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NMSU’s Atomic Aggies win second consecutive Chile Cup


New Mexico State University’s Atomic Aggies have won the Chile Cup in the Spaceport America Cup for the second year in a row.

The rocket named after NMSU’s Wi-Fi, Aggie Air stands 12 feet tall and reached an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet with speeds of 1,035 feet per second, or approximately 3 1/2 football fields per second.

The Spaceport America Cup, held annually at Spaceport America in New Mexico, brings together collegiate rocketry teams from around the globe. This year more than 150 teams took part in the competition.

The Chile Cup is a sub competition between regional universities. This year’s competing teams include New Mexico Tech, the University of Texas at El Paso and NMSU.

“Winning the Chile Cup for the second year in a row feels amazing,” said Aryanna Llanez, aerospace engineering student and manufacturing lead for the team. “It’s exactly what I knew our team was capable of. We have proven ourselves and to all the universities near us that NMSU is a top engineering institution, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

A successful launch and a well-written technical report gave the Atomic Aggies the points needed to win.

“The team with the highest overall score is the team that goes home with the Chile Cup,” said Tori Hoffman, project manager for the team and recent mechanical and aerospace engineering graduate. “We scored very high in the categories leading up to the launch. This is something that I am very proud of because the team put forth a lot of effort to get ourselves ready for the competition.”

Teams compete in various categories outlined by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association, which host the competition with Spaceport America.

The Atomic Aggies competed in the 10k COTS, or commercial off the shelf, category, which refers to rocket parts teams can purchase. Ninety-five percent of NMSU’s rocket is built by students, and the remaining 5% is the rocket motor.

“The best part of the competition is the moment that you finally get to see your team’s rocket fly, Hoffman said. “Aggie Air left the rail beautifully and did not disappoint.”

The week-long competition began at the Las Cruces Convention Center and concluded at NMSU’s Pan America Center. Rocket launches take place at Spaceport America in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Although the competition lasts one week, students prepare for about a year before the competition.

Planning for Aggie Air began around this time last year. Later this month, the Atomic Aggie will begin work on the 2024 competition rocket.

“Being the best team in New Mexico isn’t enough anymore, especially with the brain power that our team has,” Llanez said. “Which is exactly why next year we will be moving up and competing in the 30k COTS category. And I am confident we will excel.”

Despite having a nearly all engineering student team, the rocketry organization is open to all NMSU students.

“Most students who join our club know nothing about rocketry but after a few months of sticking around, they learn a tremendous amount about rocketry,” said David Moreno, lead engineer for the Atomic Aggies.

“We are a fun group of individuals that like to compete in one of the craziest intercollegiate competitions in the word,” Hoffman said. “No matter your major, we would love for you to join our team and check it out.”

To learn more about the Atomic Aggies, visit its website at or on Instagram @AtomicAggies.