Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Astronauts on Board!

I am lucky enough to work at ATK, where we have a number of retired Space Shuttle astronauts employed.

Katie, Cassidy and I were selected for the Scale event, where the goal is to model a real rocket, and then fly it. We will be flying 1/72 scale models of the Space Shuttle. Each modeler prepares a substantiation documentation that includes photos and drawings of the vehicle. The models are judged on scale accuracy (including the measurement of key attributes to .001”), likeness of color and markings, and flight characteristics. We plan to fly our models to a peak altitude of 600 feet, separate both RSRMs and let them parachute back, separate the Orbiter under rocket power and let it glide back under radio control, and return the ET via parachute as well. Each model has a small flight computer on board that senses peak altitude and controls the deployment of the parachutes. They are really miniature versions of the real thing.

We each have picked flights that were commanded by some of our "ATK" astronauts.

Katie will be modeling STS-100, which was commanded by Kent Rominger. Kent has five space flights under his belt. I have been lucky enough to work closely with Kent on a number of projects, and he has a unique perspective on his flights. My favorite story was hearing Kent explain his "need for speed" to racing car magnate Chip Ganassi, and how he had gone much faster than Chip had ever gone in his Indy Car!!!

(As a side note, good luck to Chip and his Target Racing Team as they try to win the Indy 500 this year!)

Kent has also generously donated to help our cause.

Cassidy will be modeling STS-101, which was commanded by five-time astronaut Jim Halsell. Jim runs our ATK's Huntsville operations, a key position for us, with its proximity to Marshall Spaceflight Center.

We are asking both astronauts to review and sign the cover sheet for the model documentation, as well as provide an autographed photograph. We are also hoping to get a photo of each astronaut with a shuttle model and and Katie or Cassidy to include in the judging package.

As most of the judges for this event are Eastern Europeans, it will impress them that we were able to get the actual Commander for the mission to review and approve the data package. That should help our overall scores for each model. In international competition, every point counts.

We will keep you posted on this effort as it progresses.

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