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Students launch experiments to space on NASA rocket

July 7, 2009, 5:53 pm
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Nearly 100 university instructors and students from 21 states saw their experiments rise to the sky at 5:30 a.m. on the morning of June 26 with the successful launch of a NASA suborbital sounding rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.  During the past week, the students have been at Wallops preparing their experiments through a week-long RockOn/RockSat workshop.

The two-stage Terrier-Orion rocket carried the experiments to an altitude of 73 miles.  The experiments were recovered and the students successfully retrieved data from their experiments.

Students and faculty from Northwest Nazarene University were participants.  Physics professor Dr. Dan Lawrence and three students, Michelle Pounds, Dale Brown and Hank Hetrick, built an experimental payload to measure the accelerations of the rocket, as well as radiation levels throughout the flight.  “It was an amazing experience” says Lawrence.  “We were all counting down to the launch and you could feel the shock wave as it passed the speed of sound 3 seconds into flight.  The exhaust trail hit the early morning sun and lit up in beautiful colors.”  The rocket was recovered in the Atlantic ocean later that day and brought back for the students to disassemble and retrieve their data.  “It was a great experience” says engineering physics student Pounds. “It was a chance to take the things we learned in the classroom and apply them in a real world situation.”

The program is conducted in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia with support from NASA. The purpose of the workshop is to teach future scientists and engineers first hand how to develop experiments for flight on sounding rockets. Faculty and students will carry their new-found knowledge back to their home campuses where they can work on future experiments for flight on subsequent launches.

To learn more about the opportunities available through NNU’s physics and engineering department, contact Dr. Dan Lawrence at MDLawrence@NNU.Edu.

Photo Caption: NNU student Michelle Pounds works to integrate her experiment into the rocket as Professor Dan Lawrence watches.


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