As a young boy Jackson Lubin was in awe of the small rockets his family would launch every Fourth of July.
Now, a junior at North Shore Country Day School, the Evanston resident is not only launching rockets, but designing and building them as well.
“Sixth grade is when I got into the high-powered launches,” Lubin said. “We found a launch to attend in Wisconsin and I was hooked. I fell in love with it from there.”
Lubin’s parents started buying him small kits to construct his own rockets, but soon he outgrew the simple instructions of those models.
“Once they got big enough I stopped following the instructions from the kit and turned them into my own designs,” Lubin said. “Once I realized math and science could be used and designed for rockets my interest really took off.”
In Wisconsin, Lubin and his family met fellow members of the rocketry community at the Wisconsin Organization of Spacemodeling Hobbyists. At the meets, Lubin was able to trade parts and share designs with other rocket enthusiasts from all over the Midwest.
The highest he’s been able to fly a rocket has been 27,000 feet, about five miles. That launch, during the summer of 2012, included his personal speed record of Mach 2.6, or 2.6 times the speed of sound.
He flew his 12-foot rocket, named the Ultimate Dark Star, in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada last year and he returned this summer.
“I went out (to Nevada in 2012) to attempt a 60,000-foot flight, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out once we got to 10,000 feet,” Lubin said. “The fins came off but we learned a lot from the entire project. That (information) was put back into other designs.”
The multi-day launch in Nevada required approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which must grant a waiver to fly over 50,000 feet.
Lubin said the Nevada desert is ideal for rocket launching.
“Every rocketeer wants to go out there at least once to launch their highest flying rockets,” Lubin explained. “It’s a very well known place in the rocket community. You take your biggest projects out there.”
After each flight, a parachute ejects at a set altitude, around 100 to 700 feet above the earth, and a navigation system is used to locate each rocket’s landing site.
Back at home, Lubin is busy with academics and running track at the Winnetka school, but he still makes time for his rockets during his off-season.
“I’m currently working on a project with a fellow club member from Wisconsin,” Lubin said. “We’re each working on two stages of a project so hopefully we get that done by this summer. It’s hard for me to do a lot of building of rockets during the school year. In my spare time I try to design them out so the actual building phase goes by quickly in summer.”
As far as his own post high school future, Lubin is looking to make his hobby into a lifelong passion.
“I’m very interested in math and science, especially rockets and engineering,” said Lubin, adding the he plans to pursue aerospace engineering in college. “I definitely want to bring rockets or aspects of rocketry into college and my career.”