Student Flight Controllers Program

Student Flight Controllers Program

Certifying undergraduates to operate NASA missions

One of the most exciting and unusual aspects of mission operations at LASP is the opportunity for CU Boulder undergraduate students to become certified mission operators. After passing our institute’s summer-long course, our student operators work on the supervision of professional staff to operate multimillion-dollar NASA spacecraft.

Sometimes, LASP undergraduate flight controllers are lucky enough to be able to assist with the launch of a major mission, like NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft. It successfully lifted off in December 2021 under the command of LASP student and professional operators.

Examples of commands that student controllers might send to a satellite include powering on or off specific instruments, changing the tilt of solar panels, or pointing an instrument in a particular direction to collect scientific data.

Each spring, LASP selects about 20 undergraduates to this program. For additional information, please contact Robby Mendoza.