NMT Students Complete Fourth Experimental Rocket Launch

New Mexico Tech Students Complete Fourth Experimental Rocket Launch

New Mexico Tech Rocket Launch Team UPHAM, N.M. April 12, 2016  -- Students at New Mexico Tech extended their legacy in rocket design by successfully flying their fourth major experimental rocket Saturday morning. The launch took place at Spaceport America and among other objectives, tested new composite manufacturing methods. At 8 a.m. as scheduled, the 25-pound rocket nailed its design apogee of 11,000 feet, achieving a max speed of 688 mph in the process.

With the exception of the motor, every part of the rocket is the work of the students. The rocket carried a data recorder to measure flight parameters, which will keep rocket team members busy analyzing the data to validate their design's performance. The launch was part of Tech's Mechanical Engineering program, whereby each student participates in an intensive two year design-team activity as a requirement for graduation.

Dr. Warren Ostergren, Vice President of Academic Affairs and a faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering Department, said "The students have been amazing in terms of the quality of work they performed in designing and fabricating such a high performing rocket. They have completed a highly professional, targeted launch. The skills they developed through this project will benefit them throughout their careers in industry and research."

The New Mexico Tech team, with advisor Dr. Nadir Yilmaz, includes team leads, Jensen Hoke and David Yoon as well as seniors, Kevin Childress, Alex Govorov, Alex Bohlin and juniors, Nico Seamons, Gabriel Montoya, Luis Cuenca, Wes Small and Shuprio Ghosh.

NM Tech Rocket Launch DuoTech students began designing their first rocket in August 2012, and on July 12, 2013, they surprised the competition by taking first place in the Advanced Category of the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) near Green River, Utah. Each year, the competition features teams from universities across the United States, Canada and the world.

Since the victory at IREC in 2013, NMT rocket teams have been pushing the envelope in areas ranging from structural design and aerodynamics, to telemetry and recovery systems. This year's rocket achieved the same apogee as last year's, in spite of weighing  half of the 2015 vehicle. The weight reduction is the result of manufacturing much of the vehicle from carbon fiber, reducing the size of the joining members and removing mechanical fasteners.

This year the students worked to design a vehicle with an aerodynamically efficient outer mold line. This year's vehicle reached the target altitude with the smallest motor that has been used so far.

Every year, Tech students make strides in design and manufacturing that will lead to rockets capable of much loftier goals. However, Tech students are also finding out that the 'real world' of launching, as conducted by NASA, the Department of Defense and commercial operators, involves considerably more than just the rocket design.

One company that is helping students understand this world is White Sands Research and Developers (WSRDs) -  a Las Cruces based high-tech aerospace company with launch experience in both government and private circles. For two years, WSRDs has performed an outstanding job in helping students to both plan and execute launches, not as amateurs, but as professionals-in-training. While amateur launching tends to be more about 'shock and awe,'professional practice sees the rocket as a system component that helps achieve goals within a larger mission concept.

The collaborative effort between NMT and WSRDs has been so well received that the two are discussing how the process might be formalized into a course. Such a course could be offered as early as the fall 2016 semester and could be offered via distance education to students from
other universities. The course would culminate in a large launch event in late spring.

NMT appreciated the support and assistance of Spaceport America Director of Aerospace Operations Dr. Bill Gutman and Christine Anderson, CEO of Spaceport America. Their mission of facilitating educational programs is very helpful to developing aerospace education in New Mexico.

2016 NM Tech Launch Day Group Photo