NASA's University Student Launch Initiative is an annual collegiate rocketry competition in which teams from all over the nation compete against one another. Teams are required to design, test, and build a high powered rocket to fly to one mile altitude exactly while carrying a scientific payload. Teams are also scored on technical writing, presentation, education outreach, and website professionalism.
In 2012, the University of Louisville formed its first USLI team, consisting of 13 engineering students from Computer, Electrical, Mechanical, and Industrial Engineering majors. In our first year, the team was awarded Best Website and a 5th place overall finish. For being the highest ranking, first-year team we also received the Best Rookie Team award.
This year, the team is focusing on taking the competition to a whole new level. With a focus on designing every component with efficiency in mind, our rocket will tout many systems never seen before in the competition. Expanding the team to 16 students has allowed the incorporation of in-house machining of the vast majority of all components used.
The team was also selected this year as 1 of 6 teams to include NASA's Science Mission Directorate payload. In essence, this system includes the capabilities to measure temperature, humidity, pressure, irradiance, GPS coordinates, and ultraviolet radiation. As a twist, our team will be utilizing a Samsung Galaxy phone to take all measurements, broadcast them to our ground station, and update our website (www.uoflusli.com) with content on the fly. We will also be actively updating our Facebook and Twitter pages with live content as the rocket soars to 5,280 feet.
Our second payload will be, what we call, the Parachute Control System. Much like the drawstrings on a hoodie, a microcontroller and servo configuration will actively monitor the open diameter of our parachute. At apogee (or the highest point of flight) the system will let the rocket near-freefall by keeping the open diameter closed. As the rocket approaches the landing destination, the parachute will gradually open and close until a desirable landing velocity is obtained. Our goal is to minimize horizontal drift as much as possible, while also decreasing necessary bay space by using only one parachute for a "dual deployment" effect.
Besides designing, testing, and launching our competition rocket, the team actively participates in STEM educational engagement opportunities with local schools and groups. STEM simply stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. By introducing students to these principals, we hope to inspire the next generation of rocketeers, astronauts, and engineers. Our goal this year is to reach over 1000 students with hands-on programs.
Your donations will help us accomplish all of these goals by the end of the season. Our rewards will be very cool, we can promise that. We put all of our stickers on our rockets, wear our t-shirts and polos, and display our bowties at the annual USLI banquet. We hope you will consider helping our program, which in-turn helps fund the next generation of the space program.
Risks and challenges
Obviously, funding is our major issue every year. Running a project on this level is difficult because it requires significant funding. With every additional dollar we receive, we are able to push the envelope further and further. Other teams participating in the competition see the bar being raised, and in turn, their programs excel as well. While the event is a competition, we are really pushing each other to perpetually excel the fields of aeronautics and astronautics.
Launching a high-powered rocket is also no easy feat. We spend 100's of hours designing our rocket to make sure nothing goes awry during tests. The money we receive from our sponsors helps ensure that we can push our payload and vehicle designs through effectively.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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