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News Release

June 18, 2024

COC AST Receives $136,000 Grant from NASA

It’s all systems go for the College of the Canyons Aerospace and Science Team (AST), which has received a $136,000 grant from NASA to support its High-Altitude Student Platform (HASP), RockOn, and RockSat-X suborbital rocket programs. 

To date, COC is the only community college that has successfully participated in HASP eight years in a row, as well as four RockSatX missions and two RockOn missions.

“We are so excited to have been granted this generous award from NASA,” said Teresa Ciardi, who teaches physical science and astronomy at the college and is the AST faculty advisor. “Securing consistent funding every year has been a longstanding obstacle for our team. This grant will greatly alleviate the financial burden on our students who wish to participate in these competitive collegiate space missions.”

The three-year grant was awarded in response to the unsolicited proposal “DEIA in Action: Engaging Under-Represented Populations Through Community College Participation in NASA’s Student-Oriented Sub-Orbital Flight Programs” submitted to the agency by Ciardi.

As a California community college and Hispanic-serving institution, Ciardi proposed, COC can continue reaching underrepresented populations and help them build the skills necessary to pursue STEM field careers through AST.

The grant will cover the costs of the NASA launch fees for RockOn and RockSatX and travel costs for students to go to integration, testing, and launch at NASA Wallops (RockSatX and RockOn!) and NASA Columbia Science Balloon Facility in Palestine, TX (HASP). 

Since the college’s first NASA HASP mission in 2016, participating students have earned 137 scholarships including a full-ride scholarship to a four-year university at academic institutions and internships at aerospace companies such ss NASA JPL, Caltech, TE Connectivity, Sweitzer Engineering, and NASA Goddard. 

NASA HASP provides educational institutions and STEM students the unique opportunity to design, fabricate, and launch a scientific payload on a NASA scientific balloon that stays at float in the upper stratosphere for 12-16 hours. Run through Louisiana State University's Space Consortium (LaSPACE), the program works closely with NASA and many other space focused institutions to encourage students to learn and apply real-world experience.

NASA RockSat X offers students the opportunity to design, fabricate, and launch a scientific payload onboard a NASA rocket. The program, run through the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, allows students to develop original scientific experiments that can withstand 30 g’s of force during seconds stage and spaceflight conditions.

NASA RockOn! is a hands-on workshop at NASA Wallops Flight Facility designed for collegiate students and faculty with no prior experience. The program provides a guided experience where participants are taught how to assemble and integrate a NASA experiment into a rocket that is ultimately launched into space on the final day of the workshop.