By Fabian Mayer, March 1 2016 —
A farmer’s field just west of Strathmore became the site of a big milestone for a University of Calgary club this weekend after the Student Organization for Aerospace Research (SOAR) launched its first major rocket.
Apart from the engine, the club built the entire rocket from scratch over the past couple of months. Vice-president public relations Robin Williams said the rocket is a small-scale version of one they hope to launch at a rocketry competition in Utah this June.
“We’re trying to get as much predictive data as we can in small scale and then from there we can take that and tune it up to what we’d be doing in Utah,” Williams said.
The club was founded last year and boasts about 30 members, according to Williams.
“We’ve kept this as multidisciplinary as we can,” he said. “The actual composition of the club is pretty even across science, engineering and some arts students.”
The team assembled the rocket — fitted with a camera and data collecting equipment — on site. Then came the moment the crowd of roughly 15 club members was waiting for. The rocket launched successfully, reaching an maximum velocity of about 360 km/h and an altitude of 320 metres before crashing to the ground about 100 metres away from the launch site.
Fourth-year engineering student Austin Thomas was the mechanical lead on the project. He was relatively pleased with the launch, despite a couple of problems.
“One of the chutes deployed so it was able to do somewhat of a soft landing. Unfortunately, one of the other parachutes didn’t deploy,” Thomas said.
The rocket used a commercially available class G engine. The competition rocket will likely use an L engine, which is approximately 33 times more powerful. Thomas said he was excited to get the data from the launch.
“Building something like this, we can apply it to a bigger rocket,” Thomas said.
Several other hobbyists came out to launch their own rockets under the supervision of a Canadian Rocketry Association certified safety supervisor.
Rocketry competitions — like the one the club plans to attend in Utah — award points to competitors for categories like accurately predicting how high their rockets will go, scientific data collection and correct parachute deployment.
Second-year mechanical engineering student Anuradha Deshpande joined the club this year.
“I think it’s a great way to learn things. I personally don’t do that much in the club because I don’t know all that much, but I’m learning a lot,” Deshpande said.
Deshpande said she hopes to continue with the club throughout her undergraduate degree.
“It was a fun experience and nice to have everyone out here to do the launch,” she said.
The launch was partially funded through a donation by U of C mechanical and manufacturing engineering professor Craig Johansen.
The group spray-painted Johansen’s name on the side of the rocket in recognition.