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Student rocket design team celebrates successful launch at international competition

 | Jul 16, 2019
AIAA 2019

Student rocket design team celebrates successful launch at international competition

Jul 16, 2019

Ohio University’s rocket design and engineering team, the Astrocats, reached new heights with their first-ever successful competition rocket launch at the international 2019 Spaceport America Cup competition in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Russ College of Engineering and Technology mechanical engineering undergraduates Mitchell Brightman, Sean Kilbane, Katie Messner, Cole Murtiff, Alex Polacek, and Justin Sackett; and recent graduates Archie Scott III, Tessa Berger, Travis Moleski, and J.C. Kraml joined more than 120 teams representing 17 different countries.

It was the third year the Astrocats participated, this time abandoning some of their more ambitious ideas for a scaled-back but solid design.

“From the very first meeting, we set our goal: to have a successful flight. We kept this goal in mind with every decision," Scott said. “This year, we scaled back our design and moved slowly to really learn the entirety of the rocket, from nose cone to motor retainer.”

The team began educating new members and generating fresh ideas for the June competition just two weeks after returning from the 2018 event, where they previously struggled with thermal expansion that caused an in-flight failure. They started constructing the new rocket, which reached a height of 11,950 feet and a speed of Mach 1.1, or 844 mph, in October 2018.

“I’m extremely proud of this team, which came together at OHIO with a goal of successfully launching a rocket above 10,000 feet for the first time,” said Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jay Wilhelm, the team’s adviser. “The group functioned well beyond just technical aspects, demonstrating managerial and financial management maturity not typically seen in fresh engineers.”

The Astrocats were supported by Russ Vision funds, which support students beyond the classroom as they develop meta-engineering and technology skills; and sponsored by the Ohio Space Grant Consortium (SICHOP).

Colleen Carow contributed to this story.