USC Student-Built Rocket Reaches Space, Setting Record

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If confirmed, the Traveler IV would be the first student-made rocket to achieve spaceflight.

Perhaps for the first time in history, a student-built and designed rocket left Earth and reached outer space.

The announcement came from the University of Southern California (USC), with the rocket built by its Rocket Propulsion Lab. If confirmed, the momentous event will conclude an informal competition being held across engineering schools across the United States and Europe to become the first university to achieve spaceflight.

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The 13-foot, 300-pound rocket, called Traveler IV, went above the Kármán line – the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space 62 miles (100 kilometers) up -- on the morning of April 21, 2019. Its maximum recorded altitude was 339,800 feet (64.4 miles/103.6 km), and it reached a top speed of 3,386 mph (5,449 km/hr).

The was launched from Spaceport America in New Mexico, where Virgin Galactic promises to provide space tourism one day.

The USC Rocket Propulsion Lab has been aiming to achieve spaceflight since 2005 when it was first founded. Over 80 undergraduate students helped with the Traveler IV’s design, construction, and launch. The event marks the university’s fourth attempt at reaching space, and the school’s official said that it’s 90 percent certain of the achievement.

"After nearly 15 years and probably over a million hours of work, RPL has finally achieved its goal of being the first student group to launch the first student designed and built rocket past the Karman line," said lead engineer Dennis Smalling, who graduated from USC this spring, in a statement.

Contributing Editor

A hardened survivor of the games press, Jeremy Parish has written, edited, and podcasted for AllGamers, Retronauts, USgamer, IGN, 1UP, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GameDaily.biz, and more.