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Drew Farwell and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh High Powered Rocketry Project earned three more awards recently from the National Association of High Powered Rocketry—the first two awards for reaching altitude goals and the third for passing the speed of sound.

The rocket, which featured a GPS and onboard video camera, reached just more than 2.4 miles high and a speed of 818 miles per hour. It was launched from an approved launch site near Princeton, Ill.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Farwell said. “I feel so proud about the awards and so validated for the hard work we did.”


Farwell is a junior at the University majoring in physics and mathematics, and this launch marks their halfway point in their plan to beat the world record for highest launched amateur rocket. This was his first supersonic flight, and it was the highest altitude attempt so far.

“Prior to the launch I was very apprehensive,” Farwell said. “I checked everything, then double checked, and then I checked again.”

_DSC0175_Running through his mind, he said, was a list of everything that could go wrong.

But after triple checking the deployment system and body of the rocket, he realized that all of the things that were within his control were good to go.

“I was really just waiting for the range safety officer to let me know that he was ready to launch. I was excited, but nervous, and just ready,” he said.

But just before the launch Farwell got a surprise—the safety officer said Farwell could press the launch button himself.

“I think he just realized that this was a really big moment for me. It was really special,” he said.

Upon ignition, Farwell prepared for the worst but was met with success.

“Most problems happen right there on the launch pad. So when I saw that the rocket got up, I was so relieved,” he said.

The rocket took off and was almost immediately enveloped by the clouds, out of site from Farwell and his spotters. Collectively, they kept their eyes on the sky waiting for it to appear. Recovery of the rocket was critical, as the GPS data was needed to confirm speed and altitude.

Two minutes later the rocket was spotted, parachutes fully deployed and traveling safely back.

“We actually got to see the large second parachute deploy, and that was just amazing,” Farwell said. “We didn’t know for sure, but that’s when I had that first feeling of ‘we did it.’”

The rocket was recovered a mile and a half from the launch site, and the team was able to download the data right away.

_DSC0168_Farwell’s family and friends gathered around the computer and all learned together that Farwell did indeed accomplish all three of his goals.

“Of course I look at this just feel immense pride,” he said. “But I also just feel so humbled. Only a handful of people have done what we did. That feels pretty cool.”

Next up for Farwell and his team is the Level 3 High Power Certification from the National Association of Rocketry. Earning this certification will allow Farwell to purchase and use higher impulse class motors, which are necessary for his ultimate goal of being the world record.

While Farwell takes on the rocket construction primarily on his own, he is working closely with UW Oshkosh faculty members Nadejda Kaltcheva, Ph.D., and Barton Pritzl, Ph.D, who were both present at the launch.

“Drew is a very driven person, always looking for new challenges,” Kaltcheva said. “Because of his dedication to the High Powered Rocketry Project we believe this will become a significant program at UW Oshkosh.”

After earning the Level 3 Certification, Farwell will begin construction of the Kraken series of rockets and will turn his focus to reaching space, which is officially 62 miles above the surface of the earth.

Yet while Farwell is turning his attention now to the next mission and build, he said the pride he feels about this launch will stick with him quite some long time.

“We accomplished literally everything we set out to do. It’s a very big step, and a very great feeling.”

To learn more about the UW Oshkosh High Powered rocketry project, or to donate, visit and


Upcoming mission schedule:

  • Titan III, November 2016 • Level 3 High Power Certification
  • Kraken I, Summer 2017 • Altitude goal of 75,000-100,000 feet, or14-19 miles, and proof-of concept launch
  • Kraken II, Summer 2018 • Altitude goal of surpassing 425,000 feet, or 80.5 miles (world record)

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