It turns out that building a small rocket can be a big deal. It is for NASA, after all.
One cohort of Temple Engineering senior design students has entered the NASA Student Launch, a research-based, competition focused on rocket propulsion systems.
Teams participate in a series of NASA design reviews which mirror the NASA engineering design lifecycle. They include Preliminary Design Review, Critical Design Review, Flight Readiness Review, and Launch Readiness Review that includes a safety briefing. Teams also must analyze payload and flight data during a Post Launch Assessment Review.
In addition, teams must successfully complete an initial and a final Launch Readiness Review that includes a safety inspection prior to launch. Per NASA, rockets may not contain any combination of motors that total more than 40,960 N-sec (9208 pound-seconds) of total impulse to send the payload to an apogee altitude between 4,000 and 5,500 feet above ground level.
Mechanical Engineering majors Daniel Rooney, Elaine Vallejos, Spencer Villarreal, and Daniel Walsh are the first Temple Engineering students to enter the competition. They will face off against collegiate teams nationwide, often with dozens of members.
As their project has evolved, the team learned the depth and diversity of the hands-on project. Chief among them? It's a lot for a four-person team to handle.
"To a certain extent, having four members has helped us. We all know where the other team members are and trust each other," Rooney said. Though the team described that, ideally, the project would be broken into a few separate components. At the moment, the team is working on completely modeling the design.
"Eventually we could see this breaking out into a few separate senior design projects," Vallejos said, adding that the rocket could be separated from the payload and retention system to create three standalone projects.
For now, they are excited to be competing and going from lecture and lab to working with engineers in the field, and also adding a separate fundraising campaign through OwlCrowd to help secure additional materials.
The team recently passed the Critical Design Review, working directly with NASA engineers on maximizing specifications for their preliminary design, before moving into flight readiness review in March and Launch Week in April.
"That's been one of the more intimidating things was sending things like drift calculations to NASA," Rooney said. "But it was really impressive to work with them."