NASA launches Utah State University experiment into space

WALLOPS ISLAND, VA – NASA has launched an experiment into space Sunday, built by students from Utah State University (USU).

Aerospace engineering graduate student Zac Lewis viewed the launch from inside NASA’s Range Control Center.

After a series of long delays caused by storms and rough seas, the 43-foot-tall sounding rocket launched from the Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.

The rocket flew in space for approximately seven minutes before parachuting back to Earth and splashing into the Atlantic Ocean.

USU’s experiment was one of four selected to fly on the rocket. The experiment’s goal was to test a new type of thruster, developed by university professor Stephen A. Whitmore.

“The new USU thrusters are made with printed ABS plastic — the same material used to make Legos — and do not burn conventional liquid rocket fuel,” USU said in a statement about the experiment.

“This is the first time a USA-developed green propellant has been flight tested in space,” said Whitmore. “It’s an exciting time for us because this gives our students unparalleled industry experience, and at the same time we’re developing something that could completely change the small spacecraft industry.”

Professor Stephen A. Whitmore., left, and graduate students Zac Lewis, Rob Stoddard and Marc Bulcher designed and built an experiment to test a new type of environmentally friendly thruster.