Target Altitude

During the Spring of 2013, YUAA team members worked on a project to launch a rocket to an altitude of 1,700 ft. This project was in preparation for the Battle of the Rockets Competition in Culpeper, Virginia. Competition rules required that participants use a commercially available rocket motor, and our team chose to use the Contrail G100 hybrid rocket motor.

Hybrid rocket motors offer considerably more interesting engineering challenges than standard solid fuel rocket motors, and these challenges were the main reason the team chose to use this specific motor. Unlike traditional rocket motors, hybrid motors separate fuel and oxidizer until combustion and are considerably safer than liquid counterparts. The Contrail G100 is a 38mm motor that uses PVC and nitrous oxide as fuel and oxidizer. The manufacturer thrust curve is shown below.


Team members designed several novel features to solve problems presented during the course of the semester:

  • Hybrid rocket plumbing system
  • Hybrid rocket launch equipment
  • Mobile rocket launch pad
  • Static test stand for rocket motor
  • Design and construction of rocket body
  • Avionics for rocket

For more information on any of these individual systems, please contact current YUAA team members.


Team members were required to use advanced avionics to track rocket performance during the flight. In the below picture, you can see Xuan-Truc Nguyen installing the altimeter inside the avionics bay that flew on the final rocket. Our team made use of the PerfectFlite StratoLogger Altimeter, which uses barometric pressure differences to calculate the altitude of the rocket. Team members designed methods to test and calibrate this altimeter in innovative pressure chambers.


Team members completed the rocket several weeks prior to competition, and were able to travel to Culpeper with other YUAA team members to compete at the Battle of the Rockets. Unfortunately, the Contrail G100 motor failed to perform as hoped and the rocket was not able to reach its intended altitude of 1,700 ft and reached a maximum altitude of 617 ft.


This project has helped to serve as a strong basis into more advanced rocket technology, and helped lay the foundation for the 2013-2014 YUAA project on hybrid rocket propulsion research. Team members identified numerous flaws and inconsistencies that exist in the Contrail G100 and will be working to find more appropriate methods of flying hybrid rocket motors.