Montana State University

Rocket launch helps prepare MSU faculty for training students

July 1, 2009 -- From MSU News Service

NASA's Terrier-Orion rocket lifts off, carrying experiments from faculty and students around the country. MSU instructors were among those who developed experiments for the June 26 launch. (Photo courtesy of NASA).   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
BOZEMAN -- Three Montana State University instructors who want to help future scientists and engineers develop experiments for space recently launched experiments of their own.

During a weeklong RockOn/RockSat workshop in Virginia, Ross Snider, Randy Larimer and Angela Des Jardins joined nearly 100 university instructors and students from 21 states who prepared experiments for flight. A rocket carrying their experiments was launched at 5:30 a.m. June 26 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, reached an altitude of 73 miles, then returned to Earth where the experiments were recovered.

Snider and Larimer work in MSU's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Des Jardins is interim director of the Montana Space Grant Consortium, based at MSU. They attended the workshop to learn how to create future space payloads and involve students in building those payloads.

Back at MSU, Snider works with Brock LaMeres and Todd Kaiser in the electrical and computer engineering department to figure out how to design computers that can tolerate radiation in space. Radiation levels in space are significantly higher than at sea level, so normally-configured computers can fail when they encounter such levels, Des Jardins said. The MSU researchers are trying to design a computer that can reconfigure itself at high levels of radiation. When levels decline, the processors will shut down to conserve power or will use the extra processors for other tasks.

The RockOn/RockSat program was conducted in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia with support from NASA. MSU's participants were sponsored by the Montana Space Grant Consortium.

For more information about the MSGC, visit

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or