Student Experiments To Launch August 23
August 18, 2012

RockSat-X Launch To Carry Student Experiments Into Space Thursday

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Atmospheric and technological experiments designed by students at four different US universities will be carried into space the morning of Aug. 23, NASA officials announced on Friday.

The experiments are part of the US space agency's RockSat-X educational initiative, which they explain is designed to allow pupils enrolled at educational institutions across the country to gain "hands-on experience in designing, fabricating, testing and conducting experiments for space flight." It is a collaborative effort between NASA and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The four experiments selected for this year's launch were designed and developed by students at Baylor University in Waco, Texas; the University of Colorado at Boulder; the University of Puerto Rico (UPR); and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg. The launch is currently scheduled to take place between 6:30am and 10am, August 23, at the Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, according to NASA officials.

"The University of Puerto Rico will use a mass spectrometer to conduct an analysis of atmospheric particles and pressure. Virginia Tech and Baylor universities have teamed up to measure nitric oxide and atmospheric dust. The University of Colorado will be testing a device to assist in de-orbiting small spacecraft and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium will fly seven cameras to capture all the action in high-definition, which will be made available to the public shortly after recovery," the organization explained.

All four of the experiments will be carried into space on a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket to a projected 98-mile altitude. The flight will take approximately 15 minutes, at which time the 875-pound payload containing the experiments will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 66 miles off the coast of Virginia, NASA said. It will then be recovered so that the onboard experiments can be analyzed, and the payload itself will be re-used.

In a statement, Colorado Space Grant Consortium Director Chris Koehler described the RockSat-X program as "part of a series of student flight programs designed to enhance students' skills and prepare them for careers at NASA and in the aerospace industry." It is the third part of a three-stage initiative that also includes the RockOn hands-on workshop and the RockSat-C payload designing, building, and launching program.

"At each level, the experiments become more complex, which provides students an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the requirements for developing space-based experiments," NASA noted in their press release. "The RockSat-X concept provides students with a payload structure with pre-defined mechanical, power and data interfaces and volume and mass limits."

Thursday's launch will be the second in the RockSat-X program, with the previous one occurring on July 11 of last year. According to NASA, it will also mark the ninth suborbital rocket mission to depart from the Wallops Flight Facility this year, and the first of four such missions scheduled through the middle of September.