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University of Arizona SEDS has been actively developing rocket related hardware as well as actual filght vehicles since August of 1993. The motivating force behind the rocket project is the hands on element that most space-related college majors lack. Seldom does one see an entire project through in engineering, even at universities where pactical experiance is stressed. The rocket project gives all participants the opportunity to get their hands into every element of the development phases, from initial design to final launch prep.

Why a practical project?

Simple frustration with 4.0 GPA aerospace engineers who can't mix two part epoxy. So often space related engineers and scientists get caught up in the "paper spaceships". In fact, every year millions of dollars go into such craft which are neither practical or flyable. Of those who aren't entirely impractical, few every have the opportunity to work on an entire project from drafting to analysis to fitting the final pyrotechnics at launch. This lack of holistic experience is the motivation for UASEDS rocket project. Just as there is no substitute for doing problem sets to learn class material, there is no better cure for impractical engineering than practical experience as close to the center of things as possible. Practical space related professionals are better equipped to deal with the current environment of smaller budgets and higher technology.

The goal of a supersonic first flight to a minimum altitude of 12,500 feet, as well as the ability to use staging later on was matched with a minimum deliverable payload mass of 1.25 kilograms to create the intial challenge. Launch costs for the first flight, apart from the rocket itself and launch towers, was to be less than $200, including an allowance for inevitable repair costs. All these goals were met in the design phase with a minimum of compromise.

The current design is a fibreglass airframe which accepts commercial rocket motors available from independent vendors. Vital statistics on the rocket follow:

The use of rocket design software was crucial to the development of the best possible combination of speed, altitude, practicality, payload mass, and cost. Rodgers Aeroscience package was selected for ease of operation, compatibility with commercial motor data, and overall accuracy. Employing this package, it was possible to estimate drag coefficients up to 15.0 mach should the occasion arise, and simulate flight data for a variety of airframe geometries and motor configurations with high accuracy.

The motor selected for the first flight is a 250 Newton peak thrust (total impulse of 2560Ns.) ammonium perchlorate solid fueled disposable, manufactured by Industrial Solid Propellants of Las Vegas, Nevada. Flight performance has been estimated using a Runge-Kutta integrator included in the Rodger's Aeroscience package. At a peak velocity of Mach 1.10 and an apogee of 17,420 feet (Approx. 3.30 miles), this configuration minimizes extreme accelerations for payload considerations while still delivering needed payload mass.

The ability to stage to well over 60,000 feet with a high thrust first stage has been also considered during the design phase. The two-stage configuration is the goal of this portion of the rocket project, and will deliver over 2.0 kilograms to the upper stratosphere and possibly the mesosphere.

Experiments to be included in the repetoire of UASEDS include solid-state acceleration sensors for the first flight, and later barometric, temperature and photometric sensors, the latter with various filters for determining local atmospheric composition. Flying cosmic ray collecting emulsions has also been suggested. The emphesis is on low budget practical payloads.

Electronics for the control of the rocket include an on-board computer for staging control, recovery system control, and failsafe modes. A data logging board for interfacing with various instruments. A modular design has been used to allow stand-alone capibility for all electronic elements. No active guidance systems are included in the current electronics package. The Data Acquisition package is being headed by Ric Zaller

  • The overall dimensions of the completed package should be approximately 6 inches X 4 inches X 1/4 inches.
  • The heart of the system is an 8-bit, 8 channel Analog to Digital converter (ADC). Our design goal is to achieve a four channel system operating at 150Hz-200Hz per channel, although this can be slowed in order to achieve longer recording times.
  • The data collected will be immediately dumped into an 8k-byte EEPROM. The use of an EEPROM will allow for total power failure possibly due to high-G decelerational forces) without the loss of data.
  • The final board will has the 8k EEPROM expandable to 16k.
  • Initial design considerations include an interface to any IBM compatible computer for data recovery.
  • Currently, the the board is using a simple program to retrieve the test data.
  • Once the data is retrieved on to the computer it is stored asimple ASCII integer numbers.
  • It is up to the flight analysis team to coordinate the sorting of this data
  • A standard 9 volt battery will suffice for a power supply, although for those seeking complete mass reduction, a 7 volt supply could conceivablye built from hearing-aid batteries.
Recovery is a parachute system ejected by pyrotechnic charges, with seperate systems for the main propulaion section and the electronics/instrument bay section. An on-board radio beacon will be used in conjunction with a directional reciever to locate the rocket segments after landing.

UASEDS rocket project is organized by Chris Greene and maintained and operated by the UASEDS rocket team, composed primarily of undergraduate engineering and science students with a thing for space exploration.

UASEDS Rocket Project may be reached at SEDS, University of Arizona, Box 119, Building #92, Tucson, AZ 85721; email to: for question, comment or gratiutous financial contribution.