Video Caption: A team from the University of Southern California’s Rocket Propulsion Laboratory became the first student team to launch a rocket into space. WIRED’s Arielle Pardes spoke with Neil Tewksbury, the team’s Lead Operations Officer, about what it took to make it happen. Read more of the team’s story on WIRED.com: https://www.wired.com/story/a-rocket-…
Congrats to the team at USCRPL, whose Traveler IV rocket reached 339,800 ft (103.6 km) on April 21st from Spaceport America, becoming the first ever student rocket to reach and exceed the recognised boundary of space, 328,084 ft (100 km).
For all you wondering how they determined the peak altitude, the team have published a white paper explaining their sensor package and ultimately how they were able to determine apogee with a 90% confidence, you can read the paper here.
Video Caption: On April 21, 2019, we, the USC Rocket Propulsion Lab, launched our latest space-shot rocket, Traveler IV, out of Spaceport America. Traveler IV reached an apogee of 339,800 ft with a confidence of 90% of having crossed the internationally-recognized border between Earth’s atmosphere and space known as the Kármán line. By flying higher than the Kármán line, Traveler IV has broken the world record for the highest altitude ever reached by a vehicle entirely designed and built by a collegiate rocketry team. USCRPL thanks the alumni, faculty, department staff, parents, the university, and all others who have supported the lab’s fourteen-year-long dream.
Even greater things lie ahead.
Keep an eye out for the full-length documentary coming soon! — About us: USCRPL is the world’s premier undergraduate research group for experimental rocket technologies. Founded in the 2004-2005 school year with the mission of putting a scratch-built rocket into space, USCRPL has spent the last 14 years becoming a world leader in the design, manufacturing, and testing of small, low-budget, high-performance rockets. RPL’s members are all undergraduates, but alumni work across the space industry at organizations such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and NASA, as well as RPL alumnus-founded startups like Relativity Space, Ursa Major Technologies, and 121C.
This year has probably seen the most space shot/altitude record attempts of any year since I started this website, thus it has made for an exciting year in amateur and student rocketry.
As well as these I’ll highlight my most memorable events of 2018.
Spaceshots and altitude records
2018 saw three (that I am aware of) space shots and two European student and amateur altitude record attempts.
Starting with the Princeton SpaceShot team, whom in May launched their two-stage SpaceShot rocket from Spaceport America hoping to be the first student team to reach space. Unfortunately, the 2nd stage did not ignite and the rocket coasted to 50,000 ft before being successfully recovered. A second space shot is in the works, so look out for this team in 2019!
Up next was the launch of Stratos III from DARE in July, aiming to reclaim the European student altitude record. The 15 kN thrust, 8.2 m long hybrid rocket, unfortunately, disintegrated 20 seconds into flight from its launch location in Spain, an official report on the cause has yet to be released. The team never the less are powering forward with Stratos IV in full development which is expected to fly to 100 km before the end of August in 2019.
USCRPL once again tried for another space shot, Traveler III was the team’s 3rd attempt and with all their experience to date looked to be the one to break the record for a student launch to space. Unfortunately, a communications protocol error led to the rocket launching without the avionics package turned on, therefore no telemetry or recovery was possible. The rocket was heard to come in ballistic and knowing the time delays along with simulations, Traveler III was predicted to have reached space. The team continues work on Traveler IV for another shot in 2019!
TU Wien Space Team launched their first attempt to break the European student altitude record and even to reach space. The Hound, the team’s 2-stage rocket lifted off from the Black Rocket desert in Nevada on September 24th, hoping to smash the University of Stuttgart’s current European altitude record and also reach space. Unfortunately (the word of this post) the sustainer failed to ignite due to an incorrectly wired igniter fail safe for when the rocket is on the pad, the unlit sustainer coasted to 42,650 ft before being successfully recovered along with the booster.
FAR MARS Prize When this was announced it looked to be the perfect stepping stone for student and university teams’ wanting to progress their liquid rocket development in what seemed like an achievable prize. It did succeed in progressing liquid rocket engine development, especially LOX/Methane but the timeline proved to short with only the UCLA Rocket Project attempting a launch for the competition.
