NASA will try again Wednesday to launch student experiments to space following weather issues
VIRGINIA — College students eager to see their experiments fly in space will have to wait at least one more day after weather forced NASA to scrub plans for a scheduled Tuesday launch from eastern Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility.
The experiments include testing a cheaper way to beam payload data back to controllers on the ground, research on crystal growth in microgravity and the first 3-D printer on an unmanned rocket.
That experiment from Virginia Tech will, naturally, produce a replica of the school’s “VT” logo. The experiment will advance the use of 3-D printers to make replacement parts and even satellites in space, researchers say.
“We wanted to be the pioneers of that and get to be the first to tackle the problem,” said Virginia Tech computer science senior Sebastian Welsh of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.
The launch was scheduled for Tuesday morning, but officials at Wallops, near Chincoteague, Virginia, called it off after concluding weather would not clear before the 10 a.m. launch window expired.
They plan to try again Wednesday.
In addition to the Virginia Tech experiment, projects from Capitol Technology University, the University of Hawaii Community College System, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Northwest Nazarene University and the University of Puerto Rico are on board.
The launch is part of a program that gives “higher education students an avenue to work as a team and go beyond the classroom into hands-on applications and developing experiments for space,” according to Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, which helps coordinate the program.
NASA’s “sounding rocket” program hurls experiments some 90 miles above Earth for a brief encounter with space. The experiments don’t enter orbit and only remain in space for 5 to 20 minutes, NASA says.
In this case, the experiments will spend about 15 minutes in space, returning to Earth by way of parachute about 63 miles off the Virginia coast, NASA says.
“The short time and low vehicle speeds are more than adequate (in some cases they are ideal) to carry out a successful scientific experiments,” according to NASA.
Such launches are cheaper than orbital missions, NASA says, and usually require less lead time to plan and carry out — sometimes as little as three months.