USC Students Blast Rocket Speed and Height Records

Shortly after 9 a.m. on March 4th, University of Southern California Rocket Propulsion Laboratory’s 70-plus students launched a rocket they have dubbed Fathom II. The rocket was both designed manufactured by the students themselves. The rocket was launched from Spaceport American and smashed records when it reached an impressive 144,000 feet. No other students have been able to accomplish such a feat.


Students break speed and altitude records with Fathom II rocket launch.


The group of students based at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The rocket took three months to complete, with students testing the avionics communication and recovery systems, launchpad setup, durability of the rocket itself, etc. The ultimate goal of the launch was to qualify and test for the possibility of expanding and moving on to their next goal… space.



The students’ original rocket reached a height of 63,000 feet. Fathom II, however, blasted that record when it launched, shattered the cinder blocks on the launchpad, and soared through the sky at four times the speed of sound before it disappeared from view. The rocket was recovered completely intact 6.8 miles away from the launch site. The students later discovered the rocket’s highest altitude, which made it the most successful launch in student history.

The rocket also blasted records of multiple other groups, which had only reached heights roughly half of what Fathom II achieved… at least in terms of 100% student-made models. Higher altitudes have been reached by rockets and vehicles which used both student-created and professionally made components. Most commercial airlines only reach altitudes approximately one-third as high as that which the Fathom II achieved.



The students now have plans to improve their design even further in an attempt to reach space. It is anyone’s guess where they will set their sights after they have accomplished that feat. With the hard work and dedication these students have displayed, they are sure to be successful in any future endeavors.

University of Southern California Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said: “The USC RPL student team continues to amaze us with its ingenuity, energy, and ambition. This launch success is another milestone in development and a great promise for the key role they will surely play in space travel and exploration.”




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