Press Release

United Launch Alliance, Ball Aerospace Interns and High School Students to Launch Colorado’s Largest Rocket, Payloads

By SpaceRef Editor
July 19, 2011
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Centennial, Colo., (July 11, 2011) – Hands-on learning will reach new heights when Colorado high school students and college interns from across the nation blast high-power rockets and payloads deep into the Colorado sky.

Now in its fourth year, the high-power rocket event involves more than 100 Colorado high school students and interns from United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., showcasing their collective ingenuity with the launch of six high-power rockets and 20 payloads on Saturday, July 30, from a launch site near Pueblo, Colo. The event will be highlighted by the launch of the largest rocket to be launched in Colorado, “The Future” – a 25-foot tall, 300-pound high-power rocket that will soar up to 10,000 feet into the air. The students also will launch the 17-foot Stars ‘N’ Stripes rocket, plus four other rockets. Launch preparations and on-pad viewing of the rockets begin at 9 a.m., and the 6 rockets will launch between 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

Interns from both companies–representing the future of the aerospace industry–built the high-power rockets and a variety of multi-faceted payloads this summer as part of their experience at their respective companies. A major new addition to this year’s effort has been the work of 14 teams from 11 Colorado high schools, laboring for months to develop payloads to launch on the rockets.

“The launch of the ‘Future’ is symbolic in so many ways,” said Matt Smith, ULA’s vice president of engineering. “ULA launches missions that enable us to explore our universe, improve life on Earth and protect our nation, ensuring a brighter future for us all. These students are the rocket scientists of tomorrow and thanks to their hard work and talent, they will continue this legacy for years to come.”

ULA provides world-class launch systems for the nation and employs more rocket scientists than any company in the world. ULA has 1,700 employees in Colorado. Ball Aerospace has approximately 2,100 Colorado employees who develop and manufacture spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications.

The Future and Stars ‘N’ Stripes rockets were built by ULA summer interns–dubbed SPIRIT (Sky Piercing Intern Rock-It Team)–in Denver, Colo., Decatur, Ala., Harlingen TX, Vandenberg AFB, CA, and Cape Canaveral, Fla. This is the fourth year ULA interns have built and launched high-power rockets as a summer project and the second year with participation from intern at other ULA work locations.

Twenty distinct payloads were built by summer interns from ULA and Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo., and by 14 teams from 11 Colorado high schools.

“We’re very proud of the innovation and teamwork demonstrated by these talented summer interns. They accomplish so much in the limited amount of time they have to devote to this project,” said Doug Neam, Ball Aerospace vice president of engineering. “This is an invaluable, real-world experience with fellow students on how payloads are conceived, designed and built from start to finish in the space industry.”

The Ball interns, known as BIRST (Ball Intern Rocket Scientist Team), are delivering four separate payloads for the two larger rocket launches. They include a remote exploration vehicle meant to simulate the Mars Pathfinder, a high altitude inflatable viewing device, an on-board camera/GPS with a possible live feed and an RC helicopter which will be recovered after landing.

In addition to its formidable size, the Future features a hand-made carbon fiber composite airframe, two on-board computers, five video cameras and three engines that are comparable in power to more than 24,000 model rocket engines, and will carry 14 payloads. The Stars ‘N’ Stripes rocket features a unique retro-rocket system designed to fire in reverse to keep the rocket within FAA-imposed altitude limitations. It will carry two payloads. The Future will launch at 12 noon, and the Stars ‘N’ Stripes will launch at 10:45 a.m.

About United Launch Alliance

ULA combines the successful Delta and Atlas expendable launch vehicle programs to offer cost-effective and reliable launch services to U.S. government customers, including the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office and other organizations. ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Tex. and San Diego, Calif. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. For more information on the ULA joint venture, visit the ULA Web site at

About Ball Corporation

Ball Corporation is a supplier of high-quality metal and plastic packaging for beverage, food and household products customers, and of aerospace and other technologies and services, primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ more than 14,000 people worldwide and reported 2008 sales of approximately $7.6 billion.

United Launch Alliance
Chris Chavez, (303) 269-5550 (Office), (303) 332-6416 (Mobile)
Ball Aerospace:
Roz Brown, (303) 533-6059 (Office), (720) 581-3135 (Mobile)

SpaceRef staff editor.