Blue Origin set to launch UCF student payload Wednesday morning


  • Photo via Blue Origin
Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket is set to launch Wednesday at 8:50 a.m. CST (9:50 a.m. EST) from West Texas carrying eight research payloads, including two built by a team of UCF undergraduate students.

The NS-10 mission, named for New Shepard's tenth mission, was initially scheduled to launch last December, but a "ground infrastructure issue" discovered minutes before liftoff pushed the date back a month.

Among the eight payloads are COLLIDE, or Collisions Into Dust Experiment, and CORE, Collection of Regolith Experiment. COLLIDE, conducting its fourth flight, is a shoebox-sized laboratory that will reach the the fringes of the atmosphere to study how asteroid particles behave in zero gravity when impacted. Similarly, CORE will try to understand how such asteroid material can be collected — an important lesson for future sample-collection missions to the Moon. 

"Many of our other methods of testing in microgravity only last a few seconds, but for this flight we will have about four minutes," Boehmer said. "These kinds of experiments help us learn about a variety of conditions still being actively researched including the physics of early planetary formation and the conditions spacecraft need to expect when traveling in low gravity places such as asteroids and small moons."

"I'm excited to watch it remotely," UCF engineering student Emily D’Elia, who worked on COLLIDE and visited the West Texas launch site last month, said in an interview Tuesday. D’Elia, with fellow UCF engineering students Ryan Boehmer, Alexandra Yates and Alex Heise, huddled in Blue Origin's Payload Processing Facility before sunrise in 47 degree weather last month just before Blue called a launch scrub.

Now with a new launch date set, D’Elia is back in Orlando and ready to watch a livestream of the experiments launching to space.

Principal investigator Dr. Josh Colwell, who leads the team of student researchers at UCF, is in Texas, where he'll watch the liftoff in person and stick around to retrieve COLLIDE when it plunges back down to ground after its four-minute experiment. D’Elia expects payload recovery efforts to carry into the afternoon.

"The next steps will be to analyze the data and look for ways to improve our experiments," Boehmer said.

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