UAF test rocket could open door for more affordable research

A small experimental sounding rocket launched from Poker Flat Research Range Feb. 9.

A small experimental sounding rocket launched from Poker Flat Research Range Feb. 9.

Kaz Alvarez/Sun Star Contribution

Mark Conde, assistant professor of Physics at UAF worked with Jeff Rothman, shop supervisor with the GI Electronic Shop to construct and launch a small sounding rocket as an engineering experiment Feb. 9.

While Conde was the lead scientist on the experiment, Rothman was the lead engineer and had poured several years of effort into the construction of the rocket. Rothman equipped the rocket with various instruments, such as a GPS, compass altitude sensors and radio communications systems, for operation tests.

In order to be launched at Poker Flat Research Range, the rocket had to meet NASA’s safety requirements. “The vehicle was not remarkable on its own. Any advanced amateur can build the same rocket,” said Conde. “But this one was designed and built to NASA standards.”

Conde and Rothman tested the operation of the instruments installed on the rocket, which included a GPS, compass altitude sensors and radio communications systems, for operation tests.

The goal is to get to the point where low-cost sounding rockets can be launched frequently for smaller missions.

Graduate students Carl Andersen, Manbharat Sing-Dhadly and Jason Ahrns assisted with the project.

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