NICOLE SHRIVER, COPY EDITOR
Dozens gathered at the rocket test bunker near the soccer stadium on Saturday August 22 to watch the Eagle Space Flight Team (ESFT) test-fire the largest solid rocket motor in the school’s history.
ESFT was founded last fall with the goal of becoming the first undergraduate team to launch a rocket into space. Ten months into the project they have over 40 team members and have launched a three inch diameter rocket over twice the speed of sound and over 22,000 feet. They have also conducted many successful on-campus rocket motor tests including a test of six motors that produced over 150 pounds of thrust each.
The N-class rocket motor fired on Saturday was four inches in diameter and 42 inches long, and was expected to produce 650 pounds of thrust. The propellant used in the test was manufactured by the team using a formula they created. It is the same mixture they have been successfully using for the past ten months.
One and a half seconds into the expected five second burn, a hole melted in the side of the aluminum motor case. The team later found that the failure was due to improper sealing around the motor’s nozzle. The problem has been isolated and will be addressed in the future.
William Carpenter, the Propulsion Team lead said, “The team’s highest priority is to conduct all operations safely. With this in mind, the team had precautions in place such that, even with a motor failure, no team members or spectators were ever in any danger during the test.”
The founder and Project Manager, Bryce Chanes, commented, “The important thing is to continue moving forward and learn from our mistakes. This team is in a unique position where we can fail, come back, and succeed, rather than concluding the project here.”
The team will be re-testing the motor and flying their four inch diameter rocket later this semester. The rocket is expected to reach over 40,000 feet and will be seven feet tall. After that, the team plans on constructing an approximately half-scale vehicle which will be six inches in diameter and approximately 15 feet tall. The six inch diameter rocket will test all of the major systems that will be required to launch a rocket into space. The final space rocket will be 10 inches in diameter, over 20 feet tall, and weigh more than 700 pounds. The motor will have 10,000 pounds of thrust and burn for over 15 seconds. A motor this size will push the rocket to over six times the speed of sound on its way to over 330,000 feet, the internationally recognized boundary of space.
Chanes also states that he is “very proud of how open the team chooses to be by sharing not only their successes, but also their failures. Obviously, it is hard to share the bad news and is easy to share the good news but we choose to share the bad news anyway in the hopes that other teams can learn from our errors.”
Shriver, Nicole. "Eagle Space Flight Team Tests Largest Rocket Motor on Campus." Eagle Space Flight Team Tests Largest Rocket Motor on Campus. Horizons Newspaper, 24 Sep. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.