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A Rocket Built By Students Reached Space For the First Time

Published by Slashdot on Fri, 24 May 2019


In the early morning of April 21, 10 students from the University of Southern California's Rocket Propulsion Lab successfully launched a rocket above the Karman Line, the imaginary boundary that separates earth's atmosphere and space. As Wired reports, this is the first time a collegiate rocket has made it to space. The team may have successfully accomplished this feat last September with their Traveler III rocket, but the team "failed to activate the avionics payload, so none of its flight data got recorded." From the report: Like the Civilian Space Exploration Team, the USC lab focused on solid fuel rockets, which require far less complicated -- and dangerous -- motors than the liquid fuel rockets launched by SpaceX or Blue Origin. Some of the rockets being developed by the leaders of the collegiate space race have two stages, but the USC team opted for a single-stage rocket. If you're trying to get to orbit, which requires reaching speeds of more than 17,000 mph, a two-stage rocket is a must, so as to jettison the dead weight of empty propellant tanks. But for lower altitudes and speeds, a single-stage rocket can do the trick. In 2013, the USC rocket team attempted its first space shot with the Traveler I, which exploded just seconds after launch. A similar fate befell Traveler II, which was launched the following year. Clearly, it was time to make some changes. Following the failure of the first two Traveler rockets, the USC team began to develop the Fathom rocket and Graveler motor as testbeds for flight systems that would be used on subsequent space shots. The Fathom rocket was effectively a scaled-down version of the Traveler rocket that allowed the USC team to build multiple rockets in quick succession to see how the subsystems worked together. After extensive ground tests, the team's Fathom II rocket set a record when it reached an altitude of 144,000 feet in 2017. Other collegiate rocket teams had reached only about 100,000 feet. The time seemed ripe to attempt another spaceshot.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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