Blast Off!

Blast Off!

SF's Engineering Team with their rocket on the launchpad

The Engineering Club at Santa Fe College successfully blasted off their rocket at NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative Sunday, near Huntsville, Ala. The initiative engages students in scientific research and real-world engineering processes with NASA engineers.

The SF Engineering Club was one of 42 university-level teams chosen nationwide last fall to design, build and launch a reusable rocket with a scientific or engineering payload. They competed against such schools as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Florida.

Launch Initiative rules state that the rocket must go at least one mile high and land safely to have a chance of winning the competition. The Santa Fe rocket performed well, flying to over 4,500 feet and descending softly under parachute.  The rocket is intact and can be flown again.

The launch was broadcast live by NASA television on Sunday. The SF rocket, nicknamed Moby Dick, can be seen in flight in this video highlight.

“The flights are done, but the contest is not over,”  Jimmy Yawn, the team’s official rocket mentor wrote after the launch.  “It’s like one of the Mars missions:  The rocket launched well, but will the rover land?  Will it send back pictures of little green bacteria?  That’s kind of where we are at. The launch is an essential part of the mission, but there are others just as important.”

Yawn, coordinator of SF’s Career Resource Center, is certified level two by the Tripoli Rocketry Association and the National Association of Rocketry. He accompanied the team along with the club’s advisors, Professors Karim Diff and Nacira Tache.

The rocket team includes students Obec Aburto (Club President)Christopher BeckGeorge BriggsAngela KimEric KuzmenkoJoshua MuseDavid SaavedraDavid SubermanGregory VanMichael Vaught, Jialing Wei and Caitlin Williams. Project president Laniece Osteen wrote the grant proposal for the initiative and has organized the team’s efforts.

The SF team’s launch website is

NASA University Student Launch website