After Milestone Launch, Yellow Jacket Space Program Is Shooting for the Stars
T-Minus 15 seconds
From a mission control bunker in the Mojave Desert on Jan. 6, the Yellow Jacket Space Program (YJSP) crew prepared to witness the culmination of five years of work as the countdown began to launch of their subscale liquid-fueled rocket.
At this moment, all of the test fires, the diagnostic checks, and preparations for launch provided little comfort to the crew, especially mission control operator Anthony Otlowski, knowing what was at stake and how quickly it could all fall apart.
"My hands leave the keyboard, and I'm thinking, 'There are a million different ways this could go wrong.' Our valves couldn't open, we could lose communication and the vehicle could half-fire, or the engine could hard-start and we blow everything up," he said, recalling initiating the launch sequence. "Just the amount of emotions going through my head as I clicked the button and gave the countdown, it was hard to keep a straight face and give everybody a clear picture of what was happening."
Even getting to this point was an accomplishment for a club that began in 2015 as what co-chief engineer Rithvik Nagarajan described as "a raggedy bunch of students who just wanted to test an engine." Now 250 members strong, the club is trying to become the first collegiate team to reach space.
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