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UP rocket launches at Spaceport

rocketshotUP Aerospace sent its SpaceLoft rocket into suborbit from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico on Thursday morning.

“It went off at 7:33 am,” said UP Vice President for Public Relations Tracey Larson. “We set a new record by reaching 77.4 miles up.”

The internationally accepted boundary of space begins at 62 miles.

“It was a perfect flight,” Larson said. “Everything went well. We’re waiting for the crew now to come back with the payloads.”

The rocket carried four experiments paid for by NASA. It also included yeast that an Oregon brewery will use to make a new space beer, plus the ashes of nearly three dozen individuals placed on the flight by Celestis Inc., a commercial company that offers “Memorial spaceflights” for people’s remains.

White Sands Missile Range is providing helicopter service to UP to retrieve the SpaceLoft, something it’s done on past UP flights as well after the rocket returns to earth.

This is the 13th time UP has flown a vehicle at the Spaceport since 2006, and it’s the third flight paid for by NASA under the agency’s Flight Opportunities Program. That initiative, launched in 2011, pays commercial space companies for suborbital flights to test new technologies in space.

The four NASA payloads on Thursday morning’s flight included a device built by the engineering firm Control Dynamics Inc. that can isolate experiments from vibrations and other interference on rocket flights. That can help to further lower microgravity levels for some experiments in space, and it may now be headed to the International Space Station after having been tested for the second time on this morning’s UP rocket. It previous flew from Spaceport America on a SpaceLoft flight UP conducted last year.

The other three NASA payloads included:

  • a low-cost, radiation-tolerant computer system developed by Montana State University

  • a device developed by Spain’s Barcelona Tech university that uses sound waves to control bubbles in fluids when in space, which could help deal with fuel bubbles on future spacecraft

  • a microsensor for heliophysicists to study the sun at much finer resolution than is currently possible

The rocket launch was originally scheduled for last Monday, but it was scrubbed on Sunday night due to thunderstorms that were projected to last through Wednesday, UP President and CEO Jerry Larson told the Journal earlier this week.

Tracey Larson said today’s launch reached a record height because the payloads were somewhat lighter than on past flights. The SpaceLoft motor also burned a little hotter than on other occasions.

“We though it would climb to 75 miles, but it actually got to 77,” Larson said.

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