Rocketry for Undergraduates: The NASA University Student Launch Initiative

The NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) is a competition that challenges university-level students to design, build and launch a reusable rocket with a scientific or engineering payload to one mile above ground level. Mitchell Community College (MCC) has participated in the NASA USLI competition the past two years and placed in the top 1/3 of all participating teams each year. This year, the MCC team will participate in the Tier Two division of the competition. Selected requirements for this level include 10,000 ft altitude specification, real-time data transfer from the rocket to the ground during flight, launch from Wallops Facility rail, water recovery and no pyrotechnic charges for recovery system deployment. This year the MCC team will be investigating the effects of axially asymmetric forces due to a solid propellant motor on the flight of a low altitude rocket. Past along with current rocket and payload designs will be presented.

Dr. Doug Knight is currently the physics instructor at Mitchell CC and mentor for the MCC USLI rocket team. He received his B.S in Physics from Lenoir-Rhyne College in 1988, followed by his M.S in Applied Physics from UNC-Charlotte in 1996. He received his Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering with a Precision Engineering Concentration from UNC-Charlotte in 2000. His dissertation focused on grazing incidence interferometry for the measurement of cylindrical parts with Dr. Steve Patterson as his Ph.D advisor. Dr. Knight worked at Digital Optics as a Senior Test Engineer for two years, and has worked summers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Savannah River Site. He, along with Dr. Jim Salsbury, was instrumental in establishing the student chapter of the ASPE at UNC Charlotte. Dr. Knight also mentored the winning Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) team in 2006, mentored two high school NASA Student Launch Initiative teams and coached student teams in the Statesville, NC Pumpkin Chunker competition, winning the event in 2007. He, along with former students, has also flown and recovered two high altitude balloons with payload. He is a member of AIAA, the American Association of Physics Teachers and is Tripoli Rocketry Association Certified Level 2.

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