AE Team Takes Part in NASA Rocket Launch Competition


Illinois team's rocket
Illinois team's rocket
An Illinois team gained exposure to a wide range of engineering applications – CAD modelling, project design and management, workshop and hands-on building, and technical knowledge of rocket design and flight – when they took part recently in the national NASA Student Launch.

The months-long competition, which culminated in rocket launches in May at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Salt Lake City, Utah, focused on designing, constructing and flying technologies to support NASA’s Space Launch Systems (SLS) mission. Research results will be used in future design and development of SLS and other projects.

Each team was given the opportunity to launch a rocket with a custom-built recovery system and three payloads. Competitors were evaluated based on a series of technical design reviews, the results from the rocket’s flight, including altitude, educational engagement activities in home communities, team-built websites, and a final written report.

“This year’s program was especially challenging due to the requirement to include three payloads with the rocket, as well as a much more limited schedule due to NASA conflicts,” said Aerospace Engineering undergraduate Jason Allen, Systems Lead for the Illinois team.

Members of the Illinois team get the rocket ready for launch.
Members of the Illinois team get the rocket ready for launch.
The three payloads on the Illinois rocket were:

  • A liquid sloshing experiment, designed to determine the effects of microgravity on fluid mixing during flight
  • A hazard detection camera and image processing computer
  • A payload fairing on the rocket’s nosecone to examine how the nosecone operated mechanically and expose the camera during flight. Unfortunately, for safety reasons, the nosecone was not deployed during the final flight.

The Illinois team used a Wildman rocketry Intimidator kit, which produced a 5-inch diameter rocket that was just over 8 feet long. The rocket was launched on an Aerotech L1390 motor, and the final design weighed about 40 pounds.

“It was challenging, engaging work that was also lots of fun,” Allen said. “It was rewarding for all involved.”

In addition to Allen, Illinois team members included:

  • Akash Shah, Team Lead, AE
  • Jobin Kokkat, Safety Officer, AE
  • David Knourek, Structures Manager, AE
  • Brandon Litherland, Payload Manager, AE
  • Robert Kaminski, Payload Manager, AE
  • Eric Tobin, Payload Manager, AE and Electrical Engineering
  • Joni Lynne De Guzman, Payload Manager, Electrical Engineering
  • Tucker Gritton, AE
  • Jordan Muphy, AE
  • Mark Joseph, Mentor and Administrator in Applied Health Sciences