Although Traveler IV was the first entirely student designed and built rocket to fly to space, USCRPL doesn’t exist in a vacuum (so to speak). The global community of rocketeers serves as a fantastic support network, and any accomplishment like Traveler IV builds off of previous successes by the amateur and student communities. Two other amateur or student-affiliated groups have been confirmed to reach space before: CSXT and the US Air Force Academy. Additionally, the global competition between rocketry teams for altitude with fully student designed and built rockets saw intense competition from two teams in particular, HyEnD at the University of Stuttgart and DARE at Delft University of Technology. Hopefully this post can highlight a few teams who have done great work in the field of rocketry.
CSXT GoFast (2004)
GoFast was a single stage rocket designed, built, and launched in 2004 by the amateur rocketry group CSXT (Civilian Space eXploration Team), whose payload section reached an altitude of 379,000 ft (115 km), as confirmed by an internal analysis similar to our own for Traveler IV. The vehicle also set an amateur speed record of 3,420 mph (1529 m/s), and was successfully recovered from space after descent under two parachutes. They used a motor designed and manufactured in conjunction with volunteers from Environmental Aeroscience Corporation. GoFast was the first amateur (i.e. non-commercial, non-governmental) rocket to reach space, and it fueled the ambitions of the global amateur rocketry community. USCRPL has looked to this team both for inspiration and for the engineering expertise of members like Ky Michaelson, whose recovery configuration recommendations are being explored on our upcoming launch.
USAFA FalconLAUNCH VII (2009)
FalconLAUNCH VII was a rocket designed and built as part of a class at the US Air Force Academy for their FalconLAUNCH engineering capstone program in 2009. It flew to an altitude of 354,724 ft (108 km). The rocket was built by students, faculty/military personnel, and contractors using a combination of custom, military, and industry parts. It was funded by the US Department of Defense in order to carry a DoD payload. The motor itself was made by a local contractor with designs from the cadets. The rocket was never recovered, but its apogee was determined by military radar at the DoD’s White Sands Missile Range, where it launched as a military project. Due to the heavy involvement of industry and non-student military personnel in the build and launch of FalconLAUNCH VII, it was not part of the student space race with USCRPL, in which teams attempted to send rockets fully designed and built by students to space. The FalconLAUNCH VII team was also not an amateur group; the cadets were paid for their work and used resources unavailable to amateurs including the White Sands Missile Range. The FalconLAUNCH program has been retired, but many cadets at the Academy continue to do incredible work in the FalconSAT program in their senior years.
CSXT GoFast (2014)
GoFast 2014 was an upgraded version of CSXT’s original GoFast vehicle, constructed by a reunion of the original team and intended to defeat the speed and altitude records set by the original vehicle in 2004. It flew to an altitude of 385,800 ft (118 km), narrowly beating the altitude of the original GoFast and achieving a top speed of 3,580 mph (1600 m/s). The new GoFast was not a strictly amateur vehicle like its predecessor. GoFast 2004 led to the incorporation of a sounding rocket company, UP Aerospace. They continued to iterate on the original amateur design in a commercial context, and provided the motor and other design elements for GoFast 2014. However, GoFast 2014 was a spiritual successor to the original rocket, constructed by the original team of (former) amateurs, and thus deserves a mention.
DARE Stratos II+ (2015)
Delft Aerospace Rocket Engineering at TU Delft in the Netherlands launched their single stage rocket Stratos II+ on October 16th, 2015, from the El Arenosillo launch site in the south-west of Spain. It flew to an altitude of 70397 ft (21.5 km), beating USCRPL’s Sixyback record of 63,000 ft (19 km) set in 2012. Sharing our goals of independent student engineering, they achieved this on a vehicle where “every single subsystem was designed and developed in-house.” This included the impressive DHX-200 Aurora hybrid engine designed and built by the students.
HyEnD HEROS3 (2016)
On November 8th, 2016, Hybrid Engine Development, HyEnD, at the University of Stuttgart beat DARE’s Stratos II+ record with HEROS3 from the Hybrid Experimental Rocket Stuttgart flight series. HEROS3 flew to 105971 ft (32.3km) with HyEnD’s student-made hybrid engine. HyEnD preaches the same level-headed approach to rocketry as USCRPL, gradually iterating on designs and procedures to break new ground without cutting corners.
Beyond achieving our own goals, we at USCRPL look forward to seeing other teams grow in their ambitions and their capabilities. In the wake of Traveler IV’s flight to space, we find ourselves asking the same question as Pete Townshend: Who’s Next?