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MINSTER — After a canceled test launch and two rescheduled launches, the Minster Rocket Club has passed every requirement and qualified to present its rocket to NASA engineers in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday.
The club left Wednesday for a four to five day intensive session with engineers, culminating in a Saturday or Sunday launch, weather permitting.
The students have overcome several obstacles to present their rocket, Club Adviser Ted Oldiges said. The club had one test launch canceled because of weather concerns. When the club was able to run a rescheduled launch, the parachute didn’t deploy.
“The first test launch was not very successful,” Oldiges said. “It went up 5,000 feet, but the main parachute didn’t come out.”
Luckily the rocket landed without much damage, other than a scratch to the nose cone. The problem with the parachute sent students back to the drawing board to re-engineer and retest their rocket.
The students decided the problem was how tightly the parachute was lodged in its bay. The computer told the electronics to fire, and they did, but the bay was small so the parachute was tightly packed in the area.
Students lengthened the bay, meaning now two feet of the rocket was taken up by the parachute, and then set a day to relaunch.
The second test, Oldiges said, was perfect.
“It performed flawlessly, went up 4,900 feet, fell perfectly, and the main parachute came out,” he said. “There were lots of tears, lots of joy.”
The students left Minster at 6 a.m. Wednesday for Alabama.
When they arrive, students will have a rigorous check-in to prove to a range safety officer that the rocket is safe and flightworthy. They will assemble, then break apart their rocket, going through the systems and subsystems of the device.
Oldiges called it a 45-minute interrogation to ensure the launch will happen safely and to specifications.
On Thursday, students will tour Marshall Space Center, then will have more meetings with NASA about the event.
Friday students present during a rocket fair for NASA employees, where they will show rockets to engineers and answer questions.
“It’s great to co-mingle with other teams as well,” Oldiges said.
The name of the club’s rocket is “I Need My Space,” and students will ask astronauts at NASA to sign the rocket during the presentations.
On Saturday, students will be set to launch, weather permitting.
“Right now, the weather looks perfect,” Oldiges said, noting meteorologists are calling for 70 degrees.
The last two years, however, launches have had to be delayed until Sunday because of weather.
Rockets will be judged by how well close they are to reaching a height of 5,280 feet. The rocket that is closest will win the competition.
“Our rocket’s a little heavy,” Oldiges said. “Through the process we added mass. We’re a couple hundred feet short.”
Oldiges said, if the weather is good, the height could increase.
On Saturday night, the students will attend a banquet will attend at NASA museum where they’ll eat in view of the Saturn 5, and other prizes will be awarded including most spirited and best appearance.
The launch will be broadcast live via UStream.com for anyone who would like to watch the club’s launch.