On Saturday, 500 spectators watched as students gathered from around the Nation to test their rocket designs at an annual NASA-sponsored competition. Twenty university teams gathered at the Utah location with 16 student-built rockets, ranging in length from 7-1/2 to 15 feet.
Previously hosted in Huntsville, Al., the NASA Student Launch moved to the Bonneville Salt Flats this year due to a change in altitude requirements, which made launches infeasible at the old location. Angela Storey with the Marshall Space Flight Center said the height goal this year was an astonishing 20,000 feet.
“In the past they only had to have a goal of one mile and this year it was changed to 20,000 feet, which would be accomplished out there (the Salt Flats),” said Storey.
Teams were required to include a parachute-based recovery system and three payloads including a landing hazard detection system to provide data that could help future NASA missions.
The students made pre-launch technical presentations to NASA and ATK engineers Thursday before their rockets were put to the test on the launch pad over the weekend.
Nine initial awards were given for categories such as best vehicle design, payload design and safety. Vanderbilt University swept the awards ceremony, going home with four prizes including the Closest to Altitude Award after their rocket flew only 150 feet shy of their 5,000-foot goal.
Storey said there is still one prize to be awarded.
“In a couple of weeks we will find out who is the overall winner of this engineering design challenge based on the research that is received back from the altimeter readings and their payloads,” said Storey.
Storey said there is a $5,000 dollar grand prize from ATK for the winners.