Students at Fredericksburg, Texas, High School are preparing to launch a
rocket they designed and built – not a model, but a real rocket – thanks in
part to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The students are enrolled in the school’s two-year Aeroscience Program,
designed to teach engineering, propulsion and aerodynamics to high school
students. The highlight of the course is the design, construction and
launching of a rocket capable of carrying aloft a 35-pound payload.

In support of the advanced curriculum, the Marshall Center has donated for
the project two key elements the students don’t have the equipment to build
themselves, a rocket motor fuel grain and nozzle.

“We are pleased to team with Fredericksburg High School on this exciting
educational project. Their program inspired us to start our own Student
Launch Initiative involving local high schools and universities,” said
Marshall Center Director Art Stephenson. “Actually getting to build and
launch rockets is a great way to inspire students to enter the engineering

The 425-pound rocket, scheduled for launch May 14 at 10 a.m. (MDT) from the
U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, N.M., is called Redbird 9-H. “Red” is
one of the school’s colors, this is the program’s ninth rocket, and “H”
stands for the hybrid engine that will propel it. A hybrid engine is one
fueled by solid fuel and liquid oxidizer.

The Redbird 9-H is designed to reach altitudes as high as 100,000 feet and
carry a test payload for aerospace engineering students at Purdue University
in West Lafayette, Ind.

“Working with Purdue students on the fabrication of the nose cone has helped
my students develop strong communication skills as they relay design issues,
measurements and tolerances,” said Brett Williams, creator of Fredericksburg
High’s Aeroscience Program. Williams said the upcoming launch is planned to
reach an altitude of 80,000 feet to accommodate a microgravity research
project – or weightless environment– conducted by Purdue. The experiment
will use microtubules – or very small tubes– in a fuel tank to see if they
will make the rocket fuel burn cleaner.

“The Marshall Center’s willingness to partner with us is very important,”
Williams said. “NASA’s support and recognition of the students’ efforts
encourages them to excel.”

Williams said the program’s goal is not only to prepare students to excel in
college, but also to develop a program to help universities inexpensively
reach the edge of space for research by using his student-built sounding
rockets. Sounding rockets are used to economically conduct studies and test
instruments and devices used on satellites. About 80 percent of Williams’
students go on to pursue aerospace engineering degrees.

NASA uses its unique resources, whenever possible, to support educational
excellence, since education is a key element in the Agency’s overall
mission. The space agency participates in educational outreach programs
through centers around the country. More information on educational
opportunities with the Marshall Center can be found at: