Eagle Space Flight Team Launches First Rocket

Nicole Shriver, Copy Editor

On Saturday, Jan. 24, the Eagle Space Flight Team (ESFT) had its first rocket launch. The team is composed of 40 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students who share a common goal of becoming the first undergraduate university team to send a rocket into space. As this is no small task, the team’s plan is to make a series of rockets between now and the final space flight, which is planned to take place in the spring of 2017.

Horizons 1, the first rocket built by ESFT, was launched from the Eagle Eye launch site in Aguila, Ariz. The goal for this rocket was to get the team familiar with rockets and the building process. The rocket was three inches in diameter, about seven feet tall, and was made primarily of fiberglass with carbon fiber reinforcements on the fins. It was equipped with a commercially-made motor. The rocket was built from scratch in about a week. The rocket took to the sky perfectly and was out of sight in a matter of seconds. The GPS ground station showed that the rocket reached an altitude of at least 22,000 feet and the team cheered at their success. However, it was soon apparent that the rocket was coming down faster than it should. It was clear that neither the main parachute nor the smaller drogue parachute had deployed. About 80 seconds after launch, a faint thump was heard from the launch site indicating that the rocket had crashed into the ground.

The GPS ground station showed that the rocket had landed 0.7 miles from the launch site. Equipped with a shovel and plenty of water, the team set out into the desert. After one and a half hours, the team finally found the rocket. Only the bottom quarter inch of the motor case was sticking out of the ground when it was found. It took almost two hours to dig the rocket out of the dirt. As it was estimated that the rocket experienced over 500 Gs of deceleration at impact, it is no surprise that the seven foot tall rocket had been compressed down to a five foot tall mangle.

Although it is not certain why the parachute did not deploy, there are a few hints as to the cause. After dissecting the broken rocket, it was evident that the black powder charges that were meant to separate the rocket had gone off. It is possible that the amount of black powder used was not enough or the charges might not have worked properly at altitude. The team realizes that they should have ground tested before launching, but with such a tight schedule, they did not have a chance to.

ESFT plans to move forward by continuing with their next launch of a four inch diameter rocket that is estimated to reach 50,000 feet with a motor that will be built by the team. To see pictures of the launch, learn more about ESFT, and keep up with their progress, visit [http://www.eaglespaceflightteam.com] or find Eagle Space Flight Team on Facebook or Twitter. - See more at: http://erau-news.com/news/2015/02/02/eagle-space-flight-team-launches-first-rocket/#sthash.BROzGn6L.dpuf

Shriver, Nicole. "Eagle Space Flight Team Launches First Rocket." Eagle Space Flight Team Launches First Rocket. Horizons Newspaper, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2015.