Established in 1999, UNP was the first federally-funded program dedicated exclusively to university participation in spacecraft development and nearly 5,000 students from 38 U.S. universities have participated since its beginning. Remaining true to its founding principle of education, the program has developed into the premier U.S. small satellite education program.

Over the years, the program has had 11 cycles of student programs. Lessons learned have been steadily folded into the program architecture, increasing program success and maximizing the educational experience.