TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Rose-Hulman’s Rocketry Club is determined to achieve its goal of making it to the final stages of the NASA Student Launch Competition this year.
While this is only the second year the team has participated in the competition, the current team members are hopeful that their efforts and the previous year’s experience will bring them closer to the finish line of traveling to Huntsville, Alabama in April to compete in the launch with several other participating universities.
“We’re cautiously optimistic. I think we’re in a lot better place and we learned a lot from last year,” said Sam Betts, the team’s president. “We decreased the size of our vehicle as one example of that, we went from 13 feet to 8.5 feet, so that in and of itself is going to make everything a lot easier. We don’t need as big a parachute, it’s not as heavy. NASA has very specific kinetic energy requirements, so it has to be going at a certain speed per mass, so that will be a lot easier with a smaller rocket.”
The team has been working through the steps of the competition since the summer of 2022. With multiple deadlines, checks, and reviews scheduled throughout the competition, the team is currently working to prepare for the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) report in which an early version of their rocket will be put to the test before moving on to the next steps in the competition.
“Basically, how the student launch competition works are there’s a range of acceptable altitudes. So, if you land between 4,000 – 6,000 feet, then your vehicle will have a score for your flight. So, we established a goal of 5,000 feet which is right in the middle. And the closer we get to that altitude, the more points we get,” explained David Meisinger, the club’s vice president.
As NASA’s expectations and challenges in the competition change from year to year, the students work to meet those challenges head-on. This year, the students are tasked with designing a payload equipped with a camera that is able to receive commands through radio frequency. The electronics/radio frequency payload subteam leader, Jake Armstrong, has contributed to the rocket through the payload function and design. Armstrong provided captioned schematic designs and renders to showcase the team’s progress and plans.
While the internal workings of the payload are one challenge, the team’s mechanical payload subteam leader, Everest Zang, works to create a space within the rocket that is designed to house and support the payload’s required functions. Aside from the unique challenges added by NASA for this year’s competition, the other parts of the rocket’s expected primary functioning include the safety of its descent. Peter Tselekis, leader of the recovery sub-system discussed several details on the steps taken to insure the rocket will launch and land safely, including things like stabilization of the rocket design and adding multiple parachutes.
“The purpose of parachute number one, which is a much smaller parachute than the main parachute, is essentially to stabilize the descent and reduce the drift distance. Parachute number two comes out at 700 feet which allows us to greatly reduce impact,” Tselekis explained.
Each member has done their part to contribute to the rocket’s design, construction, and future launch. However, it’s clear how much the members also bring their personal passions into the project. From Meisinger renovating the team’s 3D printer for more efficiency to Tselekis making mission patch designs for the various launches, the students are happy to contribute their time and creativity to the competition and each other.
“I think the biggest thing I’m looking forward to this year is actually traveling to Huntsville and meeting all of the other teams because I just want to see what all other cool things other people are doing and I want to see us actually finally compete in student launch. This will be the first year for the club to finally go,” said Meisinger.