By DAVE DENTON
High standards and lofty expectations are the norm in UAH's College of Engineering, but students in one of Dr. Marlow Moser's classes are aiming a little higher: They're designing a reusable rocket to carry micro-gravity research experiments.
The Student Launch Initiative is a joint project of UAH and Alabama A & M University with funding from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).
UAH is designing and building the rocket while AAMU provides the payload.
The goal in "Student Designed Reusable Launch Vehicle" (MAE 496) is finding efficient yet inexpensive ways of completing
"We've continued to work through the calendar year," said Shane Smith, a junior majoring in computer and electrical engineering. "Many of the students stayed with the project, even though they went home for the summer."
The project involves students in mechanical and aerospace engineering, computer and electrical engineering, and civil engineering. Their finished product will be a rocket almost 14 feet tall and 6 inches in diameter, and capable of handling a payload weighing as much as 15 pounds.
Dr. Gerald R. Karr, associate dean of the College of Engineering and professor in UAH's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering .Department, said the correlation of weight and altitude will be an ongoing determining factor in these rockets, which will be propelled by a mixture of nitric oxide and a thermoplastic.
"If we can keep the payload to 10 pounds, we should reach an altitude of 10,000 feet," said Karr. "With five pounds, we should get 11,600 feet."
"The future goal of the course will be to build a rocket that will be larger and go higher," said Marlow Moser. "We'll eventually want to go four miles (22,000 ft.) and even eight miles (45,000 ft.). This fall we've planned two launches, one baseline launch to test the equipment and one with the payload." Nine UAH students are involved in the project.
Dr. Moser, an assistant research professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is the course advisor. He says his students are being given a one-of-a-kind learning experience.
"They're learning how to dig up information for themselves," said Moser. "You have smaller teams working on individual aspects of the project, but they're learning to work together. And the answers are not in the back of the book."
A launch site for the rocket has yet to be determined. Availability, cost and FAA clearance will be major factors.
In addition to NASA funding, financial aid has also come from the Alabama Space Grant Consortium. Other UAH faculty involved in the project are NASA engineers and part-time lecturers Bob Ryan, Luke Schutzenhofer and Jim Blair.