NASA Student Launch Teams Roll to the Pad in Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., March 28, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Fifty years ago, rockets destined to send humans to the Moon rolled out to the launch pad. Now, it is time for the participants of NASA’s Student Launch competition hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to do the same.

The competition is held annually and challenges student teams to design, build, test and fly a high-powered, reusable rocket while carrying a scientific payload. From all corners of the country, 45 middle school, high school and college teams representing 20 states will rendezvous in Huntsville for the competition. The public and media are invited to the annual rocket fair on Friday, April 5, and the competition on Saturday, April 6.

The rocket fair, to be held in the East Hall of Von Braun Center in downtown Huntsville from 4-6:30 p.m. CDT, provides the public and media alike the opportunity to view the teams’ high-flying rockets and payloads up close before launch day. On April 6, the teams will take the short drive to Bragg Farms in Toney, Alabama, to launch and operate their rockets and payloads for official competition scoring. The launches will begin at 8 a.m.

Teams conclude their week with an awards ceremony, sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corp., on April 6, from 5-7 p.m. at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

Week-long Schedule of Events:

  • April 5: Rocket Fair from 4- 6:30 p.m. at Von Braun Center East Hall
  • April 6: Launch Day from 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (or until last rocket launches) at Bragg Farms in Toney, Alabama
  • April 6: Awards Ceremony from 5-7 p.m. at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Davidson Center
  • April 7: Tentative rain day in case of deterring weather from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (or until last rocket launches) at Bragg Farms

Media interested in covering Student Launch events should contact Angela Storey at 256-544-0034 no later than 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 2.

About the Competition

In 2019, the student teams are challenged to launch their custom-built rockets to an altitude between 4,000 and 5,500 feet, deploy an automated parachute system and safely land. Unlike past years where teams were aiming to hit one-mile in altitude, teams this year predicted months in advance how high their rocket will fly on launch day. The team that comes closest to their predicted altitude in each division wins the coveted Altitude Award.

Each rocket also carries a student-built payload. College and university teams must select one of two Marshall-defined technical payload challenges — an autonomous rover that collects a soil sample, or an unmanned aerial vehicle that deploys a navigational beacon at a designated location. High school and middle school teams can choose one of the college division payloads or they can design their own payload of science or engineering curiosity.

Student teams were chosen by a team of NASA experts based on proposals including descriptions of their rockets, their recovery systems, payloads, safety and STEM — Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — engagement plans. After selection, competing teams go through an extensive eight-month design, build, test and review process that requires them to meet multiple design and documentation milestones. At each milestone, they present their work to a NASA team of rocketry experts who ensure the teams are making proper progress. The system resembles the real-world process of rocket development.

The Office of STEM Engagement at Marshall manages Student Launch to advance NASA’s mission through the collaboration with educational institutions and students. NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Office of STEM Engagement, as well as Northrop Grumman and National Space Club – Huntsville Chapter, sponsor the initiative.

The rocket launches are open to the public, but pets are not permitted. The launch will stream live online at:

To learn more about NASA’s Student Launch challenge, visit:


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