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High School Teams from Across the U.S. Build Rockets for Springtime Launch
Martin Jensen
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)
News Release: 05-009

Student team members from Athens Bible School in Athens, Ala., get ready to launch their rocket at NASA's 2004 Student Launch Initiative. High school teams from California to Virginia are hard at work on their own plans for space travel. But instead of a journey to the Moon or Mars in the near future, these students are designing rockets they will build and launch toward the heavens this spring.

Image above: Student team members get ready to launch their rocket at NASA's 2004 Student Launch Initiative.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Vince Huegele

Today's "rocket boys" and "rocket girls" are getting a hands-on challenge through the Student Launch Initiative -- an education program that gives high school students practical experience in aerospace and engineering activities. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the national competition, and the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, Tenn., co-sponsors the event.

Participating in the competition this year are six new teams and four returning teams from the 2004 event. The new teams are from Edison High School in Fresno, Calif.; Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove, Calif.; Oakton High School in Vienna, Va.; Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash.; Madison West High School in Madison, Wis.; and University School of Milwaukee, Wis. The returning teams are Athens Bible School in Athens, Ala.; Lee High School in Huntsville; Goshen High School in Goshen Ind.; and Manilus Pebble Hill School in DeWitt, N.Y.

Student teams demonstrate proof of concept -- that their rocket design is feasible and will perform as intended. They design and build their own rocket, and develop a Web site to hold an on-line journal of their progress. Students can solicit advice and guidance from engineers in government, business and academia during the design and testing phases. In the course of this experience, they learn problem-solving skills, how to present financial proposals and how to budget.

"The Student Launch Initiative is one way we encourage young people to get hands-on experience in rocket science, engineering and the nuts and bolts effort it takes to design, build and launch a space craft," said Jim Pruitt, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at the Marshall Center. "These young men and women could very well be working on the Vision for Space Exploration that will take us the Moon, on to Mars and beyond."

The Vision calls for Space Shuttles to return to safe flight to complete the International Space Station, and human and robotic exploration of the Solar System.

The teams completed their first step in the competition during preliminary design reviews in December 2004. The next steps include critical design reviews Feb. 8 and flight readiness reviews for their rockets April 8. They will display and launch their vehicles in late spring during "Southern Thunder 2005," a regional rocket launch event in Manchester, Tenn.

Their vehicle must carry a science payload weighing between one-quarter and one-half-pound and reach an altitude of one mile. The rocket and the payload must be recoverable, contain a tracking device and be reusable. The team must collect data from the payload, analyze it and report the results.

NASA engineers and scientists will evaluate each rocket design, including propulsion, materials, payload and safety features. They also will look at the target altitude, formal reviews and Web site designs.

This is the second year schools from outside Alabama have been invited to join Huntsville-area schools in the launch event. The visiting teams were chosen from schools that competed in the May 2004 Team America Rocketry Challenge at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va.

The top 10 teams at the 2004 Challenge were invited to submit proposals to participate in the 2005 Student Launch Initiative. Huntsville-area teams chosen to participate in the Student Launch Initiative were selected by NASA scientists, engineers and education specialists. NASA requested proposals from local schools within a 50-mile radius of Huntsville. All teams receive a $2,500 grant to participate in the event.

For more information, visit the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Web page at:

+ 2004 Student Launch Initiative Photos