AFA StellarXplorers Space STEM Program is an education initiative established by AFA consisting of the StellarXplorers National Space Design Competition and StellarCamps that aim to inspire students toward futures in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The StellarXplorers Space STEM Program, created by the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA), inspires K-12 students toward careers in aerospace, aviation, and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.

Please see our different program offerings below.

The StellarXplorers National Space Design Competition

The StellarXplorers National Space Design Competition provides specific training in the use of system simulation software, Systems Tool Kit (STK), as well as an online textbook as a curriculum supplement and study resource for online “team” quizzes given during the competition. The actual competition is accomplished from the team’s home location. Teams are given a scenario describing the system’s mission and constraints and they provide a solution to a typical space design problem, such as orbit determination, satellite component selection, and launch vehicle planning.

Practice Rounds begin in October, and Qualification Rounds begin in November. Performances of teams during the Qualifying Rounds determine which teams advance to the Semi-Finals in February. The top 10 teams from the Semi-Finals receive an all-expense-paid trip to the National Finals.


StellarCamp is a fun space system design camp for 6th through 12th graders. Participants get to learn about aspects of space system design with no prior experience required.

How is StellarCamp different from the StellarXplorers National Space System Design competition?

StellarCamp is over the course of 5 days, and there is a practice competition on the 5th day. Participating in a StellarCamp is not required to participate as a StellarXplorers competitor, but it serves as a great introduction to STK and knowledge that would be useful to know if participants decide to compete when the school year begins. Additionally, those who participate in StellarCamps are not required to compete in StellarXplorers the following competition season.

Our Mission

Working in partnership with leaders in the U.S. space industry, space-focused academia, and government entities, the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA) developed the StellarXplorers Program to inspire students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers through an exciting space-focused competition.

Our Vision

Through StellarXplorers, we are cultivating the leaders in STEM with strong moral character, leading the way to space and beyond.

Our Core Values

  • Integrity. The foundations of the competition are the honesty and ethics of all those involved in the program, especially in the absence of supervision.
  • Service. The spirit of the competition is dependent on the ethos of “service before self.” All adults must put competitor well-being and education ahead of their own in throughout all StellarXplorers-related activities.
  • Excellence. The competition pushes Competitors to achieve their best, both during and beyond their participation.

Our Purpose

StellarXplorers welcomes those who are interested in space, no matter what level of experience, as a place to share thoughts, ideas, and experiences with others who share a similar passion for problem-solving, team collaboration, and space system design. StellarXplorers provides students with leadership opportunities and mentors other students in science, technology, engineering, math, and organization management. StellarXplorers gives members insight into the space industry and cultivates relationships between students and professionals.

Eligibility & Equal Opportunities

Participation in StellarXplorers will not be restricted on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, experience, gender identity, gender expression, or sex.