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USYD Rocketry Team wins big in the USA

USYD Rocketry Team took home three prizes at the 2022 Spaceport America Cup, including the cup itself.

USYD Rocketry Team won big at the 2022 Spaceport America Cup held in southern New Mexico in late June, placing first overall and winning two additional prizes.

The team, hosted in USyd’s Aeronautical Engineering building, won the top prize of the Spaceport America Cup, the 30K COTS competition, and the payload challenge. 

A key aspect of the 30K COTS launch was to reach an intended apogee (maximum height) and USYD Rocketry Team reached within 0.22 per cent of the desired 30,000 feet, which is a remarkable achievement. 

However, taking home the top prize (the Cup) also meant demonstrating effective research, testing, reporting, and teamwork. Similar demonstration also helped the team claim victory for their payload design.

More than 1500 students across 22 countries competed in the world’s largest intercollegiate rocketry competition. It is a year-long affair culminating in a launch in the deserts of New Mexico. 

When asked what made the team unique, Executive Director Alison Lockley told Honi that it is “the sheer hard work and passion and perfectionism and technical rigour that they ask of their student members”.

“What really underpins everything we do is our systems engineering process and we recognise that most of what goes wrong is due to human error,” Lockley said.

“Before we even launch we run through checklists 20 times and we spend hundreds of hours working on our design reports.”

Named after native Australian birds, USYD Rocketry Team’s entry this year was Bluewren. The two major categories are rockets with student-research-and-designed (SRAD) motors and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) ones, where Bluewren is the latter.

The team designed and tested the carbon fibre frame and a novel payload, Callistemon, which activated during the descent phase of flight. While airborne the payload demonstrated a novel approach to target localization of a randomly oscillating object using computer vision, and the capture of it with a robotic arm. 

“What made it pretty special was that fact that it worked and that Bobby [payload director] did a lot of post processing to analyse the results and show how the algorithms were implemented during flight,” Lockley said.

Beyond space applications, dynamic target localization systems may find use on Earth in unpredictable or vibrating environments. 

“It’s particularly useful for environments like Japan where you have lots of earthquakes,” Lockley said.

USYD Rocketry Team also won first place in the 10K COTS competition at the 2019 Spaceport America Cup with their rocket Silvereye. Additionally, they brought home silver for the 2021 virtual competition with Firetail.

While the team is currently working on an SRAD motor, it is still in the research phase. Applications to join have closed for now, those keen to apply should keep an eye out next year and join the NSW Rocketry Association to watch low power launches throughout the year, in the meantime.

USYD Rocketry Team can be found online here: