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WALLOPS ISLAND, VA – How many of you have dreamed of flying yourselves or your breakthrough experiments to the High Frontier? Well if you are a talented student, NASA may have a ticket for you.
A diverse group of highly motivated aerospace students from seven universities spread across the United States have descended on NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility along the Eastern Shore of Virginia to fulfill the dream of their lifetimes – launching their very own science experiments aboard a rocket bound for space.
I met the thrilled students and professors today beside their rocket at the Wallops Island launch pad.
On Aug 13, after years of hard work, an impressive array of research experiments developed by more than 40 university students will soar to space on the RockSat-X payload atop a 44-foot tall Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket at 6 a.m. EDT.
The two stage rocket will rapidly ascend on a southeasterly trajectory to an altitude of some 97 miles and transmit valuable data in-flight during the 12-minute mission.
The launch will be visible to spectators in parts of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, and perhaps a bit beyond. Check out the visibility map below.
If you’re available, try venturing out to watch it. The available window lasts until 10 a.m. EDT if needed.
The students will put their classroom learning to the test with experiments and instruments built by their own hands and installed on the 20 foot long RockSat-X payload. The integrated payload accounts for nearly half the length of the Terrier Malamute suborbital rocket. It’s an out of this world application of the scientific method.Included among the dozens of custom built student experiments are HD cameras, investigations into crystal growth and ferro fluids in microgravity, measuring the electron density in the E region (90-120km), aerogel dust collection on an exposed telescoping arm from the rockets side, effects of radiation damage on various electrical components, determining the durability of flexible electronics in the cryogenic environment of space and creating a despun video of the flight.
At the conclusion of the flight, the payload will descend to Earth via a parachute and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 86 miles offshore from Wallops.
Commercial fishing ships under contract to NASA will then recover the RockSat-X payload and return it to the students a few hours later, NASA spokesman Keith Koehler told Universe Today.
They will tear apart the payload, disengage their experiments and begin analyzing the data to see how well their instruments performed compared to the preflight hypotheses’.
RockSat-X is a joint educational activity between NASA and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. It is the third of three practical STEM educational programs where the students must master increasingly difficult skill level requirements leading to a series of sounding rocket liftoffs.
In mid-June, some 50 new students participated in the successful ‘RockOn’ introductory level payload launch from Wallops using a smaller Terrier-Improved Orion rocket.
“The goal of the RockSat-X program is to provide students a hands-on experience in developing experiments for space flight,” said Chris Koehler, Director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.
“This experience allows these students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a real world hands-on project.”
The students participating in this year’s RockSat-X launch program hail from the University of Colorado at Boulder; the University of Puerto Rico at San Juan; the University of Maryland, College Park; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.; West Virginia University, Morgantown; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; and Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho.
Some of these students today could well become the pioneering aerospace industry leaders of tomorrow!
In the event of a delay forced by weather or technical glitches, August 14 is the backup launch day.
A great place to witness the blastoff is from the NASA Wallops Visitor Center, offering a clear view to the NASA launch range.
It opens at 5 a.m. on launch day and is a wonderful place to learn about NASA missions – especially the pair of exciting and unprecedented upcoming launches of the LADEE lunar science probe to the moon and the Cygnus cargo carrier to the ISS in September.
Both LADEE and Cygnus are historic first of their kind flights from NASA Wallops.
Live coverage of the launch is available via UStream beginning at 5 a.m. on launch day at:
Learn more about Suborbital Science, Cygnus, Antares, LADEE, MAVEN and Mars rovers and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations
Oct 3: “Curiosity, MAVEN and the Search for Life on Mars – (3-D)”, STAR Astronomy Club, Brookdale Community College & Monmouth Museum, Lincroft, NJ, 8 PM