Students to launch first “university” rocket into space
Final countdown set for 2022, if they break though the atmosphere´s Karman barrier, it would be the first university rocket built from scratch to reach such heights
A team of about twenty engineering students are working on a rocket to be launched into the great unknown that is the immense expanse of space beyond our fragile world, hoping to reach an altitude of 100 kilometres above sea level. This would make them the first university students to achieve such heady heights.
The students, from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), have been working on the project for around two years, and plan to complete it in 2022. The group, named Cosmic Research, have already been running tests with smaller rockets, named after notable female astronauts.
In honour of female asronauts
One such prototype is named in the memory of the NASA astronaut Judith Resnik, the second American woman in space, who sadly died during a launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. It had been NASA’s most-flown orbiter in the space agency’s fleet, but one fateful January day in 1986, it broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all members on board.
The student’s Resnik rocket has been a relative success so far, after three launches reaching altitudes of up to two kilometres within the earth’s troposphere. They’ve still got a long way to go before they reach their intended destination, the Karman barrier, found at 100 kilometres above sea level, just beyond the mesosphere where most meteors tend to burn up as they leave frictionless vacuum of humanity’s final frontier.
In 2018, they intend to launch the rocket Bondar, named after Canada’s first female astronaut Roberta Bondar who took part in 1992’s, hoping to reach fifteen kilometres in altitude.
Breaking barriers, the final frontier
The earth’s gravitational pull is not the only barrier their ballistic project hopes to break through. One of Cosmic Research’s members. Manel Cabellero, recalled how space “is a place where only some governments and private companies have reached, and we want to break this barrier.”
There are a few other various university groups who share a similar goal, but so far none have managed to blast through to the other side of the sky. If PUC’s Cosmic Research group is successful, it will make them the first to send a “university” rocket into space, designed and built completely “from scratch.”
The students also want to make their particular contribution to the world of engineering and research, beyond the reaching space. "We want (the project) to have a social impact. Everything we develop is what we want to disclose at an educational level so that people get interested in space again," explains Caballero.
In the event that the students’ are successful, and manage to cross the Karman barrier into the thermosphere, where shuttles generally orbit, it could open doors within the university world to more experimentation in meterology, electronics, and micro-gravity.