RockSat: The Next Step In Low-Cost Student Access to Space

The Colorado Space Grant Consortium began working on rocket payloads in 2005 with RocketSat I. RocketSat I was launched out of White Sands Missile Range in September 25, 2006. Although the flight wasn't nominal, practical experience was gained that led to two subsequent missions. RocketSat's II and III furthered Colorado's knowledge in the arena of sub-orbital rocket payloads and paved the way for the first RockOn workshop that took place in June of 2008.

RockOn is a three day intense workshop developed by Colorado Space Grant Consortium. RockOn guides faculty and students from across the United States through the construction of a rocket payload that is launched on the 5th day. At the workshop participants: build a computer board, build a scientific experiment (Geiger Counter), program the system, and mechanically integrate the system into the RockSat Payload Canister. Participants then help integrate these cans into Wallops Flight Facility’s SubSEM Ring Assembly. Participants then watch their payloads soar into space on the 5th day. The ultimate goal of the workshop is to provide a standard interface to Wallops (the RockSat Payload Canister) and the necessary training for students and faculty to return the following year to fly a payload of their own through the RockSat Program!

Participants that are up to the challenge can submit an Intent to Fly Form (IFF) in September that expresses an interest in participating in the current year's RockSat program. Customers are then initially selected and guided through the design process that includes three design reviews and monthly progress reports. By December each team has taken its design to CDR level. Depending on the available space on the rocket, the most advanced and able payloads are selected for flight no later than early January. 

These final down selected participants then continue in the process by making the first installment and begin payload construction. Over the course of five months, participants undergo numerous sub system reviews and teleconferences to ensure that designs are maturing as expected. As is the case with the design reviews, these sub system and progress teleconferences are lead by the RockSat program manager. The manager acts as the liaison between the customer and Wallops Flight Facility and also acts as a guide along the long and arduous path to launch. The program culminates in late June when customers travel to Wallops to launch their payloads into space!

To read about past RocketSat projects and their missions click here.

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