Category Archives: Competition

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Two Members Receive NAR Rocket Ceritification

Rebecca Beilinson ’16 and Jeff Gau ’16 respectively received Level 1 and Level 2 NAR Rocket Certification last weekend from the METRA Rocket Club in Pine Island, New York. Beilinson launched Ultimate with an Aerotech I-435 motor while Gau launched Penultimate with an Aerotech J-350 motor.

To become NAR certified, the applicant must showcase his or her ability to construct and launch a rocket using a class motor respective to the sought level of certification.  Prior to launch, the applicant undergoes a safety inspection in which he or she is expected to verbally answer technical questions regarding the specifications of the rocket. The applicant then flies the model, witnessed by the certification team. Success is judged on “stability, deployment of the recovery system, and safe recovery.

Gau’s Level 2 certification qualifies the Rocket Competition Team to launch Chronos at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) in Green River, Utah.  In response to the successful certification, Beilinson noted,

“It was a successful launch and a fun day – we completed three launches in one day, which is the most we’ve done at any launch I’ve been to. We now have more members who are certified to launch, which means future launches should go more smoothly.”

To learn more, click here to see YUAA featured on the official Yale University Facebook.

Mounting Penultimate
Mounting Penultimate

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Successful Chronos Ground Test

In preparation for the upcoming Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) taking place in Green River, Utah, members of the YUAA Rocket Competition Team ground tested Chronos to make sure that the golden beauty would be ready for its debut launch. The series of ground tests had one thing in common: Success.

In the first phase of ground testing, the main parachute was deployed by placing a charge source in contact with a 9V battery. The Rocket Competition Team used 3.0 g of Pyrodex to supply the charge, and after touching the wires from the Pyrodex to the battery, the nose cone launched off, followed by the main parachute. Similarly, the the drogue parachute deployment was tested using 3.2 g of Pyrodex, and the outcome resembled the experiment that preceded it. At this point in the ground tests, the team was confident that Chronos would properly return to ground level after soaring thousands of feet above the Utah plains.

The drogue parachute deploying
The drogue parachute deploying

In the second phase of ground testing, Chronos was fully assembled to evaluate whether or not the Pyrodex would actually ignite at apogee. The team strategically replaced the Pyrodex pellets with LEDs and simulated the environment at apogee by using a portable vacuum. The vacuum emulated apogee conditions,  and as a result, the LEDs lit up, indicating a successful network of communication within the rocket.

Chronos is ready for you, IREC!

Successful Launch of “Artemis” at CTRA

Saturday November 9 the Rocket Competition Team and other YUAA members gathered at the CEID early at 6 am to travel to the Connecticut Tripoli Rocket Association (CTRA) rocket launch. This day would mark the culmination of countless hours of work put in by the sixteen person team over the past week and a half on their rocket, “Artemis”. After the school bus was loaded, the group headed off to Gill Corn Fields in Hurley New York.

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The team arrived at the launch around 9 am, and began to set up for the launch. Though the skies were gray, the overall conditions were beautiful with low winds. After a few minor adjustments, the rocket was ready to launch with a K740 motor. The rocket flew beautifully to 4829 ft. Unfortunately, by the time of the launch, the GoPro had run out of battery, so no footage was recorded, but more importantly the deployment system worked as expected. The siren on the payload proved useful and allowed for the easy recovery of the device.

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Finding the rocket after the launch proved slightly more difficult as concerns with the GPS interfering with the altimeter prevented us from tracking the rocket. The team split up, running miles, bushwhacking, and fording rivers to recover the rocket. Finally it was discovered tangled about forty five feet up in a tree. After many attempts throwing weighted ropes members of CTRA were kind enough to lend the group a fifty foot pole. With hours of practice, the rocket recovery group found that by duct taping a rope to the end of the pole, they could wrap the rope around the rocket and pull it down. Some of the couplers were ripped out by the tree, but the rocket was recovered mostly unharmed.

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After a long and exciting bus ride, the team returned to Yale. Not only was this day the first rocket launch for many of the members, it was also an opportunity to see the products of their hard work. The team is already looking forward to their next launch, the competition in June!

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YUAA would like to thank the people at CTRA for all their help and advice and the local neighbors who aided in the recovery of Artemis. We would also like to thank the companies and organizations who sponsored this rocket: Yale SEAS, Yale UOC, Yale Physics, Aerocon Systems, and SolidWorks.

Rocket Competition Team Prepares for Launch

The Rocket Competition Team is currently putting the final touches their prototype rocket, which will fly this Saturday October 9th at the CTRA launch at Gill Corn Farms in New York. The rocket has been named Artemis and will reach  6,000 ft, carrying a GoPro as its payload. The GoPro will test the rockets payload deployment system and take footage of its descent.

If you are interested in coming to the launch it is not too late! Email jeffrey.gau@yale.edu to sign up!

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