Watch a Student-Built Rocket Go Supersonic!

A student-built sounding rocket soared to an altitude of 24,127 feet (7,353 meters) while traveling faster than the speed of sound during a recent launch from Spaceport America.

Students at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech) designed and built the Mustang 6B rocket, in collaboration with White Sands Research and Developers LLC (WSRDs). Mustang 6B successfully blasted off from the Spaceport America launching facility in New Mexico on April 15. Reaching a maximum velocity of 1,372 feet per second (418 meters per second), the rocket traveled at 1.27 times the speed of sound, according to a statement from New Mexico Tech. 

"It was just beautiful," Aaron Misla, a mechanical engineering student at New Mexico Tech and rocket team leader, said in the statement. "It's the culmination of everyone's hard work and dedication to a common goal. To succeed with flying colors like this is the best possible scenario we could have asked for." [Amazing Small Rocket Launches by NASA (Photos)]

A student-built Mustang 6B sounding rocket streaks into the sky from Spaceport America, ultimately reaching supersonic speeds, during an April 15, 2018, test flight. Students in the Mechanical Engineering Design Clinic at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology built the rocket. (Image credit: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology)

Measuring 10.9 feet (3.3 m) tall, Mustang 6B takes the record for the most powerful rocket ever flown by New Mexico Tech students. The rocket is actually an updated version of Mustang 6A, which launched in November 2017, and it is designed to be a reusable flight platform, according to the statement.

The student team, which includes 15 students and three volunteers, created the Mustang 6B rocket as part of the New Mexico Tech Mechanical Engineering Design Clinic. The students primarily worked on developing the rocket components, including the separation and data-acquisition systems. The carbon-fiber nose cone, payload section and motor shroud, which form most of the outer shell of the rocket, were built by WSRDs, which specializes in aerospace research and development. WSRDs also purchased the commercial motor for the rocket, according to the statement.

Student engineers with the New Mexico Tech Mechanical Engineering Design Clinic pose for a picture with their Mustang 6B sounding rocket ahead of a successful launch from Spaceport America in New Mexico on April 15, 2018. (Image credit: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology)

"All of the student-designed systems performed as expected, allowing the entire rocket body and payload to be recovered with no damage and the reusable rocket [to be] ready to be flown again," according to the statement. 

Students participating in the New Mexico Tech Mechanical Engineering Design Clinic have been building and flying rockets since 2012, with a total of four launches from Spaceport America. The university's partnership with WSRDs began in 2014, according to the statement. 

"It is gratifying to see the hard work of the students pay off with such a spectacular success," Michael Hargather, a professor and faculty adviser in the mechanical engineering program at New Mexico Tech, said in the statement. "We look forward to future launches. We greatly appreciate the support from Spaceport America and White Sands Research and Developers."

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.