Spaceport America Rocket Failed to Reach Space

UP Aerospace Spaceloft XL rocket lifts off from Spaceport America in New Mexico on May 2, 2009.
UP Aerospace Spaceloft XL rocket lifts off from Spaceport America in New Mexico on May 2, 2009.

Officials are investigating why a suborbital UP Aerospace rocket launched on Saturday from New Mexico failed to reach space.

The SpaceLoft XL rocket – packed with experiments and the ashes of 16 people – failed to reach its 70-mile target altitude. It’s not clear what altitude the vehicle reached. The payload did separate from the booster and landed by parachute.

The launch was the first in a series of annual educational flights planned by the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. It took place at Spaceport America, a new launch facility being build in the desert near Truth or Consequences by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

Despite the glitch, officials declared the flight to be a great success in a press release:

“Today’s launch was great experience for the students of New Mexico,” said New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Steve Landeene. “Although we did not achieve the maximum altitude we wanted, the launch delivered on all the learning objectives that we wanted to provide the students. They received hands-on experience in designed and preparing their scientific experiments, and received experience unmatched in the classroom.”

Pat Hynes, Director of the Space Grant Consortium, commented “Today’s launch culminates a semester long curriculum which delivered applied learning, workforce development and education. To my knowledge, this curriculum embedded program is a first of its kind and we plan to continue to develop this program to benefit our students.”

Landeene commented on the crowd that came out to watch the rocket launch. “The students and their families, the media, the volunteers, and all the other private citizens that came today to be a part of this event…they’ve experienced a lot of emotion, a bit of anxiety, and an overwhelming sense of adventure.” Landeene also said, “It was an honor to have so many distinguished members of the community and the State Legislature present to celebrate with the students and their accomplishments.”