San Diego, California - San Diego State students with stellar aspirations will get a boost from $25,000 in new funding from Galactic Unite and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The money will fund scholarships for students pursuing space-related careers, provide funds for student research and design projects, and further develop the university’s space-related mentoring and educational opportunities.

Galactic Unite, the space-focused funding arm of Virgin Group Inc., which operates Virgin Airlines and the commercial spaceflight venture Virgin Galactic, has given SDSU $20,000 to promote “grassroots interest in space” among students, said Carl Tedesco, an SDSU alumnus and mentor to the university’s student-run Rocket Project.

Beginning in the fall semester, the money will fund as many as five scholarships worth between $3,000 and $4,000 to sophomore and junior students who are members of the Rocket Project. Any leftover funds will offset materials and travel costs for the team’s rocketry mission.

Two years ago, the Rocket Project team launched its Swiss Miss rocket, reaching a maximum altitude of 10,100 feet. Last year, a second iteration of the rocket experienced a technical hitch on the way up and reached between 7,000 and 9,000 feet.

The team's next-generation rocket, nicknamed "Ender," is currently under construction. With this rocket, they're aiming to reach 30,000 feet, which will require a special waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Another $5,000 from NASA JPL will help offset costs incurred by the organization’s spaceflight professionals who travel to SDSU to mentor students, as well as provide funding to students’ space exploration–related senior design projects. A portion of the money will also go toward the Rocket Project’s travel and materials costs.

Nagy Nosseir, chair of SDSU’s aerospace engineering department, said that while these collaborations are in their early stages, both Galactic Unite and JPL currently plan for their funding to recur annually.

“Our hope is that eventually this money will be used to expand into other space-related topics,” Nosseir said. “We’re looking to expand our opportunities for students to learn about space exploration and the careers available to them in that area.”