HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) _ The author of the book that inspired this year's movie ``October Sky'' has won a heavenly honor: A rocket pad will bear his name.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center has named a pad after Homer H. Hickam Jr., a retired NASA Marshall Space Flight Center engineer who wrote the bestseller ``Rocket Boys.''

The book and movie tell the story of Hickam and his friends from a West Virginia town who are inspired to launch rockets after learning the Soviet Union has fired the first satellite into orbit.

Appropriately, the pad bearing his name is actually a model rocket launch pad that students from U.S. Space Camp and U.S. Space Academy use to fire their handmade rockets.

``That is where a new generation of rocket boys and girls are going to come out and launch their own rockets and learning not only how rockets work but also the discipline it takes to make them fly,'' Hickam said during Monday's ceremony.