Mines Team Wins First Nations Launch Competition

AISES members Stephen Mulligan and Keegan Favill. Image Credit: Colorado School of Mines

AISES members Stephen Mulligan and Keegan Favill. Image Credit: Colorado School of Mines

June 19, 2015 – Students from Colorado School of Mines’ chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) won the top prize at the recent First Nations Launch Competition hosted by NASA’s Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium.

The launch challenge for AISES teams entailed launching a single-stage 6-inch diameter dual deploying high-powered rocket using a “cluster” of three-in-a-row rocket motors. The center or “core” motor needed a minimum average thrust to weight ratio of 10:1.

Stephen Mulligan and Keegan Favill represented the Mines rocket team at the launch event in Wisconsin. The team (which includes Jade Gearhart, Maito Okamoto, Cheyenne Footracer, Elise Tran, Kavish Patal and John Clary) had never built a rocket but completed a 10-foot rocket in less than two months and went on to win the launch challenge with a 1 percent error in predicted altitude. Their grand prize is a trip to NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.

“When we first got to the field and started setting up for launch, we ran into an issue with our parachute not fitting,” said Mulligan, who is president of the Mines AISES chapter. “We found out we had built our rocket the most inconvenient way for accessing the electronics when preparing to launch. That grounded us for six hours.”

After figuring out the electronics bay and getting on the launch pad, Mulligan and Favill armed the altimeters and set up the igniters for the three motors. Then, after solving a continuity issue with the igniters, the rocket flawlessly launched and landed about 100 yards from the launch site.

“After launching, having our rocket come down almost perfectly and finding that it was about 25 feet off our predicted altitude, we felt like we had just taken one of the hardest tests and gotten a 100 percent,” Mulligan said.