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Air Force Academy Spirit

FalconLaunch 7 rocket test-fired

Capt. Luke Sauter, Dept. of Astronautics; Maj. Sandra Wilson, Dept. of Astronautics; Cadet 1st Class Matt Robbins and Cadet 1st Class Adam Hillier, both of the FalconLaunch-7 cadet cadre. (Photo by David Ahlschwede)

Department of Astronautics faculty and Astro majors run through the checklists and set-up procedures for Tuesday's static test fire of the FalconLaunch 7 rocket. Pictured, left to right are: Capt. Luke Sauter, Dept. of Astronautics; Maj. Sandra Wilson, Dept. of Astronautics; Cadet 1st Class Matt Robbins and Cadet 1st Class Adam Hillier, both of the FalconLaunch7 cadet cadre.

Academy Public Affairs

Cadets and faculty conducted a successful static test fire of the Academy’s FalconLaunch 7 rocket today.

The rocket was secured in a concrete test stand for the test, which was conducted in the Academy’s Jacks Valley training area.

“What we are testing today is the igniter, which is brand new and we made it in-house,” said Cadet 1st Class Brad DeWees, FalconLaunch 7 project manager. Secondary test objectives included testing avionics packages and refining launch procedures.

The rocket burned through 100 pounds of solid fuel propellant in 4.5 seconds, as planned. Significant amounts of data were gathered and are being analyzed for implementation on this year’s FalconLaunch 7 rocket.

Static test-fire of the FalconLaunch 7 rocket. A full launch of the rocket is slated for April from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. (Photo by Dave Ahlschwede)

Static test-fire of the FalconLaunch 7 rocket. A full launch of the rocket is slated for April from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. (Photo by Dave Ahlschwede)

Today’s rocket is the latest in a series of FalconLaunch rockets. The rockets are designed, built and tested by senior cadets as part of a year-long capstone course in astronautical engineering.
“The big goal is to let cadets learn space by doing space,” said Cadet DeWees.

The program, now in its seventh year, is a multi-disciplinary team of cadets and faculty whose mission is to learn the engineering and design process through application. Although the course is run by the Department of Astronautics and the majority of the cadets are astronautics majors, cadets from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and management also participate.

The goal of the course is to, within the period of one year, design, build, test, and launch a rocket to reach the edge of space. Cadets also learn from the design and testing of each previous year’s rocket, just as next year’s group of FalconLaunch cadets will do when they start work on FalconLaunch 7.

FalconLaunch 7 hopes to design and build a “boosted-dart.” A new concept for the program, a boosted-dart builds on the experience of previous years. This will be the first staged rocket for the FalconLaunch program. 

The team plans to use a motor case similar to the one tested in the initial “boost” phase of this year’s flight. The second stage, the glide stage, occurs once the motor case burns out, leaving a small “dart” to coast up to peak altitude.
FalconLaunch 7 is scheduled for an April launch from the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. With a full fuel load for its 5,000-pound thrust rocket engine, FalconLaunch 7 is designed to reach an altitude of over 330,000 feet.

The FalconLaunch program’s end-goal is to provide the Air Force and Department of Defense with a cost-efficient, responsive method of delivering small scientific and engineering payloads into an altitude of 250,000 to 300,000 feet.

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