Students at Oakton High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, have reached soaring heights through a student rocketry program, launching a high-powered rocket 34,195 feet into the sky.
“We flew to 34,195 feet, which is above most commercial airliners,” said Benjamin Miller, a student who leads the school’s rocketry team. “The rocketry community is fairly small, so it’s easy to keep track of who has achieved what.”
Miller and his team built the 8-foot tall, 3-inch diameter rocket entirely by themselves, using materials such as carbon fiber, fiberglass and aluminum.
It included a 12-pound rocket motor designed and manufactured by the team, and it ultimately reached a maximum speed of more than twice the speed of sound.
“We built up over time with progressively larger rockets, and this was our biggest one yet,” said Miller. “We were all ecstatic.”
The team launched the rocket in September at a rocketry event in Kansas that included rocketeers from around the country.
“It was an immensely high-risk project,” Miller said. “The motor could have failed, or the rocket could have failed or it could have shredded apart. Anything could have happened.”
Miller, who is a senior at Oakton High School, is set to graduate in June.
He plans to go to college for aerospace or mechanical engineering.
“I hope that I can bring some of my ability to innovate and try new things,” Miller said.
Before graduation, however, Miller and his team plan to build a rocket that is powerful enough to reach space, which would require the rocket to travel roughly 10 times as high as the rocket that reached 34,195 feet.
It would make them the first high school rocketry team ever to reach space.
They plan to attempt that “enormous feat” in April, Miller said.