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Buckeyes land first place in rocket competition

The Buckeye Space Launch Initiative soared to first place at the Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico in June.

Members of the Buckeye Space Launch Initiative stand with their winning 30K rocket (left) and 10K rocket at the Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico.

The annual competition challenges teams of college students to design, build and launch solid-, liquid- or hybrid-fuel rockets to a targeted altitude. The five-day event attracted more than 100 teams from across the world.

The team of 21 Ohio State students earned top honors in the 30,000-foot Student Researched and Designed (SRAD) solid fuel rocket category. Their nine-foot long rocket, named Brutus II, soared to an altitude of 23,232 feet with a full 3U payload – the largest of any other rocket competing in the 30K field. Of the 10 other teams in the same category, only five actually launched, and just three had successful flights.

“It’s very difficult to get to that height as it turns out,” said Nic Flesher, a senior aerospace engineering student and the team's project manager for the upcoming academic year.

Brutus II, which won the 30K Student Researched and Designed solid fuel rocket category.

Once Brutus II launched, the team lost visual of the rocket, but they were prepared.

“We had a GPS telemetry system onboard so we were able to actively track it from the pad and we were able to know where it was at all times and when it landed,” explained Flesher.

The team also competed in the 10K commercial-off-the-shelf category. While they didn't finish in the top two, full results for the 10K have not yet been finalized. Flesher expects their placement will be fairly high since the flight was successful.

The Buckeye Space Launch Initiative consists of 40 team members total. The vast majority are students in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, along with several representatives from electrical and computer engineering, computer science and engineering, and physics. The team hopes to expand to include more students from other areas of study.

The Buckeyes will compete in some other competitions in the coming year, though nothing on the same scale as Spaceport America Cup. It’s the only competition where students can launch anything so large, high and fast.