Amateur rocketeer Derek Deville and his team from Qu8k (pronounced "quake") launched their home-built 26-foot rocket to an astounding height of 121,000 feet (36,880 meter) on September 30, 2011 from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The rocket reached that height after 92 seconds attaining speeds of 2,185 mph (3,516 km/h). Incredibly, the total duration of thrust was just 8 seconds during which a total of 4000 pounds was delivered. The rocket itself was 320 pounds in weight.
"The rocket motor produced 4,000 lbs (1,814 kg) of thrust for eight seconds, accelerating the vehicle to over Mach 3 at over 10,000 foot. After that, momentum carried the rocket skyward for another 84 seconds to a peak altitude of 121,000 foot," Deville says.
An onboard camera recorded the entire ascent. Highlights of the incredible footage can be watched below. The full video can be seen at the end of this article.
The Qu8k rocket returned to Earth landing 3 miles (5 km) from its launch point.
Derek Deville built the rocket to contend for the Carmack prize, a $10,000 award put up by John D. Carmack, a space fanatic and the creator of the Doom and Quake video games (and hence the name of the rocket).
Sadly, Deville’s attempt isn’t going to win him the Carmack's prize, because one of the requirements of the contest was GPS data over 100,000 foot altitude. Even with four separate GPS systems the Qu8k rocket was not able to get a high altitude fix. With no tangible record of the rocket's soaring ascent, it's unlikely that Deville and his friends will score the cash.
"We picked up position on the way down, but by then it was too late" he says. "I'm going to write a tech article (another requirement) and submit it anyway to see what happens."