ULA/Ball Aerospace Interns To Launch Record-Setting Rocket

The Future Heavy rocket on display at the Space Foundation's 2016 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Image Credit: Colorado Space News

The Future Heavy rocket on display at the Space Foundation’s 2016 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Image Credit: Colorado Space News

July 15, 2016 – The 2016 Student Intern Rocket Launch is scheduled for Sunday, July 24. This year will mark the inaugural launch of the 50-foot tall Future Heavy, a multiyear project engaging interns at ULA sites across the country. The Future Heavy Rocket is the world’s largest sport rocket and will be the largest rocket ever launched from the State of Colorado. It’s expected to launch to 10,000 feet.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Student Rocket Launch is the culmination of an experience designed to simulate a real-life launch campaign and encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students and employees volunteer their time to the program in addition to their normal duties.

ULA’s college interns design, build and launch the rockets, while interns from Ball Aerospace design and build the largest payload. Participating interns have just eight to ten weeks to construct the rockets and payloads and quickly gain experience with new design concepts, manufacturing techniques and launch procedures. But in the case of the Future Heavy rocket, intern teams have worked on the rocket for three consecutive years, and over 300 people have been involved.

The Future Heavy will launch 16 payloads – essentially onboard science instruments and experiments. Some of these payloads deploy from the rocket after launch, while others collect data as the rocket descends.

K-12 student teams apply to build the smaller payloads, which can be nearly anything the team dreams up, within certain constraints. Past experiments have included a fully-equipped life support system carrying a crew of grasshoppers, a bio-friendly glitter bomb, a solar balloon, and payloads designed to capture images and data using cameras, GPS, geographic information system (GIS), altimeters, accelerometers and other devices.

United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace mentors provide guidance for younger students on basic rocket concepts, payload designs and payload integration with the rockets. Some of the schools participating this year include Peak to Peak, STEM Academy High-Altitude, Eaglecrest, STEM School Academy, Crown Point and North Glenn High School. There will also be payloads from both Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, as well as homeschools.

The Future Heavy rocket will launch from Fort Carson, and although the public is normally invited to get a close-up view of the intern rocket launch, the size of this year’s rocket limited the locations it can be launched from. This year, the public will only be able to view via webcast. Stay tuned to ulalaunch.com for more information.

Getting Involved in 2017

Elementary, middle and high school student teams can apply to build payloads for the 2017 launch. Visit ULA’s Payload Information Page for more details.