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Fri May 9, 2014
Baylor Sophomore Shoots For Amateur Rocket Record
A Baylor sophomore is trying to break the record for the highest amateur rocket flight: 72 miles, that’s 10 miles into outer space. It’s called the Horizon Rocket project. Kevin Healy says the rocket science isn’t the hard part…it’s the fundraising.
Sending a rocket into space is ambitious. But Baylor sophomore Kevin Healy has some experience with ambitious projects. He built a hovercraft out of a leaf blower in first grade and in high school he converted a 1981 Toyota Celica into an electric car that could charge in 8 hours and get up to 70 miles an hour.
"Just over the summer, a lot of hard work and a lot of figuring stuff out and figuring stuff out and breaking stuff but I eventually got it done," Healy said about his electric car project.
Much of amateur rocketry is still locked in world of solid fuel engine—if you’ve ever bought a model rocket before, it’s those little things that look like batteries filled with gunpowder. Healy says what makes the Horizon Rocket different is that it’s a liquid fuel rocket that’ll run on ethanol and liquid oxygen. Healy says the liquid fuel design is a lot more difficult, but the finished product will get a lot more power and a longer burn time.
"It takes a lot more math and a lot more things can go wrong," Healy said. "About everyone uses solid-fuel so it’s what everyone’s comfortable with so you go out to the pad or whatever and you're learning. You can ask anyone—how does this work—but a liquid fuel engine you have to kinda finagle more and kinda read more."
But Healy’s been getting some help from professors at Baylor and rocket scientists out at SpaceX. He’s also found someone to let him do rocket tests out on a ranch. And besides testing, he says the hardest part of the whole process has been trying to get money for the project.
"Maybe the biggest challenge has been fundraising," Healy said. "That’s harder than any rocket science I've tried to figure out. Other than that I've been really surprised by how helpful people have been. You can network with a lot of people who are like minded--like I've met a lot of people even at SpaceX who've built their own liquid fuel engines and you know have the same interests that I do."
Healy’s hoping to have $6,500 raised by the end of May, $15,000 by the end of the summer and $25,000 by the launch date in December.
Why go to space? He’s got quite a noble answer. With budget cuts to the nation’s space program, other people have to keep exploring and innovating. So that another generation can be inspired by space flight.
"You know it’s really cool for a little kid to see a giant rocket going into space," Healy said. "He wants to get into that and he wants to learn. That’s a really motivating thing to get them learning all the math and science involved."
You can learn more about Kevin Healy’s project at horizonrocket.com.
Science and the Environment