New Mexico State University’s student rocket team the “Atomic Aggies” held two successful rocket launches at Spaceport America on Saturday, September 19.
The Atomic Aggies were due to compete in the 2020 Spaceport America Cup which was canceled due to COVID-19. The team mostly comprised of mechanical and aerospace engineering students from NMSU, had started work on their rockets in August 2019, and continued through the pandemic to finish their vehicles ahead of test day.
The team’s rocket “Archangel” carried an 8.8lbs 3U cubesat chile growing chamber during the flight. The team were aiming to reach an altitude of 10,000 feet and achieved a height of 8,333 feet. The avionics and payload both generated great data and the chiles survived the launch and return to Earth.
The other rocket named “Rocket McRocketFace” was developed by Scott Komar for his National Association of Rocketry Level 3 certification. Each year, the Atomic Aggies allow a student to build and design their own rocket in order to get the Level 3 certification which shows judges at the Spaceport America Cup that the team is experienced with the larger class motors. Komar’s objectives were to launch with a M-class motor and safely recover his vehicle in order to get his Level 3 certification, which he successfully achieved after one false start.
There are 30 active members of the NMSU Atomic Aggies team and several team members are the first recipients of the Galactic Unite STEM Scholarship at NMSU . Additionally, the Atomic Aggies have been awarded grant funding through the Galactic Unite Community Grants program to support the design and build of their competition rocket. Four mentors from Virgin Galactic were onsite to support and cheer on the team’s hard work.
Spaceport America continues to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions and all on site wore face masks and kept social distance throughout the launch. The team were limited to 10 members on site with the launches live streamed on social media for those that could not be there in person.
Spaceport America’s interim Executive Director, Scott McLaughlin (who is a proud NMSU electrical engineer graduate), said, “It is great to see the Atomic Aggies team grow over the last few years, and very significant that they can travel just an hour to test their designs. New Mexico is now at the forefront commercial space developments and our colleges are starting to see the benefits of a nearby spaceport—both for their curriculum and for good aerospace jobs.”