Science & Environment

Student-Built Rocket Flies Higher Than a Commercial Airliner, Breaking Records

They name themselves the Cygnus Suborbitals, a staff of 9 undergraduate college students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott Campus. In April, the staff despatched a rocket on a record-breaking flight, pushing the boundaries for student-led initiatives.

The rocket, known as Deneb, took off from the Friends of Amateur Rocketry facility in California’s Mojave Desert, clearing the launch tower at 9:42 a.m. native time on April 16, 2023. Deneb, with a whole burn time of 26.1 seconds, reached an apogee of 47,732 ft (14.55 kilometers) whereas attaining a high velocity of 1,150 miles per hour (1,851 km/hr). The rocket was named after Deneb, the brightest star within the Cygnus constellation.

Deneb Launch Shatters 3 World Records! 🚀🚀🚀

According to an Embry-Riddle statement, it’s the “highest undergraduate and collegiate amateur liquid rocket launch in the United States,” and it greater than doubled the earlier report of 22,000 ft (6.7 km), set by college students on the University of California, Los Angeles. Deneb additionally broke the newbie rocketry report, in response to the staff. The 9 college students chargeable for designing, building, and testing Deneb spent 4,000 hours over the previous 12 months on the undertaking. The staff needed to spend an additional evening within the desert after failing to launch the rocket on three makes an attempt throughout the day past.

Left: Deneb throughout flight. Right: The Cygnus Suborbitals staff.
Image: Embry-Riddle/Rocket Development Lab

“I fell to my knees, sobbing, from witnessing such an incredible feat,” Dalton Songer, staff chief and aerospace engineering scholar, mentioned within the assertion. “Everyone was celebrating in a giant group hug. That moment was special. Something that only happens when a dedicated group of individuals come together and make something incredible happen against all odds.”

For context, Deneb flew a lot increased than Mount Everest, which stands 29,032 ft tall (8.8 km), and better than business airliners, which fly no increased than 42,000 ft (12.8 km).

Previous student-built rockets have flown increased than Deneb. Much increased. The Traveler IV rocket constructed by college students from the University of Southern California technically flew to space, hovering above the 62-mile-high (100-km) Kármán Line in April 2019. But Traveler IV was a strong gasoline rocket, which is way easier, cheaper, and fewer harmful to construct and function than liquid rockets, amongst many different variations. Liquid gasoline rockets, like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Rocket Lab’s Electron, function increased efficiency and larger flexibility, and are sometimes used to energy giant launch autos.

Propulsion engineer Zoe Brand cleaning parts in preparation for cold-flow.

Propulsion engineer Zoe Brand cleansing components in preparation for cold-flow.
Photo: Embry-Riddle

Deneb is the successor to a rocket known as Altair, which bought delayed by the covid-19 pandemic after which blew up when the staff tried to launch it in October 2022. Zoe Brand, a staff member specializing in propulsion, mentioned the Cygnus Suborbitals discovered a lot from that have. “Altair was very heavy,” she mentioned. “So, we deliberately focused on making our rocket lighter by integrating the propellant tanks into the structural rigidity of the rocket.”

Elliott Bryner, director of Embry-Riddle’s Propulsion Laboratory and Rocket Test Complex, mentioned a number of graduating college students from the staff have landed full-time jobs at SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Firefly Aerospace. The staff started its work as a senior capstone propulsion design course taught by Daniel White and Jonathan Adams, and is a part of the student-driven Rocket Development Lab, which promotes rocketry on the college and gives hands-on alternatives for undergraduates.

“We needed to prove to the world that Embry-Riddle was not only capable of building liquid bipropellant flight vehicles but the very best at building them,” mentioned Songer.

It blows my thoughts to know that undergrads are able to designing and launching complicated liquid gasoline rockets, and I eagerly await the following nice achievement from equally motivated and impressive college students.

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