The University of Nebraska-Lincoln doesn’t have an aerospace engineering department, but that didn’t stop a bunch of undergraduates pursuing careers in the space industry. They formed a student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics a few years ago and began building their own rocket program.
They built up their skills by competing in the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association’s Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition. They go up against an international roster of teams from established aerospace engineering schools. The Nebraska Journal Star reported on the team’s preparations for launch at the 2014 IREC.
In 2012 the team entered the Nasa Student Launch program (read UNL’s press release). Student Launch is a research-based program that lets undergraduates use their rocketry skills to conduct research that will benefit the space agency’s heavy launch vehicle, the Space Launch System. UNL reached 3rd place in the altitude competition in its first year, and finished 17th overall in last year’s competition.
The rocket they launch at the IREC will carry sensors for Nasa Student Launch. The team will collect data on the stresses the nosecone experiences as the rocket accelerates to supersonic speeds on its flight over 7.6 kilometers into the sky. But these young rocketeers are just getting started. Their ultimate goal is launch a rocket across the boundary of space itself. They hope that this will convince their university to create a formal aerospace program. As team member Brad Christensen told the Journal Star:
“That’s what our mission is here, to demonstrate this is undeniably important to the university and show them what we do and try to get them excited about aerospace and rocketry and hopefully expand this into a degree field.”