Spaceport America Program

The Spaceport America project competes in the 30,000 ft. Student Researched and Designed, Solid Motor category at the Spaceport America Cup. In Summer 2017, BSLI won first place for this category, successfully launching an 8.8 lb payload closer to 30,000 ft. than any other competing team.

This past year at the 2018 Spaceport America Cup, the 30k rocket, though much improved over the previous year’s in many facets, had a power failure just after launch, resulting in parachutes failing to deploy and a crash landing. The team conducted a thorough investigation into the nature of the accident and concluded that the most likely explanation for the event was a material failure in the Avionics bay — the PLA filament used to 3D print pieces which the flight computers were mounted to did not survive the intense vibrations experienced during takeoff.

This year, the team is going to put a stronger emphasis on the durability of critical components and ease of integration (putting the whole rocket together). Systems will also be designed with long term, high-altitude goals in mind, as the 10k and 30k teams are going to function as hotbeds for developing the technology BSLI’s High Altitude Project will need in the years to come.

Below is a brief synopsis of the various sub-teams that make up BSLI’s 30k project team.


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Aerodynamics:

Using various computational tools including SolidWorks and ANSYS Fluent, the aerodynamics team works to predict the flight path of the rocket and optimize the shape of aerodynamic components like the nosecone and fins.

Recovery:

The recovery team ensures the rocket undergoes a controlled descent. In the past, parachutes have been deployed by black powder charges. This year, the system will be adapted for use with compressed CO2, as it is safer, and can be used in the vacuum of space.

Structures:

The structures team is primarily responsible for the construction of the rocket. The team focuses on using using aerospace industry level manufacturing techniques to assist in creating parts out of composites such as carbon fiber or fiber glass.

Avionics:

The avionics team is responsible for collecting flight data and transmitting it live, down to a ground station. The avionics team handles the rest of the rocket’s electronics, including flight computers, cameras, remote arming, and more.

The 30,000 ft competition category is a significant challenge, as it is very difficult to reach that height. The 30k rocket attains a max speed above Mach 2 on a motor with a total impulse of ~20,000 Ns.

Despite the 30k rocket’s crash landing this past summer, the team has improved over the last year by leaps and bounds. Every sub-team has been developing new methods for design and construction of their respective components, and cultivating useful experience. This next year should be the best year yet for BSLI 30k!

Sunrise at Spaceport America