Last Friday, June 27th, the Rocket Competition Team launched their rocket Chronos to a whopping 7,003 ft at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition in Green River, Utah. The flight resulted in a safe and successful recovery of the rocket and an excited team.
The rocket carried a payload of an atomic clock, a rubidium oscillator, which when synced with clock on the ground and examined using a phase comparator could detect the effects of general and special relativity, a time difference on the order of picoseconds. The rocket also carried an environmental control system to dampen shock and vibrations and control for heat. This system was designed to allow sensitive equipment to be used inside a rocket and is applicable to more experiments than just the one the team chose to perform.
The temperature control system was known to function for at least an hour and a half after the clock was turned on. In theory, this is more than enough time to launch and retrieve the rocket. Unfortunately due to delays at the launch including an igniter which did not quite light the motor the team did not get to launch until about three hours after the start of the experiment. This meant that the system did overheat, and some time during the rocket’s flight, the leads connecting the battery to the atomic clock were disconnected, preventing the team from comparing the phases of the clocks at the conclusion of the launch. However, the team collected good data on the conditions of their control system and from this data was able to analyze the rocket’s flight and the payload chamber’s temperature over time. This allowed them to further asses the effectiveness of their control system.
An awards ceremony took place the following Sunday at which the team was given second place out of 36 teams in the payload competition. In addition to the official awards, the judges gave out unofficial prizes for various small achievements. YUAA’s rocket competition team was presented with the “Light Speed Award” for “trying to prove Einstein wrong.” The prize of a solar charging LED lantern certainly widened the smiles of the team member’s faces.
After a year of handwork and dedication, the team was ecstatic to have their efforts recognized. Not only did the team successfully launch to the highest altitude ever achieved by a YUAA rocket, they also gained valuable skills and formed lasting friendships as they faced all the challenges rocket engineering threw at them.