Under a clear blue Florida sky and with NASA’s Launch Pad-39A serving as a back drop bus loads of students arrived from Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) Melbourne Campus to watch and participate in this year’s Space University’s rocket launch competition.
“What a great day for a launch as it is Bastille Day back in my home country of France,” said Raphaell Paneau from ISU’s External Relations Department.
After a quick safety briefing the launch rules were announced. Each rocket would carry an ‘eggstronaut’ (a raw egg that served as a passenger) cargo and a commemorative laser etched shuttle Lucite block. The egg had to survive the launch and reentry without breaking. The objective altitude goal was set at 761 feet; this was the height of a Saturn V rocket. The altitude was verified by an onboard altimeter.
ISU’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, Angie Buckley, addressed the media stating that“It’s an opportunity of a life time” to launch from the historic location.
Veteran NASA launch countdown commentator George Diller was on hand to give the launch particulars, while the theme music for each team’s arrival blasted from the PA system. Gold Team’s music was ‘Goldfinger’ followed by Phoenix’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and Konstantin 369 chose ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’ as their anthem.
This year’s ISU class has 134 students from 31 countries with ages ranging from 21 to 57 and marks the 25th year of the Space Universities activities. This year, five teams entered the rocket launch competition. Two of the teams had malfunctions resulting in the ‘death of the eggstronaut. Team Konstantin 369 had an engine failure right after liftoff sending the craft spiraling over the retaining wall of the pad while Team Icarus’ parachute got tangled up in its lines, failing to open. This sent the team’s craft smashing into the ground at a very high rate of speed.
The students were told that there would be a surprise launch at the end of the competition. Brevard rocket club and officials carried out a five foot 1/60th scale Space launch System (SLS) rocket and set it up on the launch platform. The students chanted the usual countdown getting to zero and then the rocket took off into the air. It gained an altitude of about 15 feet – before plummeting to the ground breaking up on impact. The PA announced that the accident review board determined engine failure on lift off was the cause of the failure.
Phoenix team was declared the overall contest’s winner. When this was announced ‘Bad Moon Rising’ blasted over the PA system. The team was led by Eric Dawson who studied telecommunication’s law at the University of Nebraska. Dawson made his way to the front of the crowd with his team mate Hidemasa Fujita from Japan.
After group photos were taken the students were taken on a guided tour of the Kennedy Space Center.