Category Archives: Projects

Battle of the Rockets — The Finalé

Members of the Rocket Competition Team finished the year strong by conducting three successful launches at the annual Battle of the Rockets Competition. The team spent several months building and perfecting a rocket to be entered in the Target Altitude Event and a rocket-and-rover system to be entered in the Planetary Rover Event.


The target altitude rocket, named “Skylark”, was designed to reach as close to 1625 feet as possible out of three attempts. Skylark’s first launch was beautiful, but due to high winds, the team was unable to recover the rocket after its landing. Even so, Skylark had undergone test launches earlier in the year that had proved successful in reaching the target altitude, and the team felt that their hard work had paid off well.


The team was able to successfully complete two launches for the Planetary Rover Event with their rocket, named “Phoenix”, and their rover, affectionately called “Ground Lark”. Phoenix was designed to reach a minimum of 1000 feet and then deploy the rover, which required a separate parachute system to ensure its safe landing. Upon reaching the ground, the rover would release a marker, travel 10 feet, release a second marker, turn 90 degrees, and travel another 10 feet. During ground testing, all systems for both the rover’s functions and its deployment from the rocket were running well. Unfortunately, although the initial launch was good, complications in the rover’s deployment from the rocket prevented it from being able to fully perform once it reached the ground. However, both Phoenix and Ground Lark were recovered safely, and the rover’s custom altimeter setup and marker-dropping mechanism were shown to work perfectly.


Despite the harsh weather conditions, the team had a blast bringing together everything they had worked for into this weekend event. Over the course of the year, the team had brainstormed and implemented designs for the two rockets and rover that fulfilled the competition requirements in creative and advanced ways. Overall, many members described the year as being a great learning experience, an opportunity to try some hands-on engineering, and (simply put) “really, really awesome”.

Construction of 2.4 Meter Dish Completed

The Radio Telescope Team finished construction of their 2.4 meter diameter radio telescope dish this past week. After the components arrived from the Netherlands in mid January, the team got to work riveting the metal frame and mesh together. After weeks of hard work, the team proudly showed off their dish outside of the Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center.

Radio Telescope Dish

The next step is to continue work of the electronics and the dish’s mount which will allow the dish itself to move into place and take data. The team aims to mount the dish to a trailer, making it mobile for research.

UAV Team has Two Successful Test Flights

The Advanced UAV Team is registered to compete in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Seafarer Chapter’s 13th Annual Student Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS) Competition, scheduled to take place June 17th-21st. When asked what the most difficult task was prospected to be, team captain Thomas Ryan answered that equipping and programming the UAV to accomplish all of the flight missions in the competition certainly would be, which is the grand objective of this team’s project. They have already installed an auto pilot into the UAV and added airspeed sensors on the tip of the wings and have had two test flights; one occurred at the end of January and another at the beginning of February, both of which were very successful. To ensure safe landing in the snow during the first flight, the team built skis for their aircraft.


During the second test flight, the team tested features of the UAV’s autopilot system. Team member Antonio Martinez has been using the Ardupilot Mission Planner software to communicate with the receiver on the UAV. Ryan commented that they have been taking off and landing the plane with a controller, but once the UAV is in the air, he switches the setting on the remote to an automated mode and everything else that the UAV does is completely laissez-faire. Eventually, Ryan says, the UAV will be able to take off and land on its own. In this test flight, the UAV successfully flew to designated GPS coordinate points and circled the location in a fixed given radius.

“It was really cool. I took my hands off the control, and [the UAV] flew to the GPS location and started flying in circles around it.” – Thomas Ryan

In the upcoming months, the team’s goal is to take data from a camera (that will be attached to the plane) and locate GPS points through advanced image processing. By doing so, the team should learn where the plane is and where the plane is heading in real time. Additionally, the team will design a complex algorithms process that will allow the UAV to identify ground targets and drop payloads upon detection.

Stay tuned for more updates!


YUAA Places 1st in Zipcar Competition

carAndLogoDuring the month of December, YUAA competed in the “Zipcar Students With Drive” competition where the public voted for their favorite college academic organizations. After two weeks of open polls, YUAA won 1st place and was awarded $5000 in Zipcar credit! This grant will help the team fund transportation expenses various aerospace-related trips. Thank you to everyone who voted. Rocket competitions, here we come!

