Reece Cabanas, Correspondent
Modern discoveries and technological advances in the astronautics field have re-ignited a fiery passion in a handful of American university and college students. At the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Prescott Campus, students from all grade levels (freshmen up to seniors) are researching and developing the next launch vehicle that will make their dreams reality. This group of ambitious rocketeers belong to Eagle Space Flight Team.
Eagle Space Flight Team, or ESFT for short, is an engineering research team dedicated to launching a student researched and developed rocket to space, as well as becoming a regular launch provider for educational, research, and business ventures. While not a primary goal, they are also striving to be the first collegiate team to achieve this, receiving funding from the Undergraduate Research Institute and guidance from advisor Dr. Julio Benavides in following this endeavor. ESFT is composed of five smaller groups, or sub-teams, that each focus on a specific role: Structures, Propulsion, Aerodynamics, Communications, and Electronics. Since its conception three years, the team has grown from a mere five members to just under a whopping 60.
Bryce Chanes, a senior in the Aerospace Engineering Astronautics program, is the current Project Manager and one of the founders of ESFT. “The idea of getting a rocket to space is exciting, but what we’re trying to provide is value for the students that are a member of the organization by providing them with the professional style resources they would have in the industry, with a leadership structure they might see when they graduate.” Through this, ESFT has been able to continuously grow from past experiences and train new members to take charge, equipping them with the necessary skills in analysis, design, and fabrication. Matthew Boban, a freshman in the Aerospace Engineering Astronautics program and Communications Team Lead, states, “As a freshman, I did not expect to get onto ESFT, let alone become a team lead within the semester... I knew if I was involved of a big team like this, then I would have better chances later on.”
In order to understand the gravity of their work, we must realize the border between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, commonly known as the Kármán line. Hungarian-American engineer and physicist Theodore von Kármán calculated this boundary at an altitude of about 100 kilometers above sea level. Not only will the final rocket need to withstand tremendous aerodynamic and thermodynamic forces, but also carry enough fuel to boost it past this mark. The team must also brainstorm a way to safely recover the vehicle and ensure all electronics onboard operate nominally throughout the duration of the flight.
One attempted launch has already been made in the Spring of 2015 with the team’s Horizons 1 launch vehicle. Reaching an altitude of 22,000 feet from ground level, this marked the highest any Embry-Riddle group had flown at the time. Unfortunately, the safety system failed, resulting in an unsuccessful recovery. Learning from their mistakes the team pressed forward, adopting a more systematic approach used in aerospace companies today. Their approach now consists of a thoroughly drafted objective, constraints, and requirements document on which research and development is based upon.
So what’s next for these rocketeers? Eagle Space Flight Team is slated for a February 26 launch of their test bed rocket in Aguila, Arizona which, in the future, will test any new technologies the team develops. For more information on upcoming events, progress updates, and how to become a member, you can follow ESFT on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website at [www.eaglespaceflightteam.com].
Cabanas, Reece. "Eagles Aim for Bigger Heights." Eagles Aim for Bigger Heights. 12 Mar 2017.