Search Marshall


News Releases

Text Size

High School Teams From Across the Country to Test Rocket-Building Skills at NASA Student Launch Initiative May 4-6
Angela Storey
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

News release: 06-060

A student-built rocket launches with a scientific payload of live crickets during the 2005 NASA Student Launch Initiative. Some of the best student rocket scientists from across the country will test their design skills by launching their own rockets at the NASA Student Launch Initiative May 4-6 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

High school students from California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin will participate in the event, sponsored by the Marshall Center and the Huntsville office of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Inc. and Aerojet in Sacramento, Calif.

The Student Launch Initiative allows high school and college student teams to put their aerospace and engineering knowledge to use in a real-world situation by designing and building their own rockets with a science payload. Each team spent the 2005-2006 school year developing its vehicle, preparing and presenting formal reviews for panels of NASA engineers, developing Web sites showcasing their work, and testing systems associated with their rocket.

"This program encourages students to consider careers involving science and math," said Jim Ellis, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at the Marshall Center. "By going through the building and launch process, including data retrieval and analysis, they're experiencing the practical applications of what they learn in school."

"We want to encourage this kind of project," Ellis said, "because these young men and women could very well be the next generation of explorers taking us back to the moon, to Mars and to destinations beyond."

The teams will demonstrate proof-of-concept during presentations to NASA engineers Thursday, May 4, proving their designs workable and showing that each reusable rocket will perform as intended.

The students have learned how to work on a budget for their project, and how to present financial proposals to NASA engineers and industry leaders. A goal of the budgeting and rocket-building process of this educational program also is to help students gain problem-solving skills.

A special guest will join the student teams and Marshall Center engineers at the rocket exhibition May 4. Astronaut Barry Wilmore, who accumulated more than 4,900 flight hours as a Navy pilot and joined NASA in 2000, will be on hand to talk about his experiences as a pilot and astronaut trainee. On Friday, May 5, the teams will tour the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. The rocket launch will be Saturday, May 6, at the Mid Tenn. Turf Inc. sod farm near Manchester, Tenn. If the weather forecast calls for rain May 6, the launch will be May 5 in Manchester.

The first team will launch its rocket at approximately 11 a.m. CDT. The event -- free and open to the public -- will continue until all teams have launched their rockets.

Each student team will launch its rocket, complete with scientific payload and altimeter, to ensure it reaches the one-mile altitude requirement. Marshall Center engineers have evaluated teams on rocket design, including propulsion system, materials, payload and safety features. Volunteers from the Huntsville Area Rocketry Association, a non-profit group of rocket enthusiasts, will assist students with flight hardware checks and assessment of flight altitudes.

High school teams participating for the first time in the Student Launch Initiative include those from Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colo.; Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla.; Munfordville Elementary School in Munfordville, Ky.; Caro High School in Caro, Mich.; Southfield High School in Southfield, Mich.; and Madison West High School in Madison, Wis. In addition, several schools have returning teams from the 2004-2005 event, including Madison West; Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove, Calif.; Edison High School in Fresno, Calif.; Oakton High School in Vienna, Va.; and University School of Milwaukee in Milwaukee, Wis.

Teams participating in the event for the first time were chosen from among schools that competed last May in the 2005 Team America Rocketry Challenge at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. The top 25 teams at the 2005 Challenge were invited to submit proposals to NASA to gain entry into the 2005-06 Student Launch Initiative. The schools that are participating in the Student Launch Initiative for the first time receive a $2,500 grant.

The Student Launch Initiative is not a competition. NASA will recognize teams with plaques for excellence in various categories such as best vehicle design, payload and Web site development. For more information on the Student Launch Initiative, visit:

+ Photo