Photo/video credit: Jesse Ramirez and Alex Horcasitas, Weaponize

USC’s Fathom II rocket broke the current Spaceport America Student record when it reached an altitude of 144,000 feet (27.27 miles) after blasting off from Spaceport America’s vertical launch campus in New Mexico

The record-breaking rocket launch took place at 9:23 am MST from Spaceport America’s Vertical Launch Complex-1 on the East Campus in New Mexico on March 4, 2017.

USC students and Alumni cheered alongside Spaceport America crewmembers as the Fathom II rocket soared past the previously held apogee to bring back the Spaceport America Student Rocket record to USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.  Viewers around the world were also joining in via Spaceport America’s, and Facebook Live channels with over 4,000 views.

“The USC RPL student team continues to amaze us with their ingenuity, energy and ambition. This success is another milestone in their development and a great promise for the key role they will surely play in space travel and exploration,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, Dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

The USC Fanthom II rocket reached an altitude of 144,000 ft (27.27 miles) as indicated by analysis of on-board image data, and independently corroborated by analyzing on-board accelerometer data and barometric pressure data during descent.

“Spaceport America congratulates USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Rocket Propulsion Lab student team on this milestone achievement,” said Daniel Hicks, Chief Executive Officer Spaceport America.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner Parachute System Test Launch Lifts off Successfully from Spaceport America in New Mexico

In collaboration with teams from Boeing and White Sands Missile Range, a giant helium-filled balloon lifted off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, carrying a flight-sized boilerplate Starliner spacecraft up to about 40,000 feet where it floated across the San Andres Mountains for a parachute landing on the other side. The goal was for the spacecraft to reach the same velocity it would experience during a return from space and for the parachutes to deploy as planned.

“We took another step toward returning a domestic crew launch capability to the U.S.,” said John Mulholland, Vice President and Program Manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “Our team is reviewing the data from this first successful test and gearing up for a few more drops that will enable us to qualify our parachutes for spaceflight.”

Data collected from these tests will be used to verify the parachute inflation characteristics and landing system performance, as well as the altitude and descent rate of the Starliner at touchdown.

“We are proud that Boeing chose Spaceport America as a test location for the CST-100 Starliner,” said Daniel Hicks, Chief Executive Officer Spaceport America.  “It’s been a privilege to support this important endeavor in returning human spaceflight launch capabilities to NASA and the United States.”

The results of these mission-critical tests will confirm that the Starliner’s parachute system can stabilize and decelerate the crew module to a nominal terminal descent velocity, such that a landing on the Earth’s surface can be safely accomplished.

Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is being developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The Starliner was designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low-Earth orbit. For NASA service missions to the International Space Station, it will carry up to four NASA-sponsored crew members and time-critical scientific research. The Starliner has an innovative, weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time. It also features wireless Internet and tablet technology for crew interfaces.