ASCEND Program Team Sends Payload to the Edge of Space

The Embry-Riddle ASCEND team gives practical experience with engineering for high altitude exploration.

In November 2021, a team of undergraduate researchers at the Prescott Campus successfully launched its first payload of the academic year.

Through collaboration with Arizona Near Space Research and the Arizona Space Grant Consortium, Eagles have access to hands-on opportunities that few students can add to their resumes – building and launching their own payloads.

What is ASCEND?

The university’s Aerospace STEM Challenges to Educate New Discoverers (ASCEND) team, funded by the NASA Space Grant, sent its first payload of the year to the upper atmosphere on Nov. 20.

With the freedom to choose a different research focus each semester, ASCEND students gain practical engineering experience through a project that is entirely their own. Last spring, members of the current team studied heat transfer and how temperature changes during a payload’s flight.

What Goal is The ASCEND Team Trying to Reach?

This semester, the undergraduate researchers set a new goal: to stream live video of the payload as it embarked on a 100,000-foot journey to the upper atmosphere.

The team designed multiple printed circuit boards (PCBs) to connect equipment and a ground station to receive the streaming data – experience Electrical Engineering senior Nicodemus Phaklides says he wouldn’t have gotten without ASCEND.

The team hopes to refine the ground-based system next semester.

How Does the ASCEND Program Benefit Embry-Riddle Students?

“The ideas behind the ASCEND projects are usually simple in concept,” said Dr. Douglas Isenberg, associate professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s co-mentor. “However, it is the reality that nothing is ever built to infinite precision, and this tends to make simple things a lot more difficult.”

Previous groups have used high-altitude balloon payloads to conduct research on solar panels, neutral buoyancy and even solar eclipses.

“That's true engineering, and the ASCEND program has served as a fantastic platform for students to get this experience,” Isenberg said.

What kind of experiences will you have here? Apply at Embry-Riddle today.