NMT Rocket Design Team, Faculty Advisor and WSRDs launch crew. Courtesy photo
The rocket was developed jointly by NMT and White Sands Research and Developers (WSRDs), a Las Cruces certified Woman Owned Small Business specialized in aerospace R&D. Measuring 11 feet long by 6.1 inches in diameter, the mission was similar to last year’s with the rocket reaching an altitude of approximately 23,500 ft MSL and a speed of Mach 1.2.
The Mustang VI-BX mission was the first Mustang mission designed around an eXperiment. The 6BX flew with an all-aluminum nosetip that formed the business end of an innovative airspeed and angle-of-attack sensor that was designed and built by the students.
Wind tunnel testing was performed pre-mission to calibrate the instrument and students will be busy post-mssion analyzing the data they collected during the flight.
Students working on the project consisted primarily of junior and senior students from NMT’s Design Clinic courses. NMT’s students have been building and flying rockets as part of the Design Clinic since 2012. They have partnered with WSRDs since 2014, and on the Mustang rocket since 2016. These students developed most of the Mustang’s on-board systems including the separation, recovery, and data acquisition systems. WSRDs developed the aerodynamic components including the aero-shell, nosecone, and fins. The Mustang 6BX is the third Mustang to fly, and everyone who has seen a Mustang launch has commented on how perfectly straight the rocket flies. “That’s because the Mustang’s shape was designed to reach Space,” says Dr. Jaramillo, Technical Director of WSRDs. “But the rocket is just a part of the mission.” he adds. “One of our main objectives in working with NMT students is to introduce them to professional launch operations.” Echoing the sentiments of Dr. Gutman, Spaceport America’s Technical Director, Dr. Jaramillo added, “NMT’s 2015 operation was impressive and professional, but every year they have improved. Today, NMT students demonstrate the highest levels of professionalism and operational prowess. What is all the more impressive is that they pull it off at zero dark thirty.”
Mechanical Engineering Professor Dr. Michael Hargather, the New Mexico Tech faculty advisor for the Rocket Team, said, “The students put in months of preparation to succeed on mission day; and when you watch them execute and respond to unforeseen challenges, you know they have done their homework. We greatly appreciate the support from Spaceport America and White Sands Research and Developers. With each launch, we learn a little more about all the hard work they do behind the scenes to help us succeed on launch day.”
Mechanical engineering student and rocket team co-lead James Nolan said, “The team performed very well, and everyone worked together to make sure the launch went smoothly. We look forward to launching with WSRDs again!”
At the end of hot wash, Dr. Christina Lohn, President of WSRDs, thanked the NMT students, Dr. Hargather, WSRDs’ launch crew, NMSA, and NMSA’s protective service contractor for their support. She handed out a mission patch commemorating the Mustang-6BX launch. Of the process the NMT students went through, Dr. Lohn had this to say. “When we read about launches from other universities, it’s all about the rocket.
In the real world, it’s all about the mission, and the rocket is just one part of the mission. New Mexico Tech is the only university that offers a broader, real-world perspective and gives students the opportunity to experience it first hand. NMT students have to toe the line with requirements from both WSRDs and the NMT faculty. We commemorate each NMT mission with a mission patch precisely because, by the time the students get to launch day, they’ve already earned it.”
Dan Hicks, CEO of Spaceport America, said, “I congratulate the Tech students and Dr. Hargather on their success. I would also like to congratulate WSRDs for mentoring the students, and leading by example with world-class operational and technical excellence. The partnership with Spaceport America has resulted in five launches with each being more ambitious or more technically advanced than the previous. These students will be fine additions to America’s aerospace workforce.”