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Student rocketeers at USF compete in college space race for $1 million prize

Goal is to launch a rocket 62 miles up
Posted: 1:36 AM, Feb 10, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-10 17:40:30-05
USF Soar rocket assembly

TAMPA, Fla. — They are the Rocky of rocket clubs.

USF’s Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) is competing against much bigger and better-funded college programs in an epic space race for $1 million.

“Being the underdog is pretty sweet,” says the club’s Rosniel Castro about the Base 11 Space Challenge.

With a modest budget, the SOAR crew is attempting to build and launch a liquid rocket 62 miles into the outer boundaries of space by the end of 2021.

First college team to do it wins.

A club of SOAR’s size has never come close to such a feat. They do not have a fancy research and development lab like at Purdue University or the University of Michigan.

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SOAR works out of a dusty garage near the school’s parking services. They work on the rocket in their spare time.

“It’s basically become an addiction at this point,” says club president Javian Hernandez.

Passion is just one of their secret weapons.

The other?

Their mentor is none other than Dr. Manoug Manougian, the father of the Lebanese space program, He achieved greatness when he was a young man in his 20s.

“We’re just carrying on his legacy,” says Hernandez.

SOAR’s ultimate blast-off will take place at Spaceport America in New Mexico.