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NASA Student Launch Club soars to new heights

July 20, 2017
NASA Launch Club
Left to Right: Jacob Brunt '20 and Kyle Abrahims '19

A roar punctuates the air followed by a rush of smoke dusting a line across the sky. Moments later a parachute releases and it touches back to Earth; a rocket soaring over 4,000 feet above you. This past May, the NASA Student Launch Club launched a rocket at Central Sod Farms in Centreville, MD. Central Sod Farms is part of the Maryland Delaware Rocketry Association, Inc. (MDRA) that supports the education affiliated with engineering rockets. The club’s rocket soared an astounding 4,288 feet in the air.

In 2016, the club was formed by Kyle Abrahims ‘19 and Adam Cavanaugh ‘20. Their passion for competing in the NASA Student Launch program in high school inspired them to form the NASA Student Launch Club at YCP with their faculty advisor Tristan Ericson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Abrahims is friends with the people of MDRA, which allows the club to launch their rocket at Central Sod Farms without having to acquire their own Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) waiver if they reach a height of 5,280 feet. The club is funded by contributions from businesses and people in the community, including the PA Space Grant Consortium with a total of $7,500.

This marks the first year of the club with Abrahims as the Team Captain of 15 students, ranging from Nursing, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering majors. Abrahims said, “Personally, I think the greatest accomplishment of our club so far is just becoming a club. As team captain, I have been blessed to find a group of 15 committed students that want to spend a whole year devoted to a NASA program, and also found students who have helped us become an official club, and find funding to keep a program like this going. That is a challenge in itself as our annual budget is around 15K.” 

The rockets made by the NASA Student Launch Club are not built from model rocket kits, but from the devotion of fifteen students who hand build 10 feet long rockets with 6-inch diameter airframes. Abrahims explained, “As far as construction, we teach students wood-working skills, proper drill and dremel usage, cutting techniques, and other software programs.” Programs like Solidworks and Rocksim are utilized to 3-D design and test these handmade parts before they are incorporated into the rocket. Each rocket built has a scientific payload and requirements that must also be integrated into the design. The purpose of the NASA Student Launch Club program is to create a rocket that can reach a height of one mile into the sky after launch. With a height of 4,288 feet, the club is close to their 5,280 feet goal. Next April, the club plans to compete in the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) competition in Huntsville, AL. In addition, the club plans to visit the York City School District to teach about STEM education to local schools for the NASA Student Launch program.

written by Marisa Schirk

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