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Rocket Carrying Ham Radio Payload Reaches Space!
NEWINGTON, CT, May 17, 2004--An amateur rocket carrying a ham radio avionics package reached the edge of space May 17. Launched from Nevada's Black Rock Desert, the 21-foot Civilian Space Xploration Team (CSXT) GoFast rocket quickly attained the 100 km altitude to make Amateur Radio and amateur rocketry history. Two earlier CSXT attempts to reach space--the last almost two years ago--were unsuccessful. A jubilant Avionics Team Leader Eric Knight, KB1EHE, called the successful launch "a phenomenal experience."
"It just roared off the pad and flew into space," said Knight, who lives in Unionville, Connecticut. "Everything went like clockwork this morning, and it was an awesome experience. We're all kind of on an adrenaline high right now."
The GoFast vehicle--named for one of the project's commercial sponsors--
lifted off from the desert floor at approximately 11:20 AM PDT. The CSXT team, plus observers from the Federal Aviation Administration, were up and at the launch site several hours beforehand, however, and Knight said the rocket crew--which includes several radio amateurs--did a "dress rehearsal" prior to the actual countdown and launch.
Knight said several West Coast hams who learned about the rocket launch from ARRL news accounts showed up to assist in locating the vehicle, which was estimated to have returned to Earth some 26 to 30 miles downrange from the launch site. Knight said Monday evening that the rocket had not yet been recovered, but the ham radio telemetry package was continuing to transmit.
"We have a telemetry beacon telling us where it is--that it's alive and waiting to be found," Knight said. The rocket transmitted telemetry on the 33-cm amateur band and color Amateur TV pictures on 2.4 GHz. An HF special event station, K7R (for "rocket") didn't get much airtime, Knight said, "because we've been really focused on the mission."
"Everything came together very well," Knight said. His avionics crew includes eight Amateur Radio licensees, most of whom also were involved in the 2002 launch attempt. Former Hollywood stunt man--Ky Michaelson of Minnesota, directs the 18-person CSXT team.