Wallops Island, VA – June 28 – UH Maui College ECET/ET students, Dominic Agabin and Derric Torricer attended the Rockon 2014 workshop on June 21 – 26, 2014 at the NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), VA. They were accompanied by Jung W. Park, PhD, Assistant Engineering Technology Professor and Associate Director of the Hawaii Space Grant Consortium (HSGC). During the workshop, they built a sounding rocket payload from a kit in three days and launched it into space on June 26, 7:30 am. The WFF provided the rocket (two stage Terrier-Orion) and launch operations during the workshop that was supported by the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant programs with significant cost sharing from Wallops and NASA Education.

Here’s what they had to say about the experience:

Between June 21, and June 26, Dr. Jung Park, (UHMC faculty), Dominic Agabin, and Derrick Torricer (Juniors in the Engineering Technology program) attended the RockOn 2014 workshop at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to construct a research payload–under the guidance of the staff at the RockOn workshop–that would be launched with a sounding rocket. The rocket carried objects used in research into space momentarily in order to collect data on the environment there.

Working on the research payload was an exciting experience. We were able to learn about and implement sensors we had yet to work with. The payload was able to measure, radiation, pressure, temperature, humidity, acceleration and orientation. In addition, we were also excited about learning more about programming languages, such as C to incorporate with micro controllers like the Arduino board which was a central component in controlling the sensors in the research payload. When all the sensors were in place and tested the payload was then complete and ready to be integrated with the other participants’ research payloads into the rocket.
The vast amount of testing and precautions taken in order to launch a sounding rocket was intriguing to see.

The rocket sections needed to be bolted in many places and had to be pressurized. In the middle of the construction, the processes were halted due to the inner pressure of the rocket being off by about 0.5 psi. To remedy this, every inch of the rocket’s connections was inspected to find where the leak was. Such careful considerations showed us all how accurate the rocket needed to be to meet specs for its launch. When the rocket was constructed, its structural integrity was then tested by applying weights on various points on the rocket and subjecting it to motions similar to those that the rocket would experience in flight.
Prior to launch day we were allowed to get up close to the rocket. They added on another stage to the rocket which increased the rocket’s size. Thinking of the levels of science and engineering put into the rocket itself was quite humbling.
On launch day, over a nearby speaker the preparations for the launch could be heard going on behind the scenes. Many variables were being considered. From weather to the evacuation of the boats off the shore, many things were being accounted for. Even test rockets were fired to examine the current environment.

The launch was originally scheduled for 5:30 am, but was delayed due to more evacuations of off-shore boats. By around 7:00 am the rocket was ready to launch. Although the wait was longer than expected, the excitement of the launch experience was worth the delay. When the rocket launched, it was reminiscent of seeing and hearing a thunderstorm. We had seen the rocket lift off, and suddenly we were shaken by its thunderous roars. The sound was so loud that a car alarm went off.
Later in the day the rocket returned to earth and our research payload was removed. We were all excited to find out whether or not the data was properly collected. For some reason the SD adapter that we were using to plug into the laptop was not working properly, which caused the card not to be read.

Our initial thoughts were that the card itself was damaged and we would be unable to read the data. But after swapping a card adapter for the USB Adapter for the card, the screen showed that the data was stored and ready for processing. Using the RockOn Workshop’s decoder program, the raw data on the card was translated into understandable values. This data was then transferred into an Excel Spreadsheet where we could view the data in a graph which would show how the environment changed for the research payload. Such representation of the data gave a much clearer and in-depth view of what the payload was experiencing through various stages of flight.
Overall, the entire experience was surreal.

The three of us feel very fortunate to have been able to attend. Attending the RockOn workshop has also inspired and motivated us as students to learn more, especially in the Engineering disciplines. There were so many amazing sights and information to absorb. We would definitely recommend any of our peers to take the chance to experience what we have at the RockOn Workshop.