December 10th, 2021 by Keith Koehler, NASA Wallops Flight Facility
What does Earth look like from 98 miles up? A project developed by Colorado community college students is providing the opportunity for the public to see Earth from the perspective of a small rocket in flight.
The 360-degree camera experiment flew on a Terrier-Improved Malemute suborbital sounding rocket in August 2021 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The camera experiment was flown as part of the RockSat-X mission, a NASA education program in partnership with the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. Participating schools in the project included Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colorado, and Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado.
“The goal of the project was to produce a video of a sounding rocket flight away from the body of the vehicle,” said Giovanni Rosanova, chief of the NASA sounding programs office at Wallops. “In addition to the educational and public outreach values of the project, the technology may also be used on NASA sounding rocket flights to observe science or technology instrument deployments during flight.”
“Over 50 community college students participated in the project,” said Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. “Developed over a two-year period, the project provided the students with many challenges, including how to get the camera away from the rocket and then protecting it from re-entry then impact in the ocean.”
“The students met the challenges, during a pandemic, and the camera system provided a spectacular and immersive view from space,” Koehler said.
Sounding rockets fly a parabolic or arc trajectory. Flying from 75 to 800 miles altitude, these rockets are used to conduct science, pursue technology development, and provide educational opportunities for students. They do not place experiments or satellites into orbit.