The Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment (CUTE) is a near-UV (2550 to 3300 Å) 6U CubeSat mission designed to monitor transiting hot Jupiters to quantify their atmospheric mass loss and magnetic fields. CUTE will probe both atomic (Mg and Fe) and molecular (OH) lines for evidence of enhanced transit absorption, and to search for evidence of early ingress due to bow shocks ahead of the planet’s orbital motion. As a dedicated mission, CUTE will observe ≳100 spectroscopic transits of hot Jupiters over a nominal 7-month mission. This represents the equivalent of <700 orbits of the only other instrument capable of these measurements, the Hubble Space Telescope. CUTE efficiently utilizes the available CubeSat volume by means of an innovative optical design to achieve a projected effective area of ∼28 cm2, low instrumental background, and a spectral resolving power of R∼3000 over the primary science bandpass. These performance characteristics enable CUTE to discern transit depths between 0.1% and 1% in individual spectral absorption lines. We present the CUTE optical and mechanical design, a summary of the science motivation and expected results, and an overview of the projected fabrication, calibration, and launch timeline.