Blast off: Students send capsule 100,000 feet above Earth

Images from the capsule's camera; edited video will be on display at Springfest.

Members of a pair of new clubs at Case Western Reserve University sent a mock-up of an Apollo capsule nearly 100,000 feet above Earth twice in the last two weeks.

The Case Lunabotics and Case Rocket teams used weather balloons to carry the polystyrene capsule into near-space to test sensors, an altimeter, barometer, global positioning system and other devices, as they prepare to enter rocket-launching competitions next year.

Two cameras on board recorded video on the second launch, from heights where only about 5 percent of the atmosphere remains.

A team member will display edited video from the Water Polo Club’s booth at Springfest this weekend.

“We want to show students and prospective students some of the hands-on things you can do here,” said Jacob Rhodes, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering and member of the Lunabotics team. He said the effort is among the first by university students to successfully launch a capsule and record and receive data from such heights.

The clubs hope to spark the interest of current and prospective students in the fields of mechanical, aerospace, and computer engineering, mathematics, physics and computer science, he said.

The teams plan to enter increasingly challenging competitions to gain experience. Their goal is to enter either a NASA-hosted competition, using solid fuels to launch rockets up to 5,000 feet, or an Experimental Sounding Rocket Association competition, using either solid fuel, hybrid or liquid fueled rockets to reach 10,000 feet, in 2013.