SF Rocket Team Prepares to Launch

The Santa Fe College Rocket Team will represent SF in the 2013 NASA Student Launch Projects (SLP) Friday, April 19 through Sunday, April 21 in Toney, Ala. The annual event will challenge 36 collegiate and 20 high school teams of enterprising young engineers, scientists and innovators to design, test and build large, high-powered rockets capable of flying to the target altitude of one mile and carrying working, retrievable science or engineering payloads.

On Friday, the Rocket Fair will take place from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.  in the MSFC Activities Building. All teams will exhibit their rockets for officials, visitors and other teams to look at and ask questions about.

The launch itself is scheduled for Saturday at Bragg Farms, with a “rain date” of Sunday. Following the launch, there will be a banquet at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (also known as the Davidson Center) where all the participating teams will have dinner under one of the three existing Saturn V rockets. Awards will be given for some of the preliminary contests, such as for the rocket coming closest to the target altitude of one mile, the Team Spirit award and several others.

The team, along with their advisers Jimmy Yawn and Karim Diff, will leave early Wednesday morning to arrive in Huntsville, Ala. in time to get in on the first round of safety inspection, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. CST. At this inspection, an officer from the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) will have the team disassemble the rocket so the parts can be inspected. Later, there will be a general meeting at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), followed by a tour of selected areas of the MSFC.

The team plans to return home on Sunday. They will then begin analyzing their flights and compiling summary reports to submit to the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) team. The final report is due by Friday, May 17, which is the official ending day of this year’s USLI competition. The overall winner and rankings of all teams will be announced after that date.

SLP is an eight-month commitment requiring teams to submit a series of reports and reviews, construct a website, provide educational engagement in their local community and develop a timeline, budget and other items. The college and university division is a contest in which each team is competing for various prizes, including a grand prize of $5,000 sponsored by ATK Aerospace Group. The overall winner will be announced after the final reports are complete.

The SF Rocket Team’s final preparations for the competition began this past Saturday, April 13 at the Northeast Florida Association of Rocketry (NEFAR) launch. Carrying the team’s full load of four payload items (a biotech experiment; a physics payload looking at the movement of a mass suspended on the rocket; an electronic payload, sampling barometric pressure, altitude, GPS positioning data, as well as to capture video from the on-board camera and save data generated from the physics experiment and a camera bay from which to obtain in-flight video. Data will be sent to a ground station by telemetry and also saved on-board as a backup), the rocket reached an altitude of one mile. It was recovered intact, and will be made ready to fly in competition.

In addition to the rocket, payload and launch, the USLI teams must engage in “Educational Outreach” Activities using rocketry to stimulate student interest in STEM disciplines. The SF team’s activities include rocketry presentations and mini-launches at local elementary schools including Newberry, Wiles, Hidden Oak and Norton and rocket-building workshops including launches for SF Reach-Out Program (CROP), Cade Museum, Oak Hall School and Santa Fe College for Kids program.

NASA will provide live coverage of the launches on the social web service UStream, complete with embedded Twitter feed. If you would like to follow along via social media, the designated SLP Twitter accounts are @ATK, @SLI_1MILEHIGH and @NASA_Marshall (the official hashtag is #1MileHigh), and the Facebook profile is NASA Student Launch.

For more information, please visit the NASA SLP website.