By Nick Gilbert
University students will test their academic skills during the launch of atmospheric and technology experiments aboard a NASA suborbital sounding rocket. It will be launched from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, on Aug. 23, between 6:30 and 10 a.m.
As part of an educational project ‘RockSat-X’, four university experiments will be carried out. Designed for students, RockSat-X will offer practical experience in fabricating, designing, testing and conducting experiments for space flight. The project boasts partnership between NASA and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The 2012 RockSat launch has opted for experiments from the University of Puerto Rico, Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, and University of Colorado at Boulder.
The program commences with RockOn, a hands-on workshop followed by the RockSat-C and RockSat-X programs. The experiments complicate with increase in level showing the need for developing space-based experiments.
The experiments will launch on a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket flying to a projected altitude of 98 mi. Following the 15-minute flight, the 875-lb payload with experiments will land in the Atlantic Ocean about 66 mi beyond Virginia coast via parachute, after which it will be recovered for experiment analysis and further deployment.
Based on a mass spectrometer, the University of Puerto Rico will perform analysis of atmospheric particles and pressure. Virginia Tech and Baylor universities will calculate nitric oxide and atmospheric dust. A device supporting de-orbiting of small spacecraft will be tested by the University of Colorado; the Colorado Space Grant Consortium will launch seven cameras for high-definition capturing of the entire action.
The RockSat-X concept ensures students with a payload structure having pre-defined power, mechanical, and data interfaces as well as volume and mass limits. Following the first mission in July 11, 2011, this second RockSat-X mission has been launched.
The project will serve to be the 9th suborbital rocket mission 2012 from NASA's Wallops Island site and the first of four launches to be launched till mid-September.