During September of 2016, I became part of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT) as part of the Structures sub-system in the Rocketry division. This division is one of the 4 technical divisions at UTAT and specializes in building and firing Student Researched and Developed Hybrid Rockets.
During my time at UTAT, I learned more about rockets than I had ever learned in all of my previous years. The knowledge and hands on experience I gained was surreal.
Initially, I was involved in designing CAD models of the handle for the cold flow system of the rocket and assembly of the spin caster (a device used to make the fuel core of the rocket). As time progressed, I further contributed to assembling a launch rail, hammering and drilling brackets and HSS members, filing a boom and sawing HSS members. I also participated during rocket engine tests and was an integral part during the mock launch rail set-up.
During June of 2017, I traveled with the Rocketry team to New Mexico, USA to attend the International Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) hosted by Spaceport America. Over 100 universities from 12 countries participated in the tournament which hosted 3 categories of rockets; solid, liquid and hybrid. The teams were divided into divisions in relation to their rocket’s make and expected performance. Rockets ranged from being Student Researched And Developed (SRAD) to Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS). Universities were further divided as per their expected altitude with most teams in the 10000 feet range while other universities took part in the 30000 feet range.
UTAT took part in the competition with a SRAD Hybrid rocket that was in the 30000 feet category with an expected altitude of 23000 feet. Although, the team failed to launch the rocket during the competition, it still did remarkably well placing 4th in its division.
Below are some of the pictures taken before, during and after the competition.
Motivated to launch the rocket, the team located a potential launch site at Penn Yann, New York, USA and with the help of the Upstate Research Rocketry Group (URRG) managed to seal a spot for a potential launch during September, 2017.
During this time, I was promoted from a member of the Structures sub-system to the Lead of the Structures sub-system and that increased the responsibility which rested upon my shoulders. Apart from my education, UTAT has contributed greatly to my personal growth in an area that I love to work in. The hands on and practical experience I have gained is of no comparison. It excites me to see the equations that I learn in class to come into action with UTAT.
On September 23rd, 2017, UTAT succeeded in launching its first Hybrid rocket and thus also became the team to hold the record of the fastest vehicle at UofT designed by a student team. Due to technical issues with the recovery system, the parachute failed to deploy during descend and as such the rocket crash landed in the nearby fields and the search to locate it is still underway.
Here are a few pictures show casing our launch:
At the moment, the Rocketry team is in the process of building a larger Hybrid rocket that is set to surpass the Canadian Amateur Rocketry Altitude Record. With the numerous challenges ahead, I am happy to say that I am looking forward to it. The project requires me and my co-lead to oversee and direct the building of a brand new test-stand to conduct the engine tests of the new rocket, design a tank-flipper that would be used to carry the Nitrous-Oxide supply tanks, improve the current spin-casting method and design a new fill system method.
The engineering process cycle of framing, diverging and converging is employed in such mind-boggling situations as it helps us to narrow down our options and make calculated decisions. There is a continuous iteration of design decisions as better and better ideas come to mind. Right now, the fill system is in the process of being optimized to include 6 components instead of 4 in the same amount of space.
Therefore, UTAT Rocketry has helped me accomplish a lot over one year and I am looking forward to future years.