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NASA Challenges Launch Initiative Teams

January 27, 2009

Twenty student teams selected by NASA from colleges and universities around the country are spending the winter building sophisticated rockets they will launch high over Alabama during NASA’s 2008-2009 University Student Launch Initiative in April.

The annual rocketry challenge will be held April 18 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Student teams will bring their rockets to the NASA center, where professional engineers will conduct formal design reviews of the vehicles before the students take part in a final, all-day launch.

The initiative, managed by Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office, is designed to inspire young people to pursue careers in fields critical to NASA’s mission: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Each student team will design, build and field-test one rocket, earning practical experience in the development and execution of a complex engineering project from design to launch. They must develop a vehicle that can fly to an altitude of 1 mile and sustain an onboard science experiment that gathers measurable data.

In addition to developing and testing their rockets, teams develop a project Web site and deliver preliminary and post-launch reports to their NASA counterparts for review. Teams also conduct related projects for schools or youth organizations in their area, helping to spread interest in engineering and rocketry to upcoming generations of students.

The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington sponsors the University Student Launch Initiative.

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