Air Force Junior ROTC partners up with AFA for StellarXplorer competition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexa Culbert
  • 42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force Association is striving to increase participation in its third annual StellarXplorers competition this year by teaming up with the Air Force Junior ROTC headquarters. The new partnership will introduce the event to almost four times as many students compared to previous years.

The StellarXplorer competition is an AFA national high school space event designed to introduce youth to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

With the partnership, the competition is now open to more than 890 Junior ROTC units worldwide and up to 121,000 cadets. This year, the AFA hopes more than 100 teams will compete, greatly increasing participation in comparison to last year’s 27 teams.

With the greater participation Junior ROTC will bring also comes the possibility of a more diverse demographic of competitors. Junior ROTC is composed of 58 percent minority and 38 percent female cadets.

Col. Bobby Woods, the Holm Center Junior ROTC commander, said the competition fits well with the aviation and STEM curriculum they are already teaching.

“It is incredibly impactful when you go out and talk to these kids and just see how smart, bright and capable they are, and all they are looking for is an opportunity and the StellarXplorer is a great example of those opportunities that are out there,” Woods said.

The students will be given access to college-level online textbooks and material on space operations to prepare them for the competition. The scenario problems involve either placing a satellite into a specific orbit, designing a satellite with a specific capability or launching a satellite on a specific launch vehicle.

A free download computer simulation program, Systems Tool Kit, allows the teams to compete from their home bases until the national finals round takes place in Colorado.

The competition consists of three phases conducted virtually from the team’s home bases. The first phase is the qualification phase, which consists of two rounds. Each round consists of a scenario problem and a 20-question, open-book quiz. The top 30 percent of the teams will progress to the semifinals round, where they must complete a six-hour scenario problem. Teams that do not qualify for the semifinals round will finish the prestige round. The top 10 teams will then advance to the national finals competition in Colorado, with all travel expenses paid.

The registration fee is $200; however, the fee is waived for all schools and Junior ROTC units that fall under the Title 1, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools.

In other ways to lessen the financial burden of participating, Woods said that Junior ROTC has set aside funds to support 50 non-Title 1 schools and units.

Registration began May 1 and ends October 15. For more information, visit