Mississippi State University’s world-class student rocket engineers are breaking barriers, discovering ways to travel farther and faster, and literally launching the next generation of space exploration.






MSU’s Rocket Team Conquers the Boundaries of Imagination

Reaching for the stars is synonymous with chasing dreams. At Mississippi State University, the nation’s preeminent aeronautics engineering research and design team is turning dreams into reality, building rockets that can fly faster and farther than anyone has ever imagined.

With the support of the Aerospace Engineering Department of Mississippi State’s renowned Bagley College of Engineering, students are launching their educations and careers from a foundation of excellence built over the past 100 years. At the same time, they are out-pacing the accomplishments of programs around the globe.

In a national intercollegiate rocket competition of speed and distance, no other university in the world outperformed the MSU team. Known as the Space Cowboys, they blew past competing teams from engineering powerhouses like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan to claim the championship.

Now, the team of more than 20 students, most of whom are undergraduate engineering majors, is chasing more than trophies. The Space Cowboys are trying to build a rocket that can fly at Mach 4 speeds (roughly 3,069 miles per hour) and claim the world speed record for an amateur rocket.

If successful, the project will beat its original two-year timeline by half. If it doesn’t, the team will go back to the drawing board.





"We’re working hard, using smaller rockets to test some of our ideas," says Keith Koenig, MSU aerospace engineering professor. "You could say we’ve actually been working on this all along without even knowing it. You can see it through the logical progression of the rockets we’ve built for competition over the years."




Many of those older rockets from a decade’s worth of competitions still sit around the large workspace in Patterson Laboratories where the Space Cowboys build their future successes.

MSU's winning edge comes from the freedom to dream and try new approaches, even if the attempts are unsuccessful.

Rocket science also is helping shape our world every day. Space program technology at NASA has led to new household products and appliances such as mobile phones, flat-screen televisions and cordless vacuum cleaners. The technology developed to power the Cowboys’ rocket to Mach 1.51— or about 1,150 miles per hour — could inform the next generation of cutting-edge products and services.




“Rockets push students to do things beyond what they do in class,” says Koenig. “As they research, prepare and compete, they are also gaining skills and knowledge they can use to solve most any problem they will encounter in their lives and careers.”




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