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NASA workshop could pay loads for Temple engineering students

July 9, 2009
Helferty (right) puts the final touches on his group's payload before launch

Helferty (right) puts the final touches on his group's payload before launch

With 2009 being the 40th anniversary of man’s walking on the lunar surface, NASA is once again gearing up for a return visit to the moon.  In preparation, the space agency is hosting projects and workshops like RockOn/RockSat, which Temple Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor John Helferty attened last month.  The purpose of the workshop was to teach future scientists and engineers first hand how to develop experiments for flight on sounding rockets. Nasa hopes faculty and students that attened will carry their new-found knowledge back to their home campuses where they can work on future experiments for flight on subsequent launches.

“The big initiative from NASA is to try to get students involved in science, math, engineering and technology; involved in NASA related activities; involved in NASA design methodologies–Nasa has a specific methodology for all design processes,” says Helferty, who once worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  “They want us, engineering institutions, to begin using that methodology in senior design projects so that students get an idea of what that methodology is, so when NASA hires

Helferty awaits the early morning launch of his payload

Helferty awaits the early morning launch of his payload

them, they’re familiar with it.”

As part of his week-long workshop experience, which was held at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., Helferty collaborated with University of Minnesota Professor of Aerospace Engineering Bill Garrard and UMinn student Douglas Carlson to build a payload in three-days that would measure acceleration, temperature, pressure and radiation during a space flight.  Their payload, as well as payloads from 14 other teams at the workshop, was then launched on a two-stage Terrier-Orion rocket to an altitude of 73 miles.

“Top 10 experience of my life,” says Helferty about launching the payload, which also included pictures of his children.  “For me professionally, besides working at JPL, I never actually did anything in space, so this was a great experience.”

The launch of the Terrier-Orion Rocket at Wallops

Helferty, who won an award at the workshop for his payload’s schematic, hopes to now have Temple students involved in designing and building a payload for launch next June.  “I look at this whole experience as baby steps toward bigger steps of getting undergraduate and graduate students involved in this.”


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