Most of the teams’ will be trying again for 2019, with the first launch dates scheduled for early March, hopefully, all teams’ make it to the launch pad, follow here to stay on the pulse!
Flight of the Falcon Heavy…the BPS.space one 😉 Voted on my Twitter poll as the best rocketry event of 2018, Joe of BPS.space does not fail to deliver.
Truly a feat of engineering, the 1/48 scale rocket featured active guidance with 3-DOF at liftoff, booster separation and an actively guided 2nd stage. The rocket demonstrated the advanced capability from the in house designed and built Signal flight computer, of which you can purchase for yourself!. Joe has a whole series of videos covering the build so I suggest you go over and check out his YouTube channel to catch up!
Keep a watch out on BPS.space for 2019, I am sure Joe has a whole bunch more epic projects in the works, for a fact I know he does!
The Rest Other notable events of 2018 included the launch of Nexo II from Copenhagen Suborbitals and the beginning of the BPM-100 rocket engine campaign that will power their manned Spica rocket to 100 km. Curt von Delius launched his 2-stage PHX4 rocket to over 200,000 ft in June, the video is worth a watch!. The MIT Rocket Team launched their Hermes 1 rocket to 32,400 ft, the entirely in-house built rocket and motor performed flawlessly. SEDS at UCSD completed their Colossus test stand and hot fired their Ignus-II 3D printed bi-propellant rocket engine.
And to round it all out I successfully tested my spark torch igniter culminating in 14 tests, a ton of data and a very happy chap.
2019 promises to be a very exciting year, with more space shot attempts from old and new teams early in the year, will 2019 be the year a student team reaches space?
Keep visiting Mach 5 Lowdown to find out and thanks for all the support for 2018!
With the eventual goal of flying an 8 inch-diameter space-shot rocket (similar to our previous space shot attempts, Traveler I and Traveler II), Fathom was designed as a 6 inch-diameter subscale test. Designed to reach a maximum speed of Mach 4.5 and experience a maximum dynamic pressure of 11,000 psf, Fathom was intended to anchor and validate our aero and flight dynamics models for an eventual space-shot. The vehicle was also designed to test and qualify many of our other technologies, including our thermal protection systems. Scaling the design down from our future space-shot led to Fathom’s target altitude being set to 180,000 ft.
(As we already know, Traveler III was not recovered from its space shot attempt but work continues on Traveler IV.)
As reported earlier Traveler III from USCRPL launched on September 29th, 2018 to become the first student-built rocket to reach space. Unfortunately, the avionics package was not switched on prior to launch so recording and recovery were not possible.
With the igniter inserted and the pad cleared, a team waited at the ignition table, while the avionics team worked to activate the unit and resolve any last-minute issues. Due to a miscommunication between these two teams, an “Avionics hold” was misheard over the radios as an “Avionics go”. Thus, Traveler III was launched with no warning to the Avionics team, and the vehicle ascended off the pad without the payload placed into a state that would transmit data or deploy the recovery systems…
…However, the lack of a recovery system meant that this rocket was now ballistic, and the distinct sound of a sonic boom from its reentry was heard across the playa around 5 and a half minutes after launch, as the simulations predicted from a ballistic flight.
USCRPL has been trying for so long to reach space so to have this outcome must have been pretty demoralising. The rocket on the upside was eventually found,
…Some kind souls from around Black Rock messaged RPL that they had potentially found the rocket and, after a long return to the playa, a team scavenged and found the remnants of the vehicle. Traveler III, now in countless pieces, was found in one centralized location, indicating that the vehicle remained intact through descent until it hit the ground…
…no data was recovered from the passive Avionics system or the Go Pro cameras on-board.
As predicted, the rocket would have reached space,
…The location of where the rocket was found, combined with the simulations and observation of a full motor burn, indicates that the vehicle did in fact pass the Kármán line and ascended over 370,000 feet…
Traveler IV is now in full swing and will once again attempt a space shot in Spring of 2019. With the lessons learned from this launch, I am adamant USCRPL will reach space and become the first university team to do so.