Last Saturday, October 11, around 10a PDT, a rocket carrying a payload built by students in the Kentucky Space Consortium was launched outside of Mojave, California. The flight test, designated Prospector 12A (P-12A), was a sub-orbital test flight conducted to verify liquid fueled propulsion technologies being developed by Garvey Spacecraft Corporation in partnership with California State University, Long Beach.
The 1.7 pound payload was designed by Kentucky college students to precisely measure details of the trajectory of the rocket in flight. The payload was successfully recovered and data analysis of the flight data has begun.
Students in the Kentucky Space Consortium worked with engineers from Garvey and students and faculty from Cal State Long Beach and Stanford University throughout the day last Friday to integrate the Kentucky payload atop the 23.8 foot long, 25 inch diameter, rocket. Despite extreme winds the day and night before the launch, Saturday morning dawned clear and calm as the rocket was fueled and final checks were completed. At 9:56a PDT the rocket was launched from the edge of the Koehn Dry Lake Bed 25 miles northeast of Mojave California.
After the thrust phase, a failure in the drogue chute deceleration system resulted in the rocket impacting at a much higher velocity than intended, but all the payloads were still successfully recovered.
Analysis continues on the recovered data, but initial review shows very detailed information on the performance and trajectory of the rocket. The Kentucky student-designed and built inertial measurement unit (IMU) consisting of accelerometers and gyroscopes on three axes will allow the motion of the rocket in 3-dimensions to be precisely measured. With this data the students will be able to recover details of the motion of the rocket throughout its flight with a sub-millisecond resolution.
This mission marks another significant milestone for Kentucky Space and provides the students with invaluable hands-on experience as they continue to develop technologies for sub-orbital and orbital space experimentation.