New Space and Tech

NASA Student Launch Projects Challenge

By Keith Cowing
April 24, 2013
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NASA Student Launch Projects Challenge

It was rockets ready, set, soar April 21 at the 2012-13 NASA Student Launch Projects challenge. More than 600 students, representing 56 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 26 states, launched rockets of their own design — complete with working science or engineering payloads — at Bragg Farms in Toney, Ala. The students vied to see whose rocket could come closest to the 1-mile altitude goal and safely return its onboard science or engineering payload to Earth. Fifty-four teams took part, though six faced mechanical or technical issues and did not launch. Ten preliminary awards were presented. The grand prize — $5,000 from ATK Aerospace Group of Magna, Utah — will be awarded May 17 after final post-flight analysis and review are complete. This is the sixth year ATK has sponsored Student Launch Projects.
This year’s preliminary awards included:

Best Vehicle Design: The University of Louisville in Kentucky received the award for the most creative, innovative, safety-conscious rocket design.

Best Payload Design: Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., won the award for the most creative and innovative payload experiment, emphasizing safety and scientific value.

Best Web Design: The University of Louisville won the award for the best rocketry website:

Science Mission Directorate Payload Award: Tarleton State University of Stephenville, Texas, was honored for having the most creative and innovative payload design, while maximizing safety and science value.

Project Review Award: Mississippi State University in Starkville was honored for delivering the best combination of written preliminary design, critical design and flight readiness reviews and formal presentations.

Education Engagement Award: The University of Louisville won for best inspiring the study of rocketry and other space-related topics. The Student Launch Projects teams were challenged to focus on middle-school students or educators. The University of Louisville engaged more than 1,500 students in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics, with more than 1,100 of those being middle school-aged.

Closest to Altitude Award: The team from Alabama A&M in Huntsville received the university-level award for coming closest to the specified 1-mile altitude goal. The rocket reached an altitude of 5,269 feet — just 11 feet off the mark.

Peer Awards: All rocket teams submitted votes for peer awards in each division. The “Best-Looking Rocket” awards went to Lucy Rede Franco Middle School of Presidio, Texas, and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The “Best Team Spirit” prizes were awarded to Victory Christian Center of Charlotte, N.C., and Tarleton State University.

The final two university division awards — “Rookie Team of the Year” and “Best Overall Team of the Year” — will be presented after teams have submitted their post-launch review documentation and science or engineering payload reports, due May 7. NASA will pick the 2012-13 winner based on those final reports — plus all the work teams did leading up to launch day.

The annual NASA event celebrates innovative young minds and seeks to inspire them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Teams designed and built their rockets and experiments beginning in the fall of 2012. They maintained websites to document their experience and reached more than 44,000 students at schools and organizations in their communities to share their enthusiasm for rocketry and inspire those students to pursue the study of technical subjects critical to the work of NASA and the nation.

Hundreds of flight enthusiasts flocked to the launch site at Bragg Farms to cheer for the student rocketeers. Thousands of viewers also watched live via the streaming video service UStream. Archived launch-day coverage is available at:

NASA held the first student launch event in 2000-01. The Marshall Center’s Academic Affairs Office, part of the Office of Human Capital, managed the rocketry challenge. ATK provided corporate sponsorship. The National Association of Rocketry supported launch readiness reviews and range safety. Bragg Farms has hosted the launch challenge since 2008.

For complete lists of participating students, visit:

Visit NASA Student Launch Projects on Facebook and Twitter:

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.