Student Race To Space…

It is always fun finding new student teams and organisations that are aiming for the Karman line. The newest find comes from an arsTECHNICA article, the Space Enterprise group at the University of California-Berkeley. The team plan to launch their Eureka-1 liquid-fuelled rocket to 135km with the launch to coincide with the 50th anniversary of manned space flight next year.
Engine testing is planned to begin in April.

Students aiming for space is not the newest thing and I do not really understand the fanfare around this announcement, the article fails to really take into account all the other projects happening around the world that have been at this for years.

The team issued a challenge, Project Karman, for other student teams to get on board and race to be the first.
This has had mixed reviews as stated in this article by The Daily Californian,

The reactions the team received after its announcement were mixed, according to Pillai.

“Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jacket Space Program was very receptive, MIT has been receptive,” Pillai said. “(USC) had an extraordinarily negative reaction to our announcement. … They are inclined to provide more criticism than cooperation.”

USC’s Rocket Propulsion Laboratory declined to participate in Project Karman because, according to its Chief Operations Officer Haley Karow, the project is not new, and SEB is sending a false message that it is the first student team to explore space rocketry. USC’s lab holds the current record for the highest collegiate rocket launch at 44 kilometers.

I can understand, USCRPL has been working for years towards this goal and now are the closest they have ever been to achieving it. They have already attempted two space shots, unfortunately unsuccessful. Both articles also fail to mention the Boston University Rocket Propulsion Group who have also been working towards the same goal for years and are expected to make a major announcement in a few days.

Delft Aerospace Rocket Engineering over in The Netherlands is the closest organisation in Europe to achieving this goal, with their Stratos III rocket expected to launch in July and reach 60-80km in altitude.

One could also look at all the teams in the FAR MARS competition, due to launch in May, these teams will all gain experience with flying liquid-fueled rockets and with the prize money could easily also aim for a space shot next year, with the added flight and operations experience being a huge benefit.

In my opinion, I think there has been a silently acknowledged race for a few years now.
As for SEB, I’ll be waiting to see the outcome of their engine test due to occur next month, but never the less, always great to see another ambitious student rocket project!