Success In STEM Leads To Success In Rocketry

On September 17, 2019, AIAA Atlanta hosted a dinner meeting at the Delray Diner in Marietta, GA, the emphasis of which was that success in STEM helps to identify a career path in rocketry from high school team competitions to university team competitions to full time paying job!! On hand that evening were members from three highly successful rocketry teams in the Atlanta Section:
    > Creekview High school in Canton, GA, Tim Smyrl, Aeronautics Team and TARC/UAS4STEM Sponsor
    > Georgia Institute of Technology Spaceport America Cup, Carson Causey and Nicolas Brophy, Co-Team Leads
    > Generation Orbit developing the X-60A hypersonic testbed, Jeremy Young, Propulsion Team
Follow this link to see photos: (Thanks to Tony Platt, John Olds & Aaron Harcrow for sharing their photos)
Tim has prepared his team of up to 40 students very well in the ways of STEM for the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) and the  International Rocketry Competition (IRC) competitions. Creekview teams are two time winners of TARC national competitions (2014 and 2018), runner up at the IRC 2014 and world champions at IRC 2018. In 2019, Creekview teams placed 4th and 5th in the TARC 2019 nationals. Team leaders present this evening were Michael Pena, Joey Gallagher, Nate Lindsey, Alex Teal, Carter Burch and Rand Johnson. TARC teams consist of up to 10 students who pay a $50 dues at the beginning of the school year. The $500:budget covers entry fees, building materials, and as many composite propellant motors as possible. Other expenses such as for travel, are funded by donations from sponsors in the community. AIAA Atlanta contributed to the purchase of matching team shirts complete with the Atlanta Section logo on the sleeve! The teams won $17,500 which was split amongst the team members and $2,000 for their rocketry team. Two rocket classes are being built:
   >TARC: 650g max mass, carrying one chicken egg as close to 800 feet as possible in a time window of 38 to 40 seconds
   >NASA student launch team: K-class impulse rocket, carrying an autonomous glider to an altitude between 3500 and 5500 feet at which time the glider will be deployed on a preprogrammed GPS flight path.
Carson and Nicolas Co-Lead the GT SAC team and have been assisted by Casey Wilson, last year’s team lead.  The team competes in the world’s largest collegiate rocketry competition, the annual Spaceport America Cup, held every year at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Last year, which was their first year to compete, they won first place in their category, hitting just shy of the altitude target of 30,000 feet with commercially bought rocket motors and placed second overall for Judge’s Choice out of the ~95 teams that flew. This year they’re building another two-stage rocket to hit 30,000 feet and are developing their own solid rocket motors. The annual budget of the GT rocketry club is around $20,000, with the rocket launch costing around $5-7,000 of that. The 14 foot tall rocket, dubbed “Sustain Alive”, reached a max altitude of 28,140 feet, and a max speed of Mach 1.17.
Jeremy Young from Generation Orbit, a subsidiary of SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc., is a member of the company’s Propulsion Team in support of the X-60A, a development program sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. He presented a high-level overview of the X-60A program. GO recently conducted a successful integrated hot-fire test of the X-60A propulsion system and liquid rocket engine at Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville, FL. The X-60A is approximately 22 feet long and weighs up to 3000 lbs. A Gulfstream III will carry the X-60A to 35,000 feet and Mach 0.8 before release and rocket ignition. X-60A is an expendable research testbed in support of the nation’s hypersonics research programs. It will operate at speeds of Mach 5+ to collect valuable flight test data. The X-60A is not a space launch platform and cannot deliver payloads to orbit.
Many STEM lessons learned were presented during the evening including systems engineering of a complete rocket system, FMECA, calculating mass of fuel needed to hit an altitude target, trajectory planning in varying atmospheric conditions, design and fabrication of precision parts, installing and operating radio control equipment, range safety, data telemetry and much more.
One non-STEM lesson learned is that as rockets are made larger to go faster and higher, the cost increases astronomically!! No bucks, no Buck Rogers!! And that is why AIAA Atlanta provided financial sponsorship for the Creekview HS team during the 2018-2019 Section year and will assist both Creekview and the GT SAC team in 2019-2020. Sorry, Generation Orbit, but providing financial assistance to the X-60 is not in the same galaxy for us!!
AIAA Atlanta will follow the trajectories of these three teams as they continue to develop new rockets, enjoy successful first launches and face challenges in future competitions. We will encourage the teams to apply STEM best practices and hope that their successful examples will encourage more high school and university rocketry teams to be formed. We look forward to receiving additional reports of success and awards. One measure of success will be to see Creekview HS rocketry teams members advance to Georgia Tech rocketry teams and GT rocketry team members advance to employment at Generation Orbit!! But, then, to where do