Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Panther 1 Pathfinder Rocket

The Panther 1 Pathfinder vehicle was developed and built by Florida Institute of Technology students who served as the launch team. This will serve as a team exercise to achieve the first student launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The students assisted by Florida Space Authority, the 45th Space Wing, Embry-Riddle and the professors and staff of Florida Tech had a successful launch June 28th, 2006. The students are involved in Florida's Space Pioneer Cup, a university competition to launch a student-designed and built rocket into space.

Prior to launch the Pioneer Cup Pathfinder vehicle ‘Panther 1’ has been approved for launch and received an official launch date on the Eastern Range schedule at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The student built rocket was launched at 2 p.m. from Launch Complex 47 on Wednesday, June 28, 2006.

Next launch scheduled for the range is STS-112 the Space Shuttle Discovery

Panther 1 Specifications

  • Length: 77 inches
  • Diameter: 4 inches
  • Lift-off mass: 166 ounces
  • Motor: Aerotech 1435
  • Average Thrust: 89.3 lbs
  • Burn Time: 1.4 seconds
  • Expected Maximum Altitude: over 1100 ft
  • Downrange distance at splashdown: 2918 feet


Florida Tech Students:

  • Joe Atkinson - MAE Sr.
  • Dan Hendrickson -MAE Jr.
  • Jackie Frederick - MAE Grad student
  • Bruce Helming - MAE Jr.
  • Crisen McKenzie - MAE Sr.
  • Jeff McGivern - MAE Sr.

Florida Tech Advisors

  • Greg Peebles
  • Dan Kirk

Supporting Cast

  • Stephanie Hopper
  • Clint Morrow
  • Razvan Rusovici
  • Paavo Sepri
  • Florida Space Authority
  • Florida Space Institute
  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University


  • 6 foot x 4 inch long dia. student rocket - Panther 1. With appropriate 45thSW review.
  • Student modified super-loki launcher with appropriate 45th structural design and review and approval.
  • Student tested motor igniters to 45th Space Wing standards
  • Commercial 45th approved I435 Aerotech (555N-s) motor.


  • No university student-built rocket has ever flown off a KSC pad through the actual USAF safety/engineering process before. The reputation is that it cannot be done.
  • Florida Tech is looking for a place to fly it's rocket projects other than "the palm bay grid," Wallops Island, or South Florida tomato fields. Particularly, as this projects emulate actual sounding rockets.
  • The FSA is looking for a place to host the fledgling Pioneer Cup intercollegate rocket competition. This launch pathfinds this competition.
  • This process started in 2002 with the Florida Tech Jamstar project. Since early 2005 FSA has weighed in financially as has the 45thSW.

The Launch

Watch the June 28, 2006 Launch (WMV)