Last week a number of teams from middle schools, high school, colleges and universities launched student-built rockets while taking part in the 15th annual NASA Student Launch event. The event took place on April 10-11 at Bragg Farms in Toney, Alabama which is near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
But these are not your typical model rockets. Far from it, the rockets launched in this competition by middle school and high school teams flew to an altitude of one mile, deployed onboard science experiments and then landed safely using a system of recovery parachutes.
At the undergraduate level, teams had the option to participate in either the Mini-Mars Ascent Vehicle (Mini-MAV) or the Maxi-Mars Ascent Vehicle (Maxi-MAV) divisions.
The Mini-MAV teams were required to use a robotic system to autonomously load a payload into their rocket, launch to half a mile and eject the payload during descent.
Meanwhile, the Maxi-MAV teams, competing for a share of $50,000 in prize money, attempted to meet more autonomy requirements before also launching to a half mile.
Leading up to the competition, students had the opportunity to participate in a Rocket Fair at Marshall’s Activities Building 4316, where they gave technical presentations to, and received valuable feedback from, engineers and team members from NASA and Student Launch corporate sponsor Orbital ATK.
The aim of the Student Launch program is to challenge student teams to design rockets that address the research needs of different NASA missions. It is possible that, after sharing their research results, future NASA projects may incorporate the designs.
More information on Student Launch, including how to participate in next year’s event is available at http://www.nasa.gov/education/studentlaunch.