The UMass Student Launch Team is made up of engineering students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst who are competing in the NASA Student Launch Initiative. This pioneering team is the fifth group of students from UMass to enter in the Student Launch program and every one of them is extremely excited to study, design and launch a high powered rocket in April of 2019.

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The UMass team aims to take on NASA’s challenging Student Launch Initiative (SLI). The SLI provides an opportunity for undergraduates in engineering to gain knowledge of and hands-on experience with high powered rocketry. In accordance with the NASA SLI Guidelines, the UMass team will design, build, and launch a high-powered rocket bearing various data-collecting payloads to simulate a NASA mission. Successful SLI teams travel to Huntsville, AL in April to launch and compete with other teams based on NASA’s scoring guidelines. An important goal of the project is to stimulate interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields by engaging local schools with interactive and educational activities.

The project is entirely reliant on funding from outside sources, and what funds the university can provide. Costs for the project most notably include hardware and travel expenses. The emergence of the SLI program at UMass provides a unique opportunity to expand technical knowledge in the fields of electrical, mechanical, and aerospace engineering for present and future students. Students involved gain valuable skills with leadership, analytical work, hands-on work, and team-based learning.

2017-18 team at the redstone arsnal test site

2017-18 team at the redstone arsnal test site

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The NASA Student Launch is a research-based, competitive and experiential exploration project that provides relevant and cost-effective research and development to support the Space Launch System, or SLS. The project involves reaching a broad audience of colleges and universities across the nation in an eight-month commitment to design, build, and fly payloads or vehicle components that support SLS. Based on research needs, these payloads and components fly on high-power rockets to an altitude determined by the range safety officer and the team. Supported by the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and U.S. aerospace industry, NASA Student Launch is a NASA-conducted engineering design challenge to provide resources and experiences for students and faculty. The project is built around a NASA mission, not textbook knowledge. Research/investigation topics are conceived by the SLS Program Office in collaboration with SLS industry partners. Payloads developed by teams will address research needs of different subsystems on the SLS. The teams will share the research results, which will be used in future design and development of SLS and other projects.

After a competitive proposal selection process, teams participate in a series of design reviews that are submitted to NASA via a team-developed website. These reviews mirror the NASA engineering design lifecycle, providing an experience that prepares students for the Human Exploration and Operations workforce. Teams must complete a Preliminary Design Review, Critical Design Review, Flight Readiness Review, and Launch Readiness Review that includes a safety briefing. Teams must analyze payload and flight data during a Post Launch Assessment Review. In addition, teams must successfully complete an initial and a final Launch Readiness Review that includes a safety inspection prior to launch.

The Student Launch management team is working to transition the NASA Advanced Rocketry Workshop from face-to-face to learning-on-demand, online content delivery. It is anticipated that the online training will be available in mid-2014 to assist institutions in organizing their own rocketry programs.