Team Ursa

I was recently made aware of Team Ursa, who are building some very cool rockets and hardware and have been doing so for a few years now.

Ursa 2.1 launch operations (Credit: Team Ursa)
Ursa 2.1 launch operations (Credit: Team Ursa)

Team Ursa’s mission as stated on their website,

Team Ursa and its partner, Mavericks Civilian Space Foundation, find space exploration to be a potent motivator for students and adults alike. By using the sub-orbital aerospace platform, Team Ursa works with Mavericks to inspire students and communities to invest in STEM through the development of open-source reference designs. These reference designs are intended for the educational and research community’s use to further younger generations’ involvement in STEM, and aid in making sub-orbital space a more accessible laboratory for students.

The team started out as 6 University of Maine senior capstone students who got together to build their first rocket, Ursa 1.0. Ursa 1.0 was a 2 stage solid propelled rocket designed to achieve 100,000ft in altitude, as shown below.

Ursa 1.0 (Credit: Team Ursa)

The booster was a ‘Q’ class solid rocket motor, developing 96,000Ns of impulse, while the sustainer was a commercial Cesaroni ‘N’ class motor.

Unfortunately, a misconfiguration of the 2nd stage computer caused the sustainer to ignite early, causing the rocket to disintegrate at approx 20,000 – 30,000ft, short of its intended 100,000ft altitude predicted.

The team re-evaluated and Ursa 2.1 was then commissioned as a building block for reference designs required for an eventual suborbital flight and will serve as the sustainer of that rocket when built.


  • 9839 m apogee
  • 1.56 Ma max altitude
  • 7 thrust to weight ratio
  • 1.34 mass ratio
  • 20 kg/cm^2 sectional density
  • 98 kg fully loaded
  • 16 kg payload
  • 16.2 cm reference diameter
  • 4.67 m total length
  • 250 s propulsion isp from the Mavericks standard P
  • 7020 N average thrust
  • 8.7 s burn time
  • 25 kg propellant mass
Ursa 2.1 (Credit: Team Ursa)
Ursa 2.1 (Credit: Team Ursa)

The rocket was launched in June of this year (2016) but unfortunately, a severe wind gust put too much load on the airframe whereupon it suffered structural failure and fell short of its 38,000ft goal.

The failure was a consequence of a numerical error in the analysis code written in MATLAB that was designed to predict the worst case bending loads on the airframe. An inertial effect was not taken into account properly.

The team has a road map forward after this unsuccessful launch, and aim to try again with Ursa 2.1 in 2018. A thought could be to go to Ursa 2.3 and then back to 2.2 as a way to keep advancing.

Ursa roadmap (Credit: Team Ursa)
Ursa roadmap (Credit: Team Ursa)

The team’s website has a wealth of information and multimedia, so make sure to check it out to see many more pictures and video.


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