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World's Largest Rocket Contest Fuels STEM Careers in Milestone Year

ARLINGTON, Va.––The 2017 Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) – the world’s largest rocket contest – is underway with nearly 5,000 middle and high school students registered for the 15th anniversary of the celebrated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) contest. These students join a total of nearly 65,000 young rocketeers who have designed, built and launched their own rockets over the program’s proud history. Over the next two months, they will vie for a coveted spot in the TARC National Finals on May 12 and 13 outside of Washington, D.C.

“The amazing growth of TARC over the past 15 years has truly been special,” said David F. Melcher, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). “We’re looking at the next generation of engineers and scientists of the aerospace and defense industry, and it’s clear we have a bright future ahead of us.”

TARC’s organizers, AIA and the National Association of Rocketry, expect more than 800 teams from 46 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands to participate in the qualifying round of the competition. 100 teams will advance to the finals and the national champions will travel to France in June to compete against the top student rocketry teams from the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

This year’s challenge requires rockets to incorporate a transition piece to join two different body tube diameters, a new twist that has inspired some teams to manufacture 3-D printed parts.

This raises the stakes for the delicate yet daunting task of building a rocket that will not weigh more than 650 grams, including the raw egg it must carry safely from launch to landing without being damaged. Add to that the rigorous flight parameters: rockets must hit the precise altitude of 775 feet and return within a duration window of 41-43 seconds. Damaged or cracked eggs result in disqualification.

“The program aims to develop the technical precision and soft skills needed to succeed in the aerospace industry,” explained Miles Lifson, manager of the TARC Program. “Through TARC, students gain the experiences to prepare them for high-demand, high-paying careers.”

Although intended as a one-time celebration of the Centennial of Flight, TARC’s popularity prompted a call for the challenge to continue. As the program has grown, so too have its prizes. This year, participating teams are competing for scholarships and prizes totaling more than $100,000.

A diverse array of teams, both in terms of experience and cultural backgrounds, will participate in the 15th annual Team America Rocketry Challenge. More than 45 first-time TARC teams join seasoned competitors and more than 30 all-girl teams. Additionally, the teams face unique challenges: one team from Alaska launches rockets in sub-zero-degree temperatures, while another team from a border town in Texas occasionally has rockets land in Mexico on windy days.

For more information about the Team America Rocketry Challenge, please visit TARC is made possible by the generous support of our industry sponsors listed below. If your company or organization is interested in becoming a TARC sponsor or partner, please contact us at

Diamond Sponsor: The Raytheon Company

Platinum Sponsors: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Thales USA, Inc.

Gold Sponsors: The Boeing Company, Elbit Systems of America

Silver Sponsors:  Accenture, Aurora Flight Sciences, Click Bond, Inc., Computer Sciences Corporation, Cubic Corporation, Embraer Aircraft Holding, Inc., General Electric Aviation, Harris Corporation, Honeywell Aerospace, Iron Mountain, Kaman Aerospace Corporation, L3 Communications Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Rockwell Collins, Rolls Royce North America, Inc., Woodward Inc.


CONTACT:  Lawrence Mason III
(703) 358-1044

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1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1700, Arlington, VA 22209   (703) 358-1000


Founded in 1919 shortly after the birth of flight, the Aerospace Industries Association is the most authoritative and influential trade association representing the nation’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of civil, military and business aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aircraft systems, space systems, aircraft engines, homeland and cybersecurity systems, materiel and related components, equipment services and information technology.