Sunday, May 06, 2012

Canadians Building & Launching Rockets: Just Not in Canada!

Will Durocher.
Rocket science is pretty straightforward, at least according to Will Durocher, the program manager and chief engineer of the Waterloo Rocketry Team.

The hard part is the fund raising needed to pay for the rocket.

According to Durocher, "it costs $6000 or more to arrange for the transportation and purchase the equipment you need in order to compete effectively at an international rocketry competition and while we currently have sponsorship from Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada plus quite a number of other organizations, we're still a bit short of our financial goal."

Durocher and his Canadian team of 20 graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo are expected to compete in the upcoming Intercollegiate Rocketry Engineering Competition, organized by the US based Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA), which will be held in Green River, Utah from June 21st -23rd.

Assuming, of course, that the Waterloo based team can raise enough money. 

Teams from the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal and a dozen other universities from the US and around the world are also competing.

Of course, the official goal of the ESRA rocket competition is to launch to 10,000 feet and then recover a rocket with a 10-lb payload for the basic category and the same sized payload to 25,000 feet above ground level for the advanced category. The Waterloo Rocketry Team expects to compete in both categories.

As well, a secondary intent of the competition is to encourage student design and construction of as many rocket parts as possible. These could be components related to propulsion, avionics, recovery, payloads or some other area. ESRA doesn't prohibit commercial components as part of their contestants entries, but extra recognition is provided for student-designed and built hardware.

To compete in this second area of innovative design, Durocher and his team have built their "Eridani Rocket" with a liquid engine burning high pressure propane and nitrous oxide which they expect to produce 1500 pounds of thrust. The rocket also includes a "thrust vector control system" for directional control and a payload capsule containing a tractor escape system, able to fire at apogee to separate the capsule from the rocket and a second time to slow the capsule for landing. This rocket is expected to reach 25,000 feet to compete in the advanced category.

A second rocket (designated as the "Venture Rocket") will have a hybrid engine burning a mixture of aluminised rubber and paraffin. It will also carry a scientific payload to test the marangoni effect and is expected to reach 10,000 feet to compete in the basic category.

These two custom designs are likely a bit more expensive than the typical rocket being entered into the competition but Durocher and his team are likely hoping that the end result is also a bit more competitive. 

Anyone looking to help the team out with sponsorship or funding, can e-mail for more information. 

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