Blasting to the Max with the UMN Rocket Team

November 4, 2022 — The student-led University of Minnesota Rocket Team had already had a demanding year. As part of the Team’s goal to fly completely Student Researched and Developed (SRAD) rockets, they have been formulating and casting their own solid rocket motors, doing composite layups for the body tubes, and even sewing their own parachutes! 

They started 2022 by launching the recovery test rocket, Xenon Azure, multiple times throughout the bitterly cold winter months (and continuously chilly spring months) to test the recovery system which was being designed for the 2022 Spaceport America (SA) Cup. 

By the time the magnolia blooms appeared in May, the Team held its first-ever "rocket reveal" event on the 13th. Team members, family and friends, and faculty were invited to see all the hard work everyone had put into the rocket.

Finally, after being unable to attend in person since 2019, the Rocket Team spent the summer solstice in Southern New Mexico for the Spaceport America (SA) Cup in June. The event, which is the world’s largest intercollegiate rocket engineering conference and competition, brings together over 1,700 students and faculty.

The Team competed in the 10k SRAD category, bringing their largest and most advanced rocket so far. This 8.5" diameter rocket, dubbed "Iridium Sandstorm," flew on entirely new custom motor hardware weighing about 260 pounds at the pad.

This rocket had a lot of technical achievements with new active control and avionics hardware, structural design components, and an entirely new payload design.

Unfortunately, the rocket prematurely separated at 4,100 ft due to excessive drag. While this did impact the overall score, the Team learned a lot about what goes into a rocket of this size and ways that it can be improved. The Team still placed fourth in their category and is ready to work towards regaining the title next year.

For the 2023 Spaceport America Cup competition, the Team is planning on launching a vehicle to 30k feet. They are returning to the tried and true 6-inch vehicle design that won the SARD motor category in 2019 and won the overall competition in 2021. 

Projects and Outreach

Besides planning for the SA Cup, the focus for the 2022-23 school year is to develop a rocket to launch into space. The Team’s high-altitude project had its most recent flight last September (2021) at FAR (friends of amateur rocketry) in the Mojave Desert. This rocket was designed to go to ~90,000ft. This year, they are developing what is known as a "spaceshot" with the predicted altitude being ~330,000 feet, also known as the karman line or the boundary of space. 

Members of the Team have also been taking part in different community outreach opportunities within the Twin Cities. Four members of the Team met with a Cub Scout troop from Red Pine Elementary School in Eagan, MN, to show off some of the rockets and give the kids a simple overview of the Team and aerospace engineering.

Another group gave a presentation at Eagan High School to the high school’s Robotics Team and robotics teams from nearby surrounding schools. The Rocket Team shared how they manage a large, complex engineering Team/project. They also spoke about the journey from high school to college, and their experiences in STEM, and concluded with having small group discussions with students interested in various design areas (subteams) of the Rocket Team. 

G2MD 2022 Rocket Team banner

The work the Team does would not be possible without donations from generous individuals and sponsors. This year for Give to the Max Day, November 17, the Team has secured a dollar for dollar match of up to $5000 by the generosity of Collins Aerospace. Please consider donating on November 17 in any amount to aid in the advancement of the Rocket Team.

Donate today!