Del. Ken Plum: Rocket Science

Del. Ken Plum/File photoWith the number of rockets my high school friend, Joe Hammock, and I built and launched I am fortunate to have all my fingers and no serious injuries.

Our rockets were not the hobbyist models you can buy today that use water or air pressure to launch; our rockets used black powder or a fuel we mixed ourselves. Launches were sometimes like explosions as the sides of our small rockets went outward rather than upward. We were doing our work (or some would say play) before Sputnik and the Space Age.

I was reminded of those early experiences last week as I chaired the Nanosatellite Advisory Committee of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science.

Even the professionals have their problems with rocket launches with about 1 of 10 not being successful. Most recently, Orbital Sciences which has its headquarters on Route 28 near the intersection with Route 7 had a rocket blow up almost immediately after its launch at Wallops Island, Virginia. Out west the rocket plane for which tickets have already been sold to take people on suborbital flight blew up in a test flight killing the pilot.

For every failure there are many more successes. Who would have imagined that a rocket launched ten years ago would have its payload land on a comet within the last two weeks! Virginia has been involved in many of these successes through NASA Langley and NASA Wallops. The Virginia Space Grant Consortium that has goals of promoting aerospace education at all levels has been rated by NASA as being the top-ranked program among the 52 in the nation.

Students at Virginia universities including Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia, and Old Dominion University are involved in designing, building and launching small satellites that despite their small size can conduct meaningful research while in orbit.

These small “nanosatellites” can be launched with dozens in a payload as part of a larger satellite launch but still have the capability to gather significant scientific data. Students who work on these projects often go on to internships and careers with NASA and private aerospace companies. The Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program (CSIIP) matches students to internship possibilities.

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium does not limit its activities to the university level. Through the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program, public school students can take online courses for college credit, compete statewide with other students, and attend a summer academy at NASA Langley Research Center. Specific programs are also aimed at younger students and girls to interest them in science, technology, engineering and math.

As policy makers and government leaders look to the future, it is important to consider space for the limitless potential it offers. Virginia has many unique assets: Wallops Island is strategically located for space launches; a number of federal research facilities are located here; our university system is strong; and the private industry sector has shown a strong interest in investing in space. From experience I know that we need to include a safety course for our young rocket scientists.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinions are not necessarily those of Reston Now’s.

Recent Stories

The nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has proposed two 20-story affordable housing buildings in Dominion Square West, seen from the northeast (via KGD Architecture/Fairfax County) Fairfax County and several…

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Developer Foulger-Pratt‘s unsolicited proposal to redevelop Bowman Towne Court in Reston has been scrapped, Fairfax County announced today. In a termination letter, the developer cited “significantly…

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better. In times of stress, a positive attitude can help you…

Nova Wild — formerly known as Roer’s Zoofari and, before that, Reston Zoo — will partially reopen this weekend with a new self-drive safari. Customers will get the chance to…

The Ravel Dance Studio will re-open for fall classes 2020. The school will offer in person and virtual online instruction. With over 5000 sq. ft. to social distance the school has added air ionization filtration systems, ballet barres, acrylic dividers, hands free bathrooms, strict monitoring and more.

The Ravel Dance Studio will produce a Nutcracker Ballet Hollywood style video through the Reston Community CenterStage. REGISTRATION online begins August 17.

Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.

Chris Green is one of the DMV’s finest fitness instructors. A Lululemon and South Block ambassador, he is a coach and mentor to so many. He embodies grace, positivity and motivation in ways that no one else can. If we could all learn a thing or two from him, the world would be a much better place. He does so much for others, and does so with a smile on his face 99% of the time.

He recently ruptured his Achilles and has an incredibly long and tough journey ahead. As if COVID hadn’t impacted fitness professionals enough, throw this in the mix and it’s a double, even triple whammy. CG is no longer able to work and do what he loves for the time being because of this and we’d love your support.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list