Such Great Heights
A team of students from the University of Southern California’s Rocket Propulsion Lab just successfully launched a 13-foot tall rocket called Traveler IV to past the Kármán line — the altitude of 62 miles (100 km) which is widely considered to be the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
It’s the first time any student-built and -designed vehicle has achieved that feat. Students around the world have been racing to achieve the same thing, as Wired reports, but the USC team got there first.
After reaching a max speed of Mach 5.1 and plummeting back to Earth — slowed by a set of parachutes— the rocket was still in good condition, according to official mission logs.
The rocket itself was powered by solid rocket fuel and featured only a single-stage rocket design — rather than the multi-stage layouts that split and ignite space-optimized thrusters mid-flight to reach orbit.
The USC team’s launch didn’t go off without a hitch. They noticed “imperfections in the flight trajectory” just after launch, likely due to damage to the interior of the nozzle.
For the next launch, the team is already eyeing liquid-fuel rocket designs for bigger payload and more power.
READ MORE: A Rocket Built by Students Reached Space for the First Time [Wired]
More on rocket launches: Update: Vid Appears to Show SpaceX Capsule Exploding During Test