Interns from United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched three, high-power, sport rockets carrying more than 20 payloads created by K-12 students and interns from Ball Aerospace and Special Aerospace Services on July 17, 2021. The ULA intern-built rockets, each more than 19 feet tall, flew approximately 4,200 feet into the air.
The annual Student Rocket Launch, sponsored by ULA and Ball, provides student engineers with hands-on experience designing, building and launching rockets and payloads (on-board experiments and instruments deployed after launch). The program aims to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and space entrepreneurs.
This year’s event, hosted by the Southern Colorado Rocketeers, took place at Hudson Ranch in Pueblo, Colorado, and featured rockets dubbed Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato. The payloads included experiments about the effects of gravity, astronaut art packs, airbag deployment systems, landers to gather soil and ground rovers.
When submitting their payload proposals, the 16 K-12 teams chose whether they wanted to compete to win ULA prize packs in a payload design, testing and performance competition. Nine teams are competing in this year’s contest. In addition, non-competing teams whose payload flew on launch day were eligible for a random drawing to win a 3D printer.
This year’s event featured 35 interns and 17 mentors from ULA, and 32 interns and 24 mentors from the Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team (BIRST). Special Aerospace Services interns also contributed payloads this year, which they created as part of the company’s Mission Boot Camp program.
The Student Rocket Launch simulates a real-life, multi-year launch campaign by condensing the rocket building and launch process into a few weeks, providing students with invaluable hands-on experience. Interns from ULA and Ball Aerospace volunteer to design, build and test the rockets and payloads with the guidance of mentors from both companies.
“ULA and Ball Aerospace created the Student Rocket Launch to give students a chance to have fun with rocket science,” said Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance president and CEO. “I’ve been building rockets for my whole life, and I hope this experience inspires some of these students to pursue careers in this industry. They will have a chance to create careers that haven’t been invented and shape humanity’s future in space.”
“Our interns, who choose to do BIRST on top of their daily job responsibilities, worked incredibly hard over the past few weeks to ready their payloads for launch on ULA’s intern-built rockets,” said Dave Kaufman, president, Ball Aerospace. “We were extremely excited to see their inventive creations successfully take flight!”
“This was an opportunity to leverage ULA’s Student Rocket Launch program and our SAS Internship Mission Bootcamp Program to have a real-life payload development, integration and launch experience for our Team,” said SAS Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder, Tim Bulk. “Our interns work on prototyping future SAS space products, so giving them experience with an actual launch payload integration mission has been invaluable to their training experience.”