NASA WAllops/Terry Zaperach photo
The launch of the Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket carrying the RockOn/RockSat-C/Cubes in Space educational payloads occurred at 5:35 a.m. EDT Friday at the Wallops Flight Facility. Launch was postponed from Thursday due to a payload technical issue, unacceptable weather for launch and poor sea conditions in the payload recovery area.
After being developed via a virtual learning experience, approximately 60 experiments built by university students across the United States are ready for flight on NASA suborbital flight vehicles.
The experiments were developed through the RockOn, RockSat-C and Cubes in Space programs.
“This will be the fourteenth year that the NASA Sounding Rocket Program has provided a suborbital rocket flight for undergraduate university students to fly their experiments into space. This unique project provides an opportunity for students to obtain hands-on experience in developing space-flight experiments, which is vital in developing future scientists and engineers,” said Giovanni Rosanova, chief of the NASA Sounding Rockets Program Office at Wallops.
The 36-foot long two-stage rocket carried 39 experiments (measuring acceleration, humidity, pressure, temperature and radiation counts) from the RockOn program, 7 experiments in the RockSat-C program and approximately 80 small cubes with experiments developed by middle school and high school students as part of the Cubes in Space program, a partnership between idoodlelearning inc., Wallops and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.
The sounding rocket flew the student experiments to nearly 73-miles altitude. The experiments landed via parachute in the Atlantic Ocean where they were recovered by boat. After recovery, the experiments were returned to the students waiting to see how their experiments performed.
Participants in RockOn receive instruction on the basics in developing a scientific payload for flight on a suborbital rocket. After learning the basics in RockOn, students may then participate in RockSat-C, where during the school year they design and build a more complicated experiment for rocket flight.
“In a typical year the RockOn program is conducted through a week-long in-person workshop at Wallops. However, due to COVID-19, the workshop had to be conducted virtually,” said Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. “We are excited that as we emerge out of the pandemic some of the RockOn and RockSat-C participants were at Wallops to participate in the experiment integration, view the launch and partake in the experiment de-integration from the sounding rocket after recovery.”
This year RockOn! had a record 208 participants. Colorado Space Grant sent the participants the materials needed to participate in the workshop and build their experiments. The participants then shipped their experiments to Colorado for checkout and integration. A team from Colorado then delivered the experiments to Wallops for the launch.
The virtual process enabled more experiments to be successfully developed than the in-person workshop, resulting in more flight-ready projects than could be accommodated on the rocket. Therefore, 14 experiments flew on the High-Altitude Student Platform through the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium on a NASA scientific balloon in Fall 2022 from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico.
The RockOn and RockSat-C programs are supported by the NASA Sounding Rocket Program, NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement and NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia, as well as the program participants.
NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program is conducted at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, which is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding rocket program for the agency.