After a once-in-a-lifetime experience traveling to London, topped off by the contest for an international rocketeer title at the world’s largest air show, results are in for the U.S. champions from the Newport High School rocketry club: The group of 10 students took second place.

Following a two-year pandemic hiatus, the competition took place at the Farnborough Air Show and came after record-shattering heat waves that rocked the United Kingdom earlier in the week. 

The Bellevue-based Newport team bested France and the United Kingdom — which finished third and fourth respectively — but couldn’t out-fly Japan.

It was Japan’s first win at Farnborough’s annual rocketry competition, and also the first time the International Rocketry Challenge title was won by an all-girls team. 

The launch, as always, was short-lived and full of anticipation for the young rocketeers on the ground. As the rocket’s flight took place under a mostly overcast sky, the team scanned for it among the clouds in an effort to analyze its trajectory, before it parachuted back to Earth after less than 45 seconds in the air.

In a video of the launch posted on Instagram, an unidentified team member can be heard anxiously asking: “Where is it? Where is it?” as the rocket shoots into the clouds, and then, “Oh no! I think it’s low! It’s really low!”

Advertising

The groups were tasked with launching rockets that could reach 835 feet — a couple of hundred feet higher than the top of the Space Needle — and safely parachute a payload of two chicken eggs back to the ground. 

Team member Ethan Luo said in an email that the low trajectory for Newport’s rocket was likely due to a faulty motor, and resulted in the flight coming up more than 70 feet and 7 seconds short. 

But the rocket flight wasn’t the only thing that counted. Teams also had to exercise their public speaking skills, giving presentations on their rocket’s unique design elements to a panel of judges. That accounted for 40% of their overall score, while their final rocket flight made up the remaining 60%.

Newport Rocket Club President Rose Liu wrote in an email that the team received the highest score out of all teams for its presentation to the judges, with mostly everything going according to plan after weeks of nonstop practices and rehearsals.

“We printed posters which we thought would stick to the wall, but they didn’t stick. Other than that, everything went as planned,” she wrote.

As word spread of the team’s second-place finish, Gov. Jay Inslee dropped some congratulatory words via Twitter: “It’s no surprise to see Washington’s tremendously talented young innovators competing and winning among the top ranks of students from around the world,” he wrote. “Congrats to the 10-student team from Newport HS in Bellevue!”

Team USA, also known as Team Graveyard, earned a trip to the international competition after winning the American Rocketry Challenge in May. There, they beat more than 700 teams from across the country — including another team of fellow Newport High School rocket club members who finished second at the national finals in Virginia. 

Members of the Newport team said their most memorable moments were meeting and talking with pilots in the Air Force and exchanging gifts — and some slang — with their fellow competitors. But as far as Liu is concerned, the No. 1 standout from the team’s time overseas was the food. 

Farnborough 2022: Essential stories from the big air show

Boeing is at the big air show. Here’s why it matters

Boeing Commercial Airplanes boss says company poised for an upswing

Boeing youth and experience come together to fly the 777X and 737 MAX 10

Delta, Boeing confirm big 737 MAX order after 11-year ‘drought’

Commercial Airplanes CEO outlines Boeing’s engineering landscape and Puget Sound’s place in it

Airbus brushes off Boeing sales at Farnborough Air Show

WA supplier hit hard by aerospace downturn prepares for future

Seattle-based aerospace company makes Moses Lake a proving ground for new electric airplane projects

‘Morale booster’: Boeing wraps up successful Farnborough Air Show

Bellevue-based rocket champions finish second at Farnborough’s international competition

Flying cars are all over the Farnborough Air Show: Will they take off?

More coverage of the Farnborough Air Show 2022