Spaceport America Cup – Collegiate rocket competition in New Mexico, June 20-24, 2017

The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) and Spaceport America (near Las Cruces, New Mexico ) are sponsoring the Spaceport America Cup university student rocket competition, which will take place at the spaceport over June 20-24, 2017:

The Spaceport America Cup is designed around IREC – the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition for student rocketry teams from all over the country and around the world. With over 110 teams from colleges and universities in eleven countries, 2017 will be the competition’s biggest year yet. Students will be launching solid, liquid, and hybrid rockets to target altitudes of 10,000 and 30,000 feet.

In addition to the competition rocket launches, the interns at United Launch Alliance will be firing off their big rocket: United Launch Alliance Announces Payloads to Fly on World’s Largest Sport Rocket – 53-Foot-Tall Futu – ULA.

Sixteen payloads from K-12 schools and educational organizations throughout Colorado have been confirmed to fly on United Launch Alliance’s Future Heavy intern rocket this summer. The 53-foot-tall, high-power sport rocket launch will take place at Spaceport America, New Mexico, on Saturday, June 24, during its annual Spaceport America Cup International Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition in association with ESRA the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association.

Since 2009, ULA has teamed up with Ball Aerospace to offer its interns a real-world space industry experience by launching rockets and payloads (onboard instruments/experiments deployed after launch) they volunteer to build during their internships.

Update: Some articles about the event:


First science from Juno at Jupiter

NASA JPL is holding a live telecon at 2:00 pm EDT on the initial science results from the Juno probe in orbit around Jupiter:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory invites you to watch live about everything from Mars rovers to monitoring asteroids to cool cosmic discoveries. From the lab to the lecture hall, get information directly from scientists and engineers working on NASA’s latest missions.

More at NASA to Discuss First Science Results from Juno Mission to Jupiter | Mission Juno

Visuals will be posted at the start of the event at:

Audio of the briefing will stream live at:

It will also be streamed live on:

More information on the Juno mission is available at:

This image shows Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers). The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) in diameter. Multiple images taken with the JunoCam instrument on three separate orbits were combined to show all areas in daylight, enhanced color, and stereographic projection. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles [Large image]
New results released today: Jupiter’s secrets revealed by NASA probe : Nature News & Comment

A deep ammonia plume and a powerful magnetic field are among the many surprises uncovered by the Juno mission.

The sharpest look yet at Jupiter has revealed a number of surprises — including a surge of ammonia welling up from its gassy depths, a startlingly powerful magnetic field and what could be a large, but poorly defined, core.

NASA’s Juno mission began to capture these insights on 27 August last year, during the first of a series of close swoops past the planet. Preliminary results appeared on 25 May in Science and Geophysical Research Letters.



NASA sounding rocket to light up Eastern Shore + College students launch Mars rovers

Early on the morning of May 31st, people living along the Mid-Atlantic region of the US coast may see a big light show in the sky:  NASA Sounding Rocket will Release Early Morning Artificial Clouds Light | NASA

The early morning skies along the mid-Atlantic coast will light up with luminescent clouds as NASA tests a new system that supports science studies of the ionosphere and aurora with a sounding rocket launch May 31 from the Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia. Backup launch days are June 1 through 6. 

During the flight of a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket between 4:25 and 4:42 a.m. EDT, ten canisters about the size of a soft drink can will be deployed in the air, 6 to 12 miles away from the 670-pound main payload.

The canisters will deploy between 4 and 5.5 minutes after launch blue-green and red vapor forming artificial clouds. These clouds or vapor tracers allow scientists on the ground to visually track particle motions in space.

The development of the multi-canister or ampule ejection system will allow scientists to gather information over a much larger area than previously allowed when deploying the vapor just from the main payload.

Ground cameras will be stationed at Wallops and in Duck, North Carolina, to view the vapor tracers. Clear skies are preferred, but not required, at both sites for the launch to occur.

The vapor tracers are formed through the interaction of barium, strontium and cupric-oxide. The tracers will be released at altitudes 96 to 124 miles high and pose absolutely no hazard to residents along the mid-Atlantic coast.

The vapor tracers could be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward to Charlottesville, Virginia.


Recently a sounding rocket launched from Wallops Island (near Chincoteague Island) with Mars rover prototype models built by university students:

Student-Made Mars Rover Concepts Lift Off

Virginia Tech students watch a Black Brant IX sounding rocket take off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. [Larger image.]
Witnessing a rocket launch is a special occasion. Watching a rocket launch with materials you made go up into the sky is priceless.

That’s how it felt for researchers from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and students from Virginia Tech and the University of Central Florida as they watched a sounding rocket launch on Tuesday, May 16 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. On board: Mars rover concepts designed by the students.

“Very few students get the opportunity to design something, put it on a NASA rocket and fly it,” said Jamshid Samareh, ‎research engineer at NASA Langley’s Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate (SACD), who assisted the students.

Funded through NASA’s SACD Internal Research and Development (IRAD) program, the project saw more than 30 Virginia Tech students and one Central Florida student conceptualize, design and build 3-D printed test models of deployable Mars rovers.

Dr Jamshid Samareh with the a design of a Mars Rover. [Larger image.]
The Mars rover concept has its roots in recreational vehicles that have elements that can fold, going with the theme that collapsible items make for easier transport to Mars. This concept has pop-out sections like RVs that would deploy once on Mars.

“It’s always fun when practical solutions necessitate creativity – not to mention it always looks cool!” said Central Florida student J.T. Madigan.

The test models were launched on a 56-foot-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket as part of the SubTec-7 payload mission.

The Mars RV rover concepts were part of the nearly 1,200-pound payload, which flew to an altitude of about 154 miles before descending by parachute and landing in the Atlantic Ocean to be recovered. SubTec-7 provided a flight test for more than 20 technologies to improve sounding rocket and spacecraft capabilities.

Students at Virginia Tech are pictured working an assembling their Mars rover concept. [Larger image.]
A sounding rocket’s overall time in space is brief, typically five to 20 minutes, and at a lower speed than vehicles designed to go into orbit or beyond. The short time and lower speed are more than adequate (in some cases they are ideal) to carry out a successful scientific experiment.

Solving a packaging problem

Samareh has worked on many projects in his time at Langley, and says that getting materials to the Red Plant safely and efficiently is one of the bigger challenges.

“Part of the problem we keep running into is packaging,” he said. “We have to carry a lot of payloads – rovers, habitats and such. We want to package them on top of the launch vehicle.”

That problem-solving drive led to teams of undergraduate and graduate students from Virginia Tech and Central Florida to work on this project on campus with the support of Langley researchers.

The researchers and students designed 18 Mars rover concepts using Computer-Aided Design, or CAD, software.  Four of those designs were fabricated, assembled and tested before they were delivered to Wallops for flight on the sounding rocket.

“I have always thought of mass to be the limiting factor in space travel,” said Virginia Tech student Alex Matta, who was also the team’s graduate advisor. “Participation in this project led me to realize that minimizing volume of the cargo is important as well.”

“A rover is one the big pieces that we want to be able to see if it can be packaged in any way,” Samareh said.

The objective of the project is to develop rigid and deployable Mars rover concepts to improve lander packaging efficiency and aerodynamic stability during entry, descent and landing, and aerocapture, which is a flight maneuver that inserts a spacecraft into orbit around a planet or moon by using the destination’s atmosphere like a brake.

Previous concepts for rovers on Mars from decades ago were not the sleek designs of today – they were big, bulky and heavy, something Samareh did not want to recreate.

“They’re not realistic,” he said. “They cannot be efficiently packed.”

Evolution of the deployable Mars rover design started simple and changed to meet certain requirements, such as the height, width and weight needed to fit on a launch vehicle while taking up as little space as possible.

“Real estate on any type of launch is valuable, so I think it’s awesome that such a novel project was given the opportunity to flight test hardware,” Madigan said.

Samareh encouraged the students to come up with all of the crazy ideas they could so they could pick a few and specifically work on them.

“They come up with these ideas that I cannot come up with,” he said. “They have a different mentality. That worked out nicely.”

The Mars RV rover concepts also received recognition outside of NASA, winning first place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Region I Student Paper Conference for the Undergraduate Team category in April.

When all was said and done, seeing the students’ faces at the launch at Wallops was “the biggest payoff,” Samareh said, adding that there is not only value in the designs, but also in getting students involved with NASA and motivated on a deeper level for space flight.

“There are things we learned from them,” he said, “and there are things they learned from us.”

Eric Gillard
NASA Langley Research Center


See also: Sounding Rocket Mission Providing Real-World Test for New Technologies | NASA.

Videos: Copenhagen Suborbitals launching Nexø II rocket this summer

Copenhagen Suborbitals is a Danish non-profit volunteer group that aims eventually to send a person up to suborbital space and back safely. Since 2011 they have been launching a series of rockets, each more sophisticated and capable than the last. They launch from a sea platform towed into the Baltic. This summer they plan to launch the Nexø II. Support their efforts at Launch of World’s most advanced amateur rocket | Indiegogo.

Here is a video of highlights of their rocket adventures:

Below is a new documentary video about last summer’s launch of Nexø I.

In the summer of 2016, Copenhagen Suborbitals launched one of the most advanced liquid fueled rockets built by a team of volunteer amateurs. Follow the team close up during final preparations for the launch and during the launch of the Nexø I rocket. Enjoy.

Copenhagen Suborbitals is the world’s only manned, amateur space program, 100% crowdfunded and nonprofit. In the future, one of us will fly to space on a home built rocket.

If you like the video please go to and support our project. Your donations is our rocket fuel

More info on the project at:

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