Palmetto Scholars Academy prepares for latest space launch

Maybe this time, there will only be an explosion of joy – or relief.

For the third time, students from North Charleston’s Palmetto Scholars Academy will watch an unmanned rocket launch in hopes that one of their science experiments will reach the International Space Station as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). A PSA experiment put together by three local students with some assistance from NASA is slated to be aboard the SpaceX CRS-8 mission scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 4:43 p.m. on April 8. The students are Joseph Garvey and Rachel Lindbergh of Daniel Island and Gabriel Voigt of Summerville. They are monitored by faculty advisor Kellye Voigt of Summerville.

To celebrate the effort, the school’s Mission Design class has planned a Re-Re-Launch Party at Palmetto Scholars Academy directly after school on Friday, April 8. Ms. Voigt and the class will stream the launch live via NASA TV and watch the launch remotely while in contact with the rest of the team who will be at Canaveral.

The party starts at 4:00 p.m.

The PSA team has developed an experiment to study the effect of tin whiskers in a zero-gravity environment. Tin whiskers are tiny filaments of metal that develop on electronic components. When the whiskers grow long enough to connect to other components, serious malfunctions can occur in the components.

The PSA team is hopeful that their experiment will reach the International Space Station this time after two previous rocket launches exploded shortly after takeoff. It was originally aboard the Orb-3 rocket on Oct. 28, 2014, but that rocket exploded during launch. Experts at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center reached out to the PSA team hours after the failure and offered to help them procure new experimental samples for re-flight. They donated pieces of the Space Shuttle Endeavor for the students’ re-flight opportunity.

The PSA team prepared its experiment a second time for the June 28 launch of the SpaceX CRS-7 rocket, but that also exploded – this time two minutes after launching. The team was watching the launch from a safe distance at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. Members of the team celebrated what they thought was a successful launch until supporters began to text their condolences after watching the rocket explode on broadcast media.

Two members of the team are making plans to attend the launch in Florida with hopes that their latest experiment will reach its intended target. If so, it will be the second PSA experiment to reach space since the SSEP program has been active at the school. PSA also has been granted a slot for a third experiment to go into space some time in 2016.

Media representatives, for more information: Contact Palmetto Scholars Academy’s SSEP faculty advisor Kellye Voigt through the school’s main number at (843) 300-4118. If you would like to speak to any of the students, she can arrange to provide contact information. Be aware that some of the team members will be out of town to attend the launch in Florida.

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