Kids get a first-hand experience launching 20-foot rockets into the Colorado sky

PEOPLE, Colo. — Children as young as kindergarteners helped design and build payloads that launched aboard a rocket from Colorado on Saturday.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has selected payloads designed by kindergarten through 12th graders to launch aboard three rockets built by interns.

And while high temperatures prevented two of the rockets from launching, ULA says the event was a success.

“Launch day was amazing, even though we had to finish earlier than expected due to concerns about extreme heat,” said ULA Communications Specialist Philip Lucas. “However, it was a great event and we had a lot of fun connecting with kids and families who came to watch.”

“Very impressed with the level of creativity”

The launch was part of ULA’s Student Launch Program, where students could design, build, refurbish and launch sport rockets.

A student rocket launch simulates a real launch campaign so trainees can experience what the process looks like from start to finish.

Not only do students get hands-on experience building rockets, but it also gives them a more in-depth education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

ULA says providing opportunities for young students to get involved in STEM is critical.

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“It is critical that we continue to educate and inspire students to pursue careers and opportunities in STEM,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. “Today’s students are future leaders; we cannot harness the potential of space without the scientists, engineers and explorers of tomorrow. The advanced technical knowledge exemplified in this year’s offerings did not go unnoticed. Our team is very impressed with the level of creativity shown in the work presented so far.”

The program aims to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and space entrepreneurs through an enriching introduction to the world of STEM and rocketry.

“We hope the Student Rocket Launch program helps participants envision a future for themselves in STEM and aerospace. The skills students gain through the program—from designing, building and testing payloads to collaborating and presenting on their experiments—help set students up for success in school and eventually the workplace,” said program manager Cara Hope.

A nearly kilometer high undertaking

Since its launch in 2008, the program has expanded to include students from across the country. In 2009, ULA partnered with Ball Aerospace, allowing students to build and design payloads to launch the rockets built by ULA interns.

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Payloads are judged on their design phase, test phase and payload performance, and this year the top three teams will win a cash prize for their school or non-profit organization of their choice.

This year’s payloads, called sine, cosine and tangent, included tools to generate a 3D simulation of each launch phase and tests to determine which type of structure best remains intact against extreme forces.

The rockets, built by interns, were 19.6 feet tall and would carry five to six different payloads each. Each of the rockets was expected to deliver approximately 768 pounds of average thrust over a 6-second interval and reach altitudes of approximately 4,200 feet.

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