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Student Design, Development And Operation Of Sounding Rockets At The United States Air Force Academy

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Astronautics and Space Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1151.1 - 10.1151.10

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Paper Authors

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Thomas Joslyn

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2521

Student Design, Development, and Operation of Sounding Rockets at the United States Air Force Academy

Thomas B. Joslyn Kenneth E. Siegenthaler

Department of Astronautics United States Air Force Academy


The FalconLAUNCH program is a unique, dynamic rocket launch vehicle research program that serves as a capstone course for Astronautical Engineering majors at the United States Air Force Academy. The goal of the program is to give students the opportunity to “Learn Space by Doing Space.” The program results in a rocket launched into the upper atmosphere every year. It is conducted in the same manner required of a civilian company or Air Force organization delivering a new aerospace vehicle for use by the USAF or NASA. In addition to the design and construction of the rockets, students must meet all of the typical Department of Defense (DoD) milestones, including preparing and briefing the Alternative Systems Review (ASR), Preliminary Design Review (PDR), Critical Design Review (CDR), and (most recently) a report of failure analysis and cause determination. These reviews are given to and evaluated by members of the civilian aerospace community and scientists and engineers from U.S. Air Force space and propulsion organizations outside of the Academy. Each student is required to become familiar with the overall vehicle and become an expert in their particular subsystem. They develop skills in researching available technology, evaluating design and fabrication options, and then building or contracting out flight hardware. This paper discusses the current status of the FalconLAUNCH program, the challenges of an almost complete turnover of personnel every year, and the dynamics of managing the design, construction, and flying of a supersonic rocket every year by a completely student team. Since this program is conducted in the same manner as a typical Air Force science and engineering program, students from other academic departments also participate in the program. The program has been augmented by the participation of electrical engineering, and management students. The addition of this multidisciplinary real-world atmosphere adds an extra dimension of realism to the program. This paper discusses the various solutions the Academy has devised to address the many challenges of conducting a successful program in a highly constrained undergraduate environment.

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Joslyn, T. (2005, June), Student Design, Development And Operation Of Sounding Rockets At The United States Air Force Academy Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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