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College of Engineering | June 24, 2023

UTEP Students Selected for NASA's RockOn! Program:
Embarking on a Journey to Launch Experiments into Space

UTEP Students Secure Spot in NASAs RockOn Program


Adrian Vicario and Daniel Cruz, two talented Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering students from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), received an invitation to partake in the renowned RockOn! Program, hosted by NASA.

The RockOn! program, initiated in 2008, serves as a hands-on opportunity for higher education students across the United States to develop and launch their experiments into space using NASA Wallops Flight Facility sounding rockets. As part of the Payload sub-team for the Sun City Summit Rocket Team, Vicario and Cruz were tasked with creating a unique experiment to be carried out during the program.

“As the faculty director of the Sun City Summit UTEP Rocket Team, I am immensely proud of the team's remarkable achievements in such a short span of time. Despite being only two years old, our team comprises highly talented, hard-working, and outstanding students from diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and majors.” Added Miguel Cedeno, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and Faculty director. “One of the most exciting milestones for us was when the team successfully competed for a spot in the prestigious NASA’s RockOn! This accomplishment wouldn't have been possible without the support from the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Department, which generously provided essential resources for the trip. The department has always been committed to our students' success, recognizing that their potential can be fully realized through such invaluable opportunities.

In this year's 15th edition of RockOn! UTEP was one of the 27 universities selected to participate in the program, which aims to provide real-world flight experiences and experimentation to thousands of students and faculty members. The workshop, held from June 16th to June 22nd and designed for college students and faculty, offers a 5-day period for participants to develop their sounding rocket experiment from scratch, culminating in the launch on the 6th day at Wallops.

Dr. Kenith Meissner, dean of the College of Engineering at UTEP, expressed his pride in UTEP's participation in NASA's RockOn! program, stating, "We are thrilled to be one of the 27 universities selected to participate in NASA's RockOn! program. This opportunity aligns perfectly with our commitment to providing our students with hands-on experiences and preparing them for careers in the aerospace industry. We are confident that Adrian Vicario and Daniel Cruz, representing UTEP, will make valuable contributions to the program and gain invaluable knowledge that will benefit them in their future endeavors.”

Speaking of his experience, Daniel Cruz expressed gratitude for the opportunity, stating, "I've been blessed with the opportunity to attend NASA's RockOn! Sounding Rocket workshop. This experience has been one of the most phenomenal joyrides of my professional career!" Cruz's team focused on creating a payload plate capable of collecting data on pressure, humidity, temperature, acceleration, radiation, magnetic fields, and gyroscopic orientation from inside the rocket.

While the workshop provides an entry-level experience in rocket science, it holds great potential for participants' future careers in the field. The students were eagerly anticipating their experiment's flight, which was expected to reach an altitude of over 70 miles and spend several minutes in suborbital space before returning to Earth for recovery in the Atlantic Ocean. Once recovered, the students planned to retrieve their experiments and commence data analysis.

Regrettably, due to poor weather conditions on Saturday, June 24, the RockOn! student mission has been postponed. The NASA Wallops Flight Facility and the RockOn! program organizers will announce a new launch date in the future, allowing the students to witness their experiment soaring into space.

As Adrian Vicario and Daniel Cruz eagerly await the rescheduled launch date, they remain hopeful for the success of their experiment. The postponement only amplifies their determination to further develop their skills and contribute to the field of rocket science.

“We are eagerly looking forward to witnessing how Daniel and Adrian, armed with their newfound skills and experiences from RockOn! will develop our team's next rocket project, competing in the highly anticipated Spaceport America Cup 2024. I encourage everyone to stay tuned, as the future is bound to be nothing short of extraordinary!” concluded Cedeno.

For more information about Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering degrees at UTEP, please visit:

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