Student-designed rocket reaches record height of 43,891m

VIDEO: REUTERS

NEW MEXICO (REUTERS) - A rocket, designed and manufactured by students from the University of Southern California's Rocket Propulsion Laboratory, reached an altitude of 144,000 feet (43,891m) - a height the group says is a record for a rocket wholly engineered and built by students.

The rocket, called Fathom II, was launched from New Mexico on Tuesday (March 4). It took roughly three months to manufacture.

Its launch marked a milestone in the unofficial 'space race' between the rocket clubs of various universities worldwide, where students must not only build and design their own rockets from the ground up, but also recover them intact following their launches.

Roberto Lopez, the group's chief composite engineer, said: "We built something that went four times the speed of sound, that set the altitude record. This just feels so amazing.


The rocket reached an altitude of 144,000 feet (43,891m) - a height the group says is a record for a rocket wholly engineered and built by students. PHOTO: USC ROCKET LAB/TWITTER

"But the part that did it for me is recovering the footage, because we have in-flight cameras on there, and the first thing I did is I took the cameras out of the rocket, I plugged them into the computer and I saw the footage.

"And I just saw the rocket go up, and you see the blue sky turn black, and you see the curvature of the earth, and I just started wailing. It's beautiful footage and I can't believe students did this ourselves."

The USC rocket was designed as a research tool for the group's next, and ultimate, goal - reaching the Karman line, which at 330,000 feet (100,584 m), marks the boundary between space and Earth. They hope to launch that rocket later this year.