Team Qu8k (pronounced “Quake”) is a South Florida team that successfully launched a 26-foot tall civilian rocket more than 100,000 feet. Their efforts were part of a national contest that has been created to maintain interest in space research and exploration.
The contest in question is the 2011 Carmack Challenge located in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, it was held on Sept. 30. The Carmack Challenge was sponsored by John Carmack, the developer of the highly-popular Quake and Doom video games. The contest’s official name is the Carmack 100kft Micro Prize. The contest’s goals were relatively simple: Launch a rocket 100,000 feet above the launch altitude so as to provide a GPS serial log of the rocket’s flight. The rocket then must be recovered within 24 hours of launch – Team Qu8k was the first to accomplish all of these requirements.
Team Qu8k’s rocket launched on Sept. 30, 2011, at 11:08am PST, their rocket cleared the launch tower in about three-tenths of a second. The vehicle then accelerated, it was struck with the force of approximately 15g’s. The rocket would blow past the contest’s height requirement – its apogee was 121,000 feet. At its highest point, it was estimated that Team Qu8k’s rocket had cleared 99 percent of Earth’s atmosphere. The sky in the video goes and the curvature of the Earth is plainly visible.
Team Qu8k’s rocket deployed its recovery parachute about 90 seconds into the flight. It descended back down to Earth seven minutes later. The rocket’s landing site was less than three miles from where it had launched from, the rocket completely intact and could easily be launched again.
Despite the fact that Team Qu8k’s rocket had not one but four independent GPS systems on board – none were able to maintain lock on the rocket as it roared through its boost phase. Determination of how high the rocket had actually traveled was determined by accelerometer data along with clues provided by the video footage. This data will be included in a technical report that will be submitted to determine fulfillment of contest requirements. Given that the rocket not only surpassed the 100,000 foot rule and was recovered 100 percent intact, the most difficult of the requirements, the flight is being viewed as a success.