Five Huntsville, Ala. area high schools will field student teams
that will build competing reusable rockets in the quest to launch a
science payload – all under the guidance of NASA rocket scientists and

Sparkman High School, Johnson High School, New Century Technology
High School, Randolph School, and Madison Academy were selected after a
competitive process by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.
Following a design review next April, NASA will select one team’s rocket
to carry the science payload. Launch is planned for early next fall. The
other schools will have an opportunity to launch their rockets at the same

Johnson, the only school to propose a science experiment to be flown
on the reusable rocket, was selected to design and integrate its
microgravity experiment for flight.

“This education initiative is intended to energize students through
hands-on science, math and engineering,” said Marshall Center Director Art
Stephenson. “At the same time, this government-industry involvement with
students helps develop and strengthen Marshall’s future workforce – and
our nation’s future pool of talent.”

A selection panel representing Marshall Center’s major directorates
originally planned to choose the best two proposals – one for a rocket and
one for a payload — but found themselves equally impressed by the
knowledge and professionalism of the student rocket scientists.

“We not only asked schools to submit written proposals, but we also
asked them to give an oral briefing and answer questions from our
selection panel, much like we do in the normal procurement process,” said
Jim Pruitt, manager of education programs at the Marshall Center. “We
were so impressed with all the schools that we asked all five to design
and build their rockets. If we can sustain this excitement and energize
these students, maybe we can get some to go on and make a career of it.”

A second rocket and payload will be designed, built and launched by
area universities. The University of Alabama in Huntsville is leading the
rocket team, and Alabama A&M University in Huntsville is leading the
payload team.

The student reusable launch vehicle project is modeled after a
similar program at Fredericksburg High School in Fredericksburg, Texas.
In August, a student team successfully launched a 22-foot (6.7 meter)
rocket to an altitude of 35,000 feet (10668 meters).

“The Fredericksburg program demonstrates that not only can a project
like this be done, it can be done safely and effectively,” said
Stephenson. “It shows that when students are given a chance to excel,
they’ll step up to the challenge – a trait we need in tomorrow’s leaders.
We want to provide more opportunities like that for today’s young adults.”

Potential launch sites are under review, and will be selected to
meet the needs of the rocket designs.