A student-built rocket soared to an altitude of 144,000 feet on March 4,
setting a record for a launch vehicle created entirely by students.
The Fathom II rocket was designed and manufactured by students at the University of Southern California Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL). Fathom II blasted off from Spaceport America in New Mexico,
going as fast as four times the speed of sound, according to a statement from USC.
The university captured the record-breaking launch on video,
including footage from a camera onboard the rocket during the flight.
“This particular launch wasn’t a planned ‘space shot’ to get to the Kármán line – the line of demarcation between space and the Earth’s atmosphere – but its goal was still ambitious,” the USC statement said.
“The goal of the vehicle was to reach 180,000 feet (55,000 meters) in the sky, more than halfway
to the (RPL’s) ultimate goal of reaching space. RPL’s previous record was 63,000 feet (19,000 meters).”
The student-run undergraduate group has been working on the Fathom II rocket for about three months. Leading up to the launch, the students tested the avionics communication and recovery systems,
as well as the launchpad setup (the rocket shattered the pad’s cinder blocks during launch).
After the successful launch, Fathom II came down under a parachute and was recovered intact
6.8 miles from the launchpad, according to the statement.