News and Notes

A Newsletter for Faculty and Staff of Idaho State University

July 6, 2009 — Vol. 25 No. 22

ISU Faculty and students launch experiments into space

NASA’s Terrier Orion rocket lifts off with faculty and student experiments on board.
Burns, Frazier and Nickell await the launch of their experiments at the Wallops Island NASA facility. Photo credit: Tim Frazier

Faculty and staff from Idaho State University saw their experiments rise into the sky at 5:30 a.m. June 26 with the successful launch of a NASA rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Professor Tim Frazier, Mass Communication Department, Ben Nickell, physical sciences systems administrator, and Charles Burns, computer science lab instructor, built, programmed and integrated their experiments into the rocket payload. The Idaho Space Grant Consortium funded their work and provided help with project’s logistics. The ISU contingent was joined by nearly 100 university instructors and students from 21 states for the week-long RockOn/RockSat workshop.

The two-stage Terrier-Orion rocket carried the capsule to an altitude of 73 miles. The payload was recovered from the Atlantic and the data successfully retrieved from their experiments.

The equipment built by ISU’s team measured acceleration, pressure, temperature and radiation throughout the flight. They also included a specimen of bacteria for researchers in ISU’s Biological Sciences department. “We built everything from scratch, including the computer that controlled our entire package,” Frazier said. “This gives us real experience and insight into building a space capsule that can withstand the tremendous stress of the flight and the harsh conditions of space. We are planning a new experiment for next year based on this flight and hardware.”

The program is conducted in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia with support from NASA. The purpose of the workshop is to teach scientists and engineers first hand how to develop experiments for flight on suborbital rockets. Faculty and students will carry their new-found knowledge back to their home campuses where they can work on future experiments for flight on subsequent launches.