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Bob Jones rocket team tours ULA plant, discusses payload

The Bob Jones High School rocketry team tracked a summer project by touring United Launch Alliance (ULA) on Veterans Day.

Bob Jones rocketeers worked with ULA to launch this rocket. (Photos courtesy of Jeremy Raper)

“The rocketry team designed and built a payload with ULA for launch near Denver, Colo. this summer,” sponsor and engineering teacher Jeremy Raper said. “The launch well. Our payloads mostly survived.”

Rocketry members who toured are Jacob Locke, Steven Moll, Rain Li, Jake McClelland and William Irrgang. Jeff Unger hosted the ULA tour.

“Our payload consisted of a small generator connected to a battery … to determine if we could produce a small amount of electricity simply by dropping it from a high altitude and having the wind speed turn the generator,” Locke said. “It was exciting to learn it did produce electricity.”

“The ULA plant in Decatur is truly one-of-a-kind,” Locke said. “Never before have I seen such a clean facility of that magnitude. Everything is very orderly. It’s impressive to think they produce about 15 rockets yearly on average.”

Raper said ULA is extremely patriotic with American flags flying everywhere. “Their support for military, civilian and government rocket needs is second to none. It wasn’t a Veteran’s Day parade … but close.”

Freshman William Irrgang said the team “saw Atlas V and Delta IV rocket boosters in various stages of construction,” the vehicle that carries rockets, a large concrete bunker for testing fuel tanks, metal-cutting machines for rocket walls and RD-180 and RS-68 rocket engines from Russia and the United States.

“I was very impressed by the sheer size of the building — more than 1,000,000 square feet,” Irrgang said.

“We saw production facilities of Atlas and Delta series rockets used primarily for satellite launches,” Locke said. “We saw machines that mill aluminum and cut isometric patterns for the internal structure of rockets.”

Locke benefited both as a rocketry member and as an engineering student. “After partnering with ULA on the payload, this was an experience we couldn’t pass up,” Locke said. The team and Unger discussed improvement strategies for their next payload launch.

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