It was the hottest week of the summer, and America had closed its blinds and retreated into the shadows. Eleven members of the BYU Rocketry High Power Team, accompanied by Dr. David Fullwood, traveled to Las Cruces, NM. The students were attending the 2017 Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition. Now in its 12th year, the competition partnered with Spaceport America and hosted 115 teams from around the world. Like a reality TV show for rocket scientists, they would endure a week of camp food, scorching sunshine and every prickly discomfort that the desert could throw at them, all for a few seconds of glory as their rocket lifted off in a whirlwind of blue flame and dust. Everyone stood breathless for each countdown, willing the rockets upwards, and grieving together over the all-too-often explosion and rain of debris; a true global community.
The BYU Rocketry team first participated in a day-long conference where they displayed their rocket, Kevin (named after President Worthen), and interacted with other participants, competition judges, and representatives from aerospace corporations, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, and Space Dynamics Laboratories. On launch day, Kevin performed almost perfectly. The rocket left the launch pad with a roar, settling into a graceful climb to almost 10,000 feet, then gently made its parachute descent to the desert floor. A single tear in the rocket body from the lurch of the parachute deployment resulted in a loss of altitude equivalent to a 4.65% error, which prevented a top-place ranking, but there was no disappointment from the team.
This year, the BYU Rocketry High Power Team was funded by a $5,000 Utah space grant and sponsored by TCR Composites, which made participation in the competition possible. The team is looking forward to participating in the competition next year with an even better rocket. When asked what he thought the prospects were for next year, Dr. Ning (AIAA club advisor) noted "I'm very impressed with the initiative and passion of this team. They are just getting started—I expect we'll see great things from this group in the years to come."
For more information on BYU Rocketry please visit rocketry.byu.edu.