E/PO Rocket Test

Alex’s Rocket Launch (Video)

Our student employee here at the Education and Public Outreach group, Alex Berlanga, recently tested out a new, smaller version of our S4 rocket at the Sonoma State University campus. As you can see in the above video, the test went well with an E class motor. After a bit of a hike, the team managed to successfully recover the rocket and the new payload. Smaller rockets can be launched in a wider variety of places, built more cost effectively, and launched without special certification. We look forward to more successful tests of this platform to come! Alex is a summer intern from Santa Rosa Junior College, whose internship was funded through the California Space Grant Consortium.

Competition Results

Here are the final results of the 2015 S4 competition.

Congratulations to Newark Memorial High School Team 1 (Descent Rate) for winning first place, and the $750 prize. The judges were impressed by the team’s computer modeling and data analysis, as well as their outreach efforts and rocketry on the playa.

Congratulations to Northview High School (Bird Migration) for winning second place ($250). The judges appreciated the team’s spirit, outreach efforts, 3D print designs and rocketry on the playa.

Congratulations to Newark Memorial High School Team 3 (Wind Speed) for the “Best Flight” award for rocketry on the playa and the novel design that included a third party anemometer. This team will receive $100 and a trophy for best flight.


We hope that everyone learned a lot from their Black Rock experiences. It was great fun, and we came away with valuable lessons learned for future similar events.

Videos From Black Rock

Interviews and footage from Black Rock:
Right click and ‘save link as’ to download. Length 7:24, 361MB.


Full interview with Northview Engineering, Team 5:
Right click and ‘save link as’ to download. Length 4:05, 111MB.

See below for some videos taken by Team 5 from Sylvania, Ohio. Congratulations to the Ohio team for surviving a 13,612 ft altitude flight and supersonic speeds.


Other media, including team presentationsm can be found on the team pages, and on the video gallery page.



S4 Launches at Black Rock Desert, June 19-21

On June 19th through June 21st, 2015, five high school teams (and their rockets) made their way to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to launch their S4 based payloads in the climax to this year’s competition. The teams were as follows:

Team 1
School: Newark Memorial High School; Newark, CA
Experiment: Atmospheric effects on descent rates

Team 2
School: Newark Memorial High School; Newark, CA
Experiment: Precision of S4 Payload Sensors

Team 3
School: Newark Memorial High School; Newark, CA
Experiment: Establishing a Model for Wind Speed Variability

Team 4
School: Elena L. Christian Junior High School; St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Experiment: Comparing Relative Air Humidity in Arid and Equatorial Regions

Team 5
School: Sylvania Northview High School; Sylvania, OH
Experiment: Migration Patterns of North American Birds

Each group was given the opportunity to fly their custom made sensor payloads on high powered rockets under the guidance of rocketry experts from AeroPac and payload experts from Sonoma State University’s Education and Public Outreach team. The S4 payloads were provided to the schools, with necessary soldering, programming and securing required to be performed by the students. Each student team then had to decide which sensors were appropriate for the experiments, and obtain and fit those sensors on their own. Most teams further designed rocket boosters and payload sections customized for their particular needs.


Above: The flight line in the Black Rock Desert.


Above: A team from Newark prepares for launch.

After launching their rockets, retrieving data and processing that data, teams prepared presentations for the judges. In these presentations the teams explained their design concepts, the goal of their experiment, public outreach efforts and the results of their flights. Most teams presented in the desert soon after their final flights, with additional analysis in presentations sent after the event for a final judging on June 30, 2015.


Above: Team from Ohio prepares for their presentation.


Above: Ohio team poses with their rocket before launch.

Flight operations ended around noon on Sunday as the wind picked up considerably. This was a memorable event for all the participants, and provided valuable opportunity to learn real life applications of engineering and science skills. The SSU S4 team was on hand to provide telemetry service, troubleshooting assistance and to record video of the event, which will be shared in a post soon to follow.

The S4 program follows participation in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC), with proposals solicited from the top twenty five teams to compete at TARC. S4 is sponsored and supported by the Education and Public Outreach group at Sonoma State University, Tripoli Rocketry Association’s AeroPac prefecture and the National Association of Rocketry, which sponsored the cash prizes to winning teams.

3D Printed S4 Printer Case

To support flying the S4 payload in an Arliss-K payload bay, we designed a 3D printed container that the payload, it’s battery, and the antenna all mount into the make loading the payload into a rocket without rails inside the launch bay quick and easy. It was designed to fit in a contained with inner radius of 2.87″ and a length of 10.” It can be fit inside a larger diameter rocket by wrapping it with a little fabric to increase the radius. Designs are included at the bottom of you want to modify them or just print off your own.PayloadCaseBottom PayloadCaseTop


Updated S4 Software on Windows

A new version of the S4 software package for windows can be found here: ftp://galaxy.sonoma.edu/pub/S4_Windows.zip

Mac and Linux versions should follow as time allows.


The most important feature of this update is that it now supports the newer version of the WiFly chip (RN-131C/RM). If you were using this chip, you must use the new version of the software. This latest package also includes the very latest version of the Arduino environment (1.5.7). Finally, this version has a streamlined process for entering network parameters. New Network Parameters Instructions: Previously, network parameters had to be entered in two places, in the WiFly_Setup sketch and in the All_Sensors sketch. Now, both those sketches draw from a common file called NetworkParameters.cpp. You can get to this file by double-clicking the shortcut in the Arduino folder. Change the various network properties in this file as needed before running either of your sketches.

S4 Small Satellites: Lucerne Valley

At another S4 Small Satellites event held in the Lucerne Valley dry lakebed, students and team members prepared for yet another rocket launch. This time three students were responsible for a single payload while a total of eight flight boards were being prepared to launch. The goal of this launch was to successfully interact with the GPS sensor attached to the payload. While other sensors could have been interfaced as well, the goal was to successfully get data from the GPS sensor first.

The final task at hand for a successful rocket launch was assembling a high powered rocket. The students were also responsible for this, learning hands-on how to properly assemble a high powered rocket to withstand its current environment conditions.

At the end of a successful rocket launch the students were able to gain key skills useful for a science future. They learned to successfully communicate and work with team members, how to interface their first sensor with a micro-controller, as well as the proper way to assemble critical rocket parts.

Please take a look at the report below for a more detailed description and image(s):



Small Satellites for Secondary Students: Piner High School

Please find all files, data and images below from the S4 Small Satellites for Secondary Students event held at Piner High School in Santa Rosa, California


Included file link(s):


Color Coding Script

Sam Koshy was ambitious enough to write a Python script that will colorize the points in a KML file with respect to altitude as shown here: If you’re interested in having your data color coded like this, you can follow these simple steps:Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.27.54 PM

  1. Download and unzip the python script that Sam wrote: http://s4.sonoma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Colorpy.zip
  2. Use the S4 Data Manager to export your desired data set to a KML file as normal
  3. Make sure that the python script (Colorpy.py that you extracted in step 1) and the file you want to edit are located in the same folder on your computer.
  4. Open the Colorpy.py in any text editor
  5. Locate the line in the file that reads xmldoc = minidom.parse(“MoffettLaunch.kml”)and change the text inside the quotation marks to match the file you want to colorize: xmldoc = minidom.parse(“MyFileName.kml”) Save the file
  6. Execute the python script, and it will create a new file called “fileout.kml” that has the colorized data set.

Executing a python file requires you to have python installed. You should have no trouble finding a tutorial on running a python script on your particular operating system if you Google it, but if there is sufficient interest in this process, I will be happy to write a quick tutorial.