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Buckeyes soar to first place at international rocket competition


For the second straight year, The Ohio State University’s Buckeye Space Launch Initiative team brought a Spaceport America Cup first place trophy back to campus.

Held June 19-23 at the Spaceport America headquarters in New Mexico, the largest annual intercollegiate rocket engineering event hosted over 120 teams from around the world. The Spaceport America Cup features multistage rockets and all chemical propulsion types—solid, liquid and hybrid. Teams are graded on how close their rockets ascend to reaching specified altitudes, as well as through technical and flight readiness reports.

The 10K team prepares for launch

The team's rocket targeted for an altitude of 10,000 feet took first place in the Student Researched and Designed category, as it flew to 10,080 feet over the desert. The rocket, dubbed “I-O,” was propelled by a solid motor and carried a payload of nine pounds.

Buckeye Space Launch Initiative's 40 team members also competed in the 30,000-foot category and launched a two-stage exhibition rocket aimed at reaching 100,000 feet.

“O-H,” the 30,000-foot rocket, which earned a first-place finish in 2017, reached an altitude of 27,500 feet before an unplanned descent.

The team’s program manager, Nic Flesher, described what happened. “The flight was straight and stable, but, shortly after liftoff, the onboard avionics lost power and thus the ejection charges for the parachutes never went off.”

“It was tough to see a year of hard work coming in ballistic,” he continued. “There was a lot to learn with this launch and we are ready to come back even stronger.”

The 100,000-foot rocket was a demonstration launch in preparation for competition next year. Using two stages it successfully reached an apogee of 23,000 feet. The team collected valuable feedback to be used in the final design of the project during the upcoming academic year.

“We hope the team can keep building on its successes, with improved designs and manufacturing, in order to ensure we stay competitive internationally,” said Flesher. “Another area of growth will be to expand our engagement with alumni and industry.”

The interdisciplinary team is composed of undergraduate students, a majority from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Buckeye Space Launch Initiative team members and rockets—left to right: 30K-ft, 100K-ft and 10K-ft—with mechanical engineering's Machine Shop staff, who supported the team's projects.

by Holly Henley, Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering