We are the Open University Student Rocket Team, a group of Open University students from across the science and engineering student body ranging from undergraduate to Ph.D. Our aim is to compete in the Spaceport America Cup 2020, an intercollegiate rocket competition held each year at Spaceport America New Mexico, USA.
The team was lucky enough to participate last year – with the generous help of DesignSpark – and had a highly successful run. In addition to competing against other strong UK entries, our team scored the highest and even higher than significant institutions such as Stanford, Yale, and Cornell to name a few notable examples.
Figure: Image of the team's 2019 entry.
The rocket has been entered into the 10,000 feet category, with the team having designs on the 30,000 feet category if enough funds are raised. Our 4-metre tall rocket will travel in excess of 700 mph experiencing 12 G of acceleration in its flight before being recovered with dual parachute deployment for a soft landing.
Inside the rocket, there will be a 3U CubeSat payload, housing 2 different proof-of-concept scientific experiments, designed to support the development of future CubeSat missions investigating the space and planetary environments found within our Solar System. There is an astrophysics package – managed by a Pi cluster – that will undertake the monitoring of cosmic ray interactions using two detection systems and geomagnetism. The payload will also contain an astrobiology package that will focus on monitoring the changes in state of a moist soil sample, recording temperature, air pressure, and soil moisture. The purpose of these experiments during flight is to validate the analytical and data management systems needed to facilitate missions investigating the space environment around bodies such as Mars, Calisto and Ganymede, and model the survivability of conditions found in damp, low pressure and temperature regolith exposed to high levels of solar radiation. We also seek to do some early tests on the viability of Raspberry Pi clusters as an alternative CubeSat control system in the space environment, with the ultimate goal of reducing their development time and cost.
Spaceport America is a unique site and nowhere in Europe is it possible to launch rockets in the same manner. It's a unique experience and a great opportunity for the team to expand their working knowledge of rockets. Previous members have gone on to work for significant UK spaceflight companies helped by their experiences, so it's a really valuable thing for students to be able to take part in.
The team doesn't get any official support from our university, and our participation is entirely dependant upon the funds we raise through our crowdfunding.