PR Team Wins IREC Photo Contest

While the Rocket Competition team was at Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) preparing there rocket, Chronos, for a launch which would win them second in the payload competition, the members of the PR team were busy documenting just about everything. After the end of IREC, the photos we submitted in the IREC photo competition. The results are in and Yale the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association won first place! When Dustin Koehler of Little Blue Productions, the judge of the photo contest, was asked which photo had won, he responded saying “honestly there wasn’t one image that I could pick out from what you guys had, there were too many GREAT ones.”

This first place finish is very exciting for YUAA and its PR team. Some of the favorite photos are featured in a video Dustin made by compiling his own footage and that of all the teams and they can all also be found on our gallery page. Check the video out here and look out for the gold Chronos, blue YUAA shirts, and YUAA members braving the desert in arches national park!

New Projects and Board to Kick off the Year

With the start of a new school year, YUAA has a new set of projects and a new board. This year YUAA will take on a new set of projects. Some, such as the Rocket Competition Project, are continuations of successful projects from previous years meant to cater to new members. Others, like the Advanced Project and the Multi-Stage Rocket Project, build on projects from last year, specifically the UAV and Rocket Competition projects. A fourth and final project, the Radio Astronomy Project pushes YUAA into entirely new territory as we take on the task of designing and building a radio telescope. Our first meeting will be on Wednesday September 3rd at 7:30 pm in the Mann Center.

We are pleased to announce this year’s executive board below who will make these projects possible.

Permanent Positions
Co-Presidents: Genevieve Fowler and Bolun Liu
Treasurer: Gerardo Carranza
Public Relations Director: Renita Heng

Project Leaders
Rocket Competition: Lucia Korpas
Multi-Stage Rocket: Warren Zhang
Radio Astronomy: Devin Cody
Advanced Project: Thomas Ryan

Last year’s presidents, Ari Brill and Jeff Gau will remain on board as senior advisors.

YUAA Awarded 2nd Place in Payload Competition

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.


Team Presents Chronos to Judges at IREC

Members of the Rocket Competition Team arrived in Green River, Utah on Tuesday and were greeted by large mesas jutting out of endless expanses of flat sand. The scene was certainly different than what the team was used to seeing in New Haven. After getting settled in their hotel, the team regrouped after months of being scattered across the country and made the final preparations for their presentation of Chronos, their competition rocket, at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Rocket Competition (IREC) poster session the next day.

Team Photo

The team’s presentation centered around their payload, a system for environmental control during a test experiment involving sensitive sensors and electronics. The team controls shock and vibration using specially selected padding and springs and prevents overheating by encasing sensitive instruments in gallium. Using a temperature probe and two accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, data will be taken about the conditions of the payload to tell the team about the effectiveness of the system


To test their system the team has designed an experiment to test for the effects of general relativity. Using two atomic clocks, one on the ground and one in the rocket, the team can compare the expected time difference with the one measured. The closer the two times differences are, the more effective the system has been.


The judges were impressed with the ambitious set of experiments and the Chronos as well. The team is looking forward to the chance to launch tomorrow!


The Rocket Competition Team Preparing for IREC

In just a few days, members of the Rocket Competition Team (RCT) will fly to Utah to launch Chronos at IREC. Chronos itself has already been shipped to the destination, and it awaits its excited and eager creators!  After spending a semester discussing, designing, and constructing the rocket, the payload, and the science goal,  the RCT is ready to launch Chronos for the gold.

Chronos stands 91.5″ tall, is 5.5″ in diameter, weighs 32 lbs, and will launch using an L2200 motor. The RCT presents a novel, low-cost system for environmental control in a rocket during normal turbulent flight. Sounding rocket-based experiments are limited by the instruments used and by their resistances to external forces. These forces introduce random errors into the measurements, obfuscate the signal with noise, and are difficult to remove without prior calibration. Chronos was engineered to deal with three of these forces: shock, vibration, and heat–and to reduce their impacts on a sample experiment to be conducted simultaneously. Industrial strength springs below the payload and foam under the instruments address errors due to shock while sorbothane pads between the rocket body and instrumentation reduce vibration.  The system employs the special thermal properties of gallium to manage undesirable heat.

In order to achieve the resolution in the experiment necessary to verify the time dilatory effects of general relativity, the RCT has developed a system to deal with the three most error-inducing factors: shock, vibration, and temperature.

Good luck to all of the members who have worked diligently on Chronos and made it possible to compete in IREC!