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United Launch Alliance and Ball Aerospace Give STEM a Lift

Student Rocket Launch Returns with 3 High-Power Rockets Launching 20+ Payloads

Centennial and Boulder, Colo. (July 17, 2021) – Interns from United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched three high-power sport rockets carrying more than 20 payloads created by K-12 students and interns from Ball Aerospace and Special Aerospace Services on July 17, 2021. The ULA intern-built rockets, each more than 19 feet tall, flew approximately 4,200 feet into the air.

The annual Student Rocket Launch, sponsored by ULA and Ball, provides student engineers with hands-on experience designing, building and launching rockets and payloads (on-board experiments and instruments deployed after launch). The program aims to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and space entrepreneurs.

This year’s event, hosted by the Southern Colorado Rocketeers, took place at Hudson Ranch in Pueblo, Colorado, and featured rockets dubbed Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato. The payloads included experiments about the effects of gravity, astronaut art packs, airbag deployment systems, landers to gather soil and ground rovers.

“ULA and Ball Aerospace created the Student Rocket Launch to give students a chance to have fun with rocket science,” said Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance president and CEO. “I’ve been building rockets for my whole life, and I hope this experience inspires some of these students to pursue careers in this industry. They will have a chance to create careers that haven’t been invented and shape humanity’s future in space.”

When submitting their payload proposals, the 16 K-12 teams chose whether they wanted to compete to win ULA prize packs in a payload design, testing and performance competition. Nine teams are competing in this year’s contest. In addition, non-competing teams whose payload flew on launch day were eligible for a random drawing to win a 3D printer.

This year’s event featured 35 interns and 17 mentors from ULA, and 32 interns and 24 mentors from the Ball Intern Remote Sensing Team (BIRST).  

“Our interns, who choose to do BIRST on top of their daily job responsibilities, worked incredibly hard over the past few weeks to ready their payloads for launch on ULA’s intern-built rockets,” said Dave Kaufman, president, Ball Aerospace. “We were extremely excited to see their inventive creations successfully take flight!”

Special Aerospace Services interns also contributed payloads this year, which they created as part of the company’s Mission Boot Camp program.

“This was an opportunity to leverage ULA’s Student Rocket Launch program and our SAS Internship Mission Bootcamp Program to have a real-life payload development, integration and launch experience for our Team,” said SAS Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder Tim Bulk.  “Our interns work on prototyping future SAS space products, so giving them experience with an actual launch payload integration mission has been invaluable to their training experience.”

The Student Rocket Launch simulates a real-life, multi-year launch campaign by condensing the rocket building and launch process into a few weeks, providing students with invaluable hands-on experience. Interns from ULA and Ball Aerospace volunteer to design, build and test the rockets and payloads with the guidance of mentors from both companies.  

About ULA
With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 140 missions to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, deliver cutting-edge commercial services and enable GPS navigation.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).

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About Ball Aerospace
Powered by endlessly curious people with an unwavering mission focus, Ball Aerospace pioneers discoveries that enable our customers to perform beyond expectation and protect what matters most. We create innovative space solutions, enable more accurate weather forecasts, drive insightful observations of our planet, deliver actionable data and intelligence, and ensure those who defend our freedom go forward bravely and return home safely. Go Beyond with Ball.® For more information, visit or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.