COLORADO SPRINGS — We are Southern Colorado and the Artemis I launch is cause for extra celebration, as part of the rocket was tested and designed at the Air Force Academy.

Aeronautics faculty at the Air Force Academy has mentored cadets working on NASA’s Artemis I Project and in particular the Orion Crew Capsule.

“We were like wait, you mean like the NASA project?” said Patrick Koenig, Air Force Academy Cadet 1st Class.

Since 1997, Air Force Academy cadets have played a role in NASA Projects. Recently cadets abort from their typical training and looked to the moon.

“It’s been kind of a shock to see how real of an impact that we are having,” Cadet Koenig explained.

Air Force faculty mentors more than 30 cadets directly involved in supporting NASA’s Artemis I Mission.

“So that they can make a meaningful contribution to a need, a real need that NASA has,” Dr. Tom Yechut, Aeronautics Department Professor said.

For this upcoming mission, cadets designed the Orion Crew Capsule. The odd cone shape will be responsible for keeping astronauts safe in future missions, during the estimated 8 to 14 days it takes to get to the moon.

NASA challenged cadets to aerodynamically and from a stability standpoint, evaluate the crew exploration vehicle.

“Which has become the Orion,” Dr. Yechut explains.

The Academy determines baseline performance and stability characteristics of the Orion Crew Model, with two major wind tunnel tests. Working with NASA’s top engineers would be daunting for anyone, even the Air Force’s brightest.

“It was a lot of words I just didn’t know,” Cadet Koenig said. “It was a massive learning curve.”

Academy professors recall growing up watching NASA’s first space missions and are honored to now incorporate cadets.

“To work with a lot of engineers at NASA seeing what they do and that just made me fall in love with the program, even more, I’d love to be an astronaut one day,” Cadet Koenig said.

Professors said cadets bring new ideas and needed analysis to NASA’s programs in a cost-effective way.

“It was here in this wind tunnel that the separation tower for the Orion system showed a separate issue from the air from the capsule,” Col. Douglas Wickert, Aeronautics Department head said.

Cadets discovered the error and shared the data with NASA and with an expected launch on Saturday, September 3.

“Cadets have done fantastic because NASA keeps asking us back,” Dr. Yechut said.