touch

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