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Sounding Rockets as a Platform for Suborbital Technology


  • Jerry Larson, President, UP Aerospace
  • Adam Sidor, Ph.D., Aerospace Technologist, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Lisa Valencia, Engineer and Project Manager, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

May 4, 2022


Sounding rockets are a useful platform for testing a technology’s ability to withstand the forces of launch and function in microgravity. Space launch services company UP Aerospace works with NASA’s Flight Opportunities program to facilitate sounding rocket flight tests for researchers. This webinar will illustrate best practices for testing on this unique platform, with examples from two researchers, and highlight the UP Aerospace vehicle capability enhancements that Flight Opportunities is supporting.

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Speaker Bios

UP Aerospace was created in 1998 by founder Jerry Larson and incorporated in 2004 with headquarters located in Denver, Colorado. Before founding UP Aerospace, Larson received an aerospace engineering degree from the University of Washington and had a career with Lockheed Martin.

Dr. Adam Sidor currently works as an aerospace technologist in the Thermal Design Branch, with a focus on TPS design and manufacturing. Sidor completed his undergraduate degree (2008) at Cornell University in mechanical and aerospace engineering. He started working as a mechanical engineer at Garmin, which develops GPS devices. Looking for his next challenge, Sidor was accepted at Georgia Tech, where he obtained his master’s (2014) and doctorate (2019) in aerospace engineering. His doctoral thesis focused on Thermal Protection Systems, or TPS, manufacturing. Sidor was awarded a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship to pursue his thesis research, which took him on several extended visits to NASA’s Ames Research Center. He was later selected as a Pathways intern in the Materials and Processes Branch at NASA’s Johnson Space Center during the spring/summer of 2019 and subsequently joined the ES3 team full-time. Sidor currently works as an aerospace technologist in the Thermal Design Branch, with a focus on TPS design and manufacturing.

Lisa Valencia is the project manager for the Autonomous Flight Termination System, AFTS, in the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The AFTS is an independent launch vehicle subsystem designed for range safety operations. Valencia earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1990 from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. She completed her graduate studies at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1993, earning a Master of Science in electrical engineering. Valencia was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2004 and is the recipient of many group achievement awards from NASA. Her published works include an article on Autonomous Flight Termination System Reference Design Hardware in NASA Tech Briefs in 2016, and a paper titled “Space-Based Range Safety and Future Space Range Applications” in 2005. Valencia also presented papers on space-based telemetry and range-safety flight demonstration and space-based communications during Space Congress in 2003 and 2004, respectively.