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Physics & Astronomy


Carthage student rocket payload experiment set for launch on June 20

An experiment designed by four Carthage students and physics professor Kevin Crosby will be launched into space on a NASA suborbital sounding rocket on Thursday, June 20, as part of the space agency’s RockSat program.

Kevin Lubick ‘13 performs final tests on the Carthage payload experiment in the Carthage College Microgravity Lab.Kevin Lubick ‘13 performs final tests on the Carthage payload experiment in the Carthage College Microgravity Lab.The Carthage team is one of seven teams from colleges across the country to be awarded a spot on the Terrier-Improved Orion launch at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Their experiment, Microgravity Fuel Gauging Phase III, tests resonant-mode fuel volume gauging in zero gravity.

The rocket is set for launch between 4:30 and 9 a.m. CST, with a backup launch day of June 21. Live coverage of the launch will be available via UStream beginning at 3:30 a.m. CST on launch day. Visit to watch live.

The Terrier-Improved Orion rocket is a 42-foot-tall, two-stage, spin-stabilized rocket with a maximum apogee of 180 miles. The flight will provide approximately five minutes of zero-gravity as it coasts over the top of its parabolic trajectory.

“RockSat provides our students with the exciting opportunity to not just witness the launch of a sounding rocket, but to actually design and build a payload to be flown on board,” says Prof. Crosby.

The members of the 2013 Carthage RockSat team are:

RockSat is a joint program of the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia. Student and faculty teams spend nine months designing an experiment to be flown as payload on the sounding rocket. Teams produce a series of design studies, each culminating in a review by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium and NASA-Wallops Flight Facility.

Having successfully passed each review, the Carthage team now heads to Wallops Island June 12-20.

Microgravity Fuel Gauging Phase III is a continuation of an experiment initiated by the Carthage Microgravity Team during the 2011-12 SEED program, in which students tested new zero-gravity fuel gauge technology aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder, an airplane that flies a series of parabolas over the Gulf of Mexico to provide 30-second intervals of zero gravity. While that experiment was a success, and resulted in publications and presentations, RockSat provides an opportunity to further test Carthage’s zero-gravity fuel gauge in a longer period of zero-g.

“On the zero-gravity aircraft, the tank size and short duration of the parabola conspire to keep the fluid in the tank sloshing. Sloshing fluid reduces the accuracy of our technique and does not reflect the anticipated environment of use in spacecraft,” Prof. Crosby said. The Terrier-Improved Orion rocket will provide about five minutes of zero-g, “enough time for the liquid to settle, and for us to get data that will take our fuel gauge technology forward,” Crosby said.

The following schools were selected to participate in RockSat-C 2013:

  • Carthage College
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Temple University
  • United States Naval Academy
  • Miami University of Ohio
  • University of Nebraska at Lincoln
  • Eastern Shore Community College/Mitchell Community College
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