Terms & conditions

Competition details

Before you apply

  • Read through this Nanosat Design Competition website to familiarise yourself with the competition. Check you meet the entry criteria, and you understand what’s involved, dates you need to be aware of and what’s expected from you.
  • Sign up to attend our online panel and Q&A event taking place at 7 pm on 11 November 2021. Learn more about the virtual event here.

Submitting your application

Entry criteria

  • You can enter the competition either as an individual applicant or as a team. Each team can consist of no more than 10 people.
  • The competition is open for UK residents or citizens and students who are studying at a registered UK place of study. 
  • You must be 16 or over when the competition opens and either: 
    • in full or part-time education (including apprenticeships). 
    • in employment or currently not working. However, if you are currently employed, or have previously been employed, in a spaceflight-related organisation, you must have no more than two years’ work experience at the point of the entry deadline. 
  • Individuals employed by UKSA may not enter the competition. 

These criteria apply to all individual applicants or members of a team, and must be correct at time of the competition closure date. We accept that after submission, team composition may change as well as the personal circumstances of applicants such as place of study. Should their eligibility requirements change, applicants will be required to inform us as soon as possible and we have the right to ‘remove’ them from the competition. 

Entry rules

Competition entrants must abide by, and be aware of the following:

  • Applicants must disclose any prior work conducted on their design at entry. The organisers of the competition may (if they feel the need) seek references from previous employment and/or seek further details regarding the extent of previous work. 
  • Applicants must disclose any industry input or expert advice received on their design at entry. The organisers of the competition may (if they feel the need) seek references from individuals who have provided previous support to an entrant. 
  • Applicants may only submit one entry. This applies to both individual entries and team entries. For example, individuals in a team cannot submit an additional application, either as part of another team, or as an individual applicant.

Key dates

29 October 2021: Competition opens

9 November 2021: LaunchUK Nanosat Design Competition launch event with Q&A

  • Join our team for this virtual event to hear your complete competition guide from our panel of inspirational experts and speakers, and to pose your questions about entering the competition. Learn more about the virtual event here.

7 January 2022: Applications due

  • Your full application is required at this stage. The application will represent a “light” version of what would be expected in a Preliminary Requirements Review for a typical space mission. This will include:
    • Management, engineering, and product assurance plans.
    • Technical requirements specification.
    • Technical and programmatic feasibility of the system concept.
    • System and operations concept and technical solutions, including model philosophy and verification approach, to be carried forward into Phase B.
  • The application form is designed to help you understand what is needed for a Preliminary Requirements Review.  Additional support can be found in the supporting resources document. You can obtain both the application form and resources document by registering here.

15 January 2022: Shortlisting

  • All applications will be reviewed by the competition organisers. Keep a look out for an email from the team to let you know whether your entry has or hasn’t been successful around 15 January 2022.

March 2022: UK Space Agency review

  • At this stage of the competition, we will arrange for the shortlisted entrants to have a half-day presentation in front of the UKSA review board to simulate a Systems Requirements Review for a typical space mission. You will share:
    • Updated technical requirements specifications.
    • Preliminary Design Definition and Preliminary Verification Programme.
  • The UKSA review board will provide valuable advice and support to steer you towards a successful Preliminary Design Review.

April 2022: Preliminary Design Review

  • Here you will submit your Preliminary Design Review Package, which should include:
    • Preliminary design of the selected concept and technical solutions against project and system requirements.
    • Final management, engineering, and product assurance plans.
    • Product tree, work breakdown structure, and specification tree.
    • Verification plan (including model philosophy).

May 2022: Competition entries judged

  • Winners will be announced, paired up with additional mentoring support, and begin building their satellites with up to £600k prize funding.

Summer 2022: Awards ceremony

  • Watch this space! More details to be announced soon.

What is expected from you?

We are looking for enthusiastic participants for the competition. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, where winners have the potential to build a launch-ready satellite.

To start, you will need to register for the competition by clicking the “Register Now” button. You will be asked to complete a web form. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you will need to get permission to register by providing contact information for a parent or guardian. Once registered, you will have access to download the application form, parental/guardian consent form, and a resource list to help you fill out the application. 

Next, you will need to fill out an application as an individual or a team. We expect your application to take between 20 and 40 hours to formulate your ideas. You should then submit your application by clicking the “Submit Application” button. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you will need to submit signed parental/guardian forms as well. 

If you are shortlisted, between January and May 2022, you will need to commit from 10 to 20 hours per week to develop your ideas. You will be expected to virtually meet, talk and check-in with your space industry mentors weekly. 

Around March/April 2022, participants will need to attend a half-day review meeting with the UK Space Agency, where you will be provided with further guidance in preparation for your final submission. 

In May 2022, you will be expected to deliver a final submission to the competition organisers. It is possible that you may be asked some questions via email during the judging phase, which will take place over a period of 2 weeks, so please be available to answer questions quickly. All shortlisted participants will be invited to attend an awards ceremony either in person or remotely. 

If you are selected as a winner, you will be receiving part of a £600k prize fund that will need to be spent to turn your satellite design into satellite reality. From June 2022 through July 2023, you will be working with mentors weekly to spend this funding on the build of a launch-ready satellite.  We estimate you will be working between 10 and 20 hours per week throughout this phase.

High-level design requirements

Applicants will be asked to design an Earth-orbiting satellite with the following high-level requirements:

  • Mass: 1-10kg
  • Orbit: Polar (LEO)
  • Science objectives: support informing climate change and decarbonisation efforts of the UK
  • Launch: from the UK
  • Data collection: 3 months minimum

Judging criteria

Entries will be judged on their demonstration of the project, customer and technical criteria. These will need to be considered and met within your idea and design. Judging criteria will be used at the Preliminary Design Review stage.

Project criteria

  • Is there a clearly defined implementation plan (cost, schedule, resources, team)?
  • Has cost contingency been included?
  • Has schedule slack been included?
  • Has a risk register and mitigation plan been included?
  • Have full life-cycle costs been considered in the proposal (design, build, test, operations, end-of-life, post-mission)?
  • Have the appropriate regulatory agencies (e.g. Ofcom, UK Space Agency, Civil Aviation Authority) been consulted and worked into the project plan?
  • Have licensing requirements been addressed?
  • Have insurance needs been considered?

Customer criteria

  • Have end users and customers of the data to be captured been outlined and their needs considered?
  • Does the project inform/provide innovative solutions to support the UK’s climate change or decarbonisation efforts? (Please note innovation is a broad term and can apply to any aspect of the nanosat design including, but not limited to, the payload, bus, subsystems, ground systems, software, data capture, or analytics).
  • Does the proposed project provide a data stream that meets the need of actors seeking to address climate change (for example, climate scientists, companies seeking to reduce their emissions, governments seeking to inform policy, advocacy groups, educators)?
  • Have potential UK launch providers been considered?
  • Does the proposal show good value for money?
  • Have primarily UK providers been considered for nanosat systems, subsystems, testing, components, or services?

Technical criteria

  • Have orbital requirements been understood and taken into consideration in the design?
  • Have end-of-life requirements (for example, de-orbit) been addressed?
  • Is the payload and its sensors clearly defined and achievable?
  • Is the bus architecture clearly defined and achievable?
  • Is the power subsystem clearly defined and achievable?
  • Is the on-board computer architecture clearly defined and achievable?
  • Is the communications subsystem clearly defined and achievable?
  • Is the attitude determination and control subsystem clearly defined and achievable?
  • Has the thermal design of the satellite been considered?
  • Is the structural subsystem clearly defined and achievable?
  • Has a bill of materials been provided that has sensible costs and lead times?
  • Has the project team coordinated with their launch / deployer integration partner and ensured their design is compatible with mechanical and electrical interface points?
  • Is the ground system well defined and telecommunication relay partners identified?
  • Has an operations plan with potential operation partnerships been developed and are the plans achievable?
  • Has a data storage and analysis plan been developed and is it achievable?
  • Does a power budget exist and is it achievable?
  • Does a mass budget exist and is the satellite mass within the limits of the competition?
  • Has an integration, test, and qualification plan been developed along with identifying appropriate testing facilities (for example, vibration, thermal vacuum, radiation, etc.) required?
  • Have options for redundancy within the satellite been considered?
  • Has an on-board health monitoring and anomaly detection plan been developed and is it achievable?
  • Has spectrum management been considered and appropriate discussions and/or considerations with Ofcom been had?


Funding level and duration of funding

If successful and selected by the judges, winners will receive an allocation of the £600k funding to support building a launch-ready nanosat. Funding will be used until June 2023.

The prize fund cannot be used for renumeration of time for competitors. For example, this provision means the prize fund may not be used for team member salaries.


Within the funding received to build your nanosat, you will need to allocate funding to cover all development expenses and travel costs in relation to the project.

The prize money is not to be used for third-party liability insurance nor launch vehicle costs. It is possible that both of these costs may be covered by other means outside the scope of the competition.

Benefits and support


There are two-stages of mentoring during the competition:

  • 15 January 2022 to 18 April 2022 – Light touch mentoring stage:

During this stage, shortlisted entrants will be allocated 2 to 3 mentors and will receive up to 3 hours of contact time per week. Additionally, optional fortnightly office hours with mentors will be offered to entrants. Shortlisted teams will receive guidance through to the submission of the PDR (Preliminary Design Review) on 18 April 2022.

  • April 2022 to April 2023 – Winner mentoring stage:

At this point, the finalists will be allocated between 2 and 4 hours each week from a dedicated team of mentors guiding them to Operational Readiness Review.

Diversity and inclusion

Growing the UK’s launch capability will also help bring new jobs and economic benefits to communities and organisations right across the UK, as well as inspiring the next generation of space scientists and engineers. The competition is open to all persons 16 and older.

Upskilling and learning

There is no requirement for previous knowledge or exposure to the space or satellite industries, technical expertise, or experience. Whether you have a STEM or non-STEM background, the competition is open to you. By applying, you will have the opportunity to develop valuable skills that are transferable across the industry.

If your entry is shortlisted, our industry experts and mentors will support you along the way to ensure that you have the input and guidance you need to successfully develop your idea.

We want to encourage everyone to apply.  Our mentors will be available to help shape and guide you along the way — even if you do not have an engineering or science degree!

Opportunity in industry

By entering the competition, shortlisted entrants will have the opportunity to meet leading figures in the space and satellite industry, as well as prominent leaders addressing climate change and developing innovative solutions to tackle the increasing challenges the world faces.

Intellectual Property

Any intellectual property (IP) generated by individuals or teams entering the competition included in the application form, or generated throughout the course of the competition for the purpose of the competition, shall remain the sole property of the team or individual(s) that generated said IP.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with us here.

LaunchUK is a partnership between the UK Space Agency and the Department for Transport, and supported by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The Nanosat Design Competition is designed to inspire and engage young people about launch from the UK and to encourage engagement with STEM subjects.