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Student Rocketeers Count on Honeywell HALAS Data to Help Make ‘Go/No Go’ Decisions

Student Rocketeers Count on Honeywell HALAS Data to Help Make ‘Go/No Go’ Decisions

A remote spot in the New Mexican desert will become the center of the rocketry universe for a few days in June. That’s when almost 2,000 collegiate rocketeers gather to compete in the 2024 Spaceport America Cup with rockets they design, build and launch themselves.

In conjunction with the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA), which created the competition, Spaceport America (SpA) will host more than 120 college and university teams from 35 U.S. states and 20 countries during the June 17-22 competition. Teams will compete in six categories based on the type of rocket they produce, but all rockets need to be able to carry a payload of at least 8.8 pounds to a target apogee of either 10,000 or 30,000 feet above ground level.

This year – for the first time – event officials from ESRA and SpA will be able to access near-real time atmospheric data over the launch site before making the crucial “go/no go” launch-time decision, thanks to an advanced ground-based weather information system developed by Spaceport America Cup supporter Honeywell. 


HALAS Delivers Near-Real Time Atmospheric Data 

The High-Altitude LiDAR Atmospheric Sensing (HALAS) system is a transportable, remotely operated weather information system. LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, uses pulsed lasers to measure altitude and gather relevant weather data, according to Jason Pendlum, Business Development Manager for Honeywell’s HALAS program.

“HALAS sends as many as 10 laser beams per second into the sky over a targeted area of interest, in this case Spaceport America in New Mexico,” he said. “The returns are used to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction so launch teams will know what they’re facing in the airspace over the launch site. It provides near-real time data with confidence levels up to 100,000 feet above ground level, which is well beyond the requirements of this competition.”

The Honeywell innovation exposes this year’s competitors to the future of space launch weather forecasting, said Spaceport America Executive Director Scott McLaughlin. 

“We’re very excited that the event participants and our range safety officers will have access to HALAS wind data profiles throughout the competition,” he said. “The competitors represent a cross-section of rocket enthusiasts and the next generation of aerospace engineers, so it’s important to give them hands-on experience with innovative new technologies like HALAS that will help shape the future of aerospace and launch systems.”


HALAS Aims to Change Launch-Site Forecasting Forever 

Honeywell welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate HALAS’s capabilities for Spaceport America Cup competitors and the many volunteer judges, Pendlum said. “The system was already in place at Spaceport America, so it was an easy decision to also support the Spaceport America Cup competition.”

Ready-now HALAS technology is designed to provide space agencies and commercial space-launch companies with near real-time and location-specific weather information to determine the go/no go status of a planned launch. After all, weather is the number one reason for scrubbing a planned launch and unplanned, late no-go decisions can be extremely costly and disruptive.

By using HALAS data, government agencies and launch providers can increase the number of launches per year and dramatically reduce last-minute cancellations. Weather industry forecasters can also use HALAS data to improve forecast accuracy and model predictions. 

Click here to learn more about Spaceport USA and the Spaceport America Cup

For more information on HALAS, visit us online.