July 21, 2015 – High-power sport rockets carried payloads thousands of feet above the plains of Pueblo, Colorado, at the United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. Student Rocket Launch on Saturday, July 18. The event marked the culmination of an experience designed to simulate a real-life launch campaign and inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The launch featured three high-power sport rockets built by interns at ULA – including the largest rocket to launch from Colorado. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. interns built the four largest payloads (onboard experiments/instruments), while K-12 students from Colorado created 13 additional payloads.
“United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace have created a hands-on program that engages and energizes students from kindergarten through graduate school,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “The STEM fields are critical to the future economy, and the Student Rocket Launch gives tomorrow’s rocket scientists and engineers a chance to build the skills they’ll need to propel our state and nation into the future.”
Working on their own time, the ULA and Ball interns designed, built and tested the rockets and the payloads with the guidance of mentors from both companies. Approximately 60 interns and 20 mentors from ULA as well as 28 interns and 21 employee mentors from Ball participated this year.
“United Launch Alliance works to inspire students at all levels to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Matt Smith, ULA’s vice president of Engineering. “The Student Rocket Launch encourages innovation and provides a framework for them to take their ideas from the drawing board to the launch pad.”
This year’s lineup of rockets included the 25-foot-tall “Future” which carried 14 payloads. The “Stars ‘N’ Stripes” is a 20-foot rocket and carried two payloads, and the “Genesis,” at 10 feet tall, deployed a single payload.
Ball interns, collectively known as BIRST (Ball Intern Rocket Science Team), designed, built and tested the largest payloads (two for Stars ‘N Stripes and two for Future):
Future Eggspectations: This payload is a twist on a classic engineering challenge, an egg drop. The first part of this payload is the bus designed to overcome the ever pressing problem of power, data handling, and cooling. The bus also includes a number of atmospheric sensors as well as a camera, and transmitting capabilities. The lower portion of the payload tube is fashioned into a protective, cooled payload fairing, designed to protect a chicken egg from the heat of Pueblo, forces of the launch, and descent to the ground.
HEAVY (Humanitarian Emergency Aerial Vaccinations, Yeah!): This payload is a temperature and shock controlled vaccine packaging system for high altitude descents to support rapid recovery and application for ground personnel.
Tech No Logic (TNL): This payload consists of two independent systems: a sensor suite and an autonomously controlled para glider. The sensor suite has been designed to log and transmit data which ranges from GPS coordinates to internal tube temperatures, battery voltage and current draw. The autonomous para glider consists of a custom autopilot and is steered with dual- titanium geared servos. This payload is designed with the intention of serving as a flight platform capable of carrying additional payloads such as team HEAVY’s vaccine packages in future years.
CORGIS (Collapsible Real-time GPS & Imaging System): This payload consists of three main subsystems; a live-video system, payload launch-lock, and payload recovery. The launch lock system uses several rail slides and a locking mechanism to hold the live video chassis in place during launch. Finally, given that payload recovery is always challenging, they have chosen to test the GARMIN GPS tracking collars for hunting dogs as a payload recovery mechanism.
“Year after year exceptionally talented summer interns amaze us with their innovative approach to challenges and problem solving,” said Jeff Osterkamp, Ball’s vice president for Engineering. “This program gives students real-world experience as they quickly move from concept to launch for their payloads.”
Thirteen K-12 student teams from Colorado also designed and built payloads that launched on the Future rocket. Contributing schools included Peak to Peak Charter School (Lafayette), Crown Point Academy Elementary School (Westminster), Crown Point Academy Middle School (Westminster), Fountain International Magnet School (Pueblo), Eaglecrest High School (Centennial) and STEM Academy (Highlands Ranch). This year’s payloads included “KinderRocks” decorated by a kindergarten class, a test of solar power to slow descent, and various instruments designed to capture images, location and other data.
After the rockets launched, teams had to retrieve their payloads. They will analyze their data and results this week.
The Southern Colorado Rocketeers (SCORE), Colorado Springs-based rocketry club (COSROCs) and Northern Colorado Rocketry (NCR) also launched rockets throughout the event.