Under promise and over deliver. A key strategy to success in business, and life. The implications are that you know what you want to do, are able to communicate it and then deliver. Delivering promised results is a key trust building behavior. As I plan my goals for 2013 for the Student Launch Program (SLP), I realize delivering results is getting more complex.
A goal of the Student Launch Program is to provide annual access to space for student experiments. This goal has been achieved four times from 2008 to 20011. Two thousand eleven was our most successful year, providing access to space for 27 student experiments, bringing our total to 68. We also had paying customers on some of our flights. Those paying customers, combined with the proceeds from the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) and funds raised from federal grants, all go to support the purchase price of $310,000 for the rocket and WSMR tracking service. Additional costs include covering the hardware to build experiments, integration costs, funds to train teachers and faculty, and transportation costs to the launch site.
The New Mexico Space Grant (NMSGC), founder of the Student Launch Program, wrote a proposal to NASA in 2011. It was to provide this unique Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program to 133 schools in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
Teachers came to New Mexico State University for a week of training provided by NASA, our colleagues at NASA White Sands Test Facility, and also from the SEMMA program. NMSU, the 133 schools including those from Las Cruces, Truth or Consequences, community partners including Spaceport America, NASA WSTF WSMR, provided a learning community for middle and high school teachers. A learning community’s goal is to acquire new skills while applying their existing skills to solving progressively more difficult problems. The final output of the week was to provide enough capability and capacity so each teacher could return to their school and propose a competitive project to fly on the 26 slots we had on the rocket.
The 2011, $2 million project was funded by NASA. Over three years NMSGC recruited 133 teachers from 4 states, delivered the summer institute, procured the rocket, paid for teacher travel, supported the expense of building the experiments, and sending them to space. We paid the transportation expenses for over 800 students, teachers and parents to come to Spaceport America to observe the launch. We built a laboratory at the spaceport for data analysis once the experiments returned to earth. We then have been tracking over 1,000 students who participated in the school based exercised during 2011.
When we first started the Student Launch Program in 1995, we launched from White Sands Missile Range. Students and teachers came in teams to NMSU for a week. They not only built their electronic multi-sensor payloads, they also built the high powered model rockets. The rockets went to 10,000 feet, now we go to 62 miles. We had an average of 10 teams, flew 10 rockets and 10 experiments per campaign.
The multi-sensor electronic experiments typically measured temperature inside the rocket, acceleration, spin, and altitude. The experiments were built by the students and teachers together. Post launch, the students and teachers took the data from their experiments, ran it through the analysis and plotting software, and complied data to come up with the final flight profile for their campaign.
Now almost 20 year later, we provide access to space, education programs, and run flight campaigns. We are building a commercial space transportation industry in New Mexico. We have a vehicle that is reliably providing access to space. We helped configure that vehicle through the Student Launch Program so it is reusable and returns our experiments to earth in pristine condition. Next step will be to insure we have experiments worthy of the cost of sending them to space.
We have the support of our learning community. Now it is time to develop an array of laboratories here in Dona Ana and Sierra County. It’s ambitious, necessary, and possible. We will hire a dedicated, experienced physics educator with an engineering and space background. We will refine our objectives and set goals to build facilities to enable us to design, test and fly experiments worthy of commercial support to eventually enable the program to be self-sustaining. We will expand our partnerships, and set the expectation to have research laboratories advise us on this program. This will start in 2013. Then we will look at results. Again.