NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico Tech students teamed up with Spaceport America Saturday to launch a rocket. It’s part of the Annual Las Cruces Space Festival that’s being held virtually this weekend.

NMT officials said the rocket was entirely built by a team of nine mechanical engineering juniors and seniors. Saturday’s launch was at Spaceport America’s testing site at White Sands.

The eight-foot-tall rocket was part of the students’ capstone project that has been in the planning phases for the last two years. NMT officials said it’s the first rocket built by students at a New Mexico research institute that successfully deployed a payload at nearly 15,000 feet in elevation which then descended with its own parachute.

KRQE spoke with one of the students who worked on the rocket who said the launch is a moment she’ll never forget. “When it went off, and I was just blown away by how loud it was. We were standing probably 1,000 feet, 2,000 feet away and watching it go up and hearing it and feeling it was incredible,” said Victoria Dupriest.

Dupriest said working on the rocket during the pandemic came with its own challenges. She and her fellow students worked separately for the majority of the past year in their dorms or virtually, with some lab time that required them to be socially distant.

The students will be collecting data from Saturday’s launch over the next few days, including the velocity of the rocket, and the impact when it hit the ground, among other things. They plan on presenting their findings on April 16 during the university’s Student Research Symposium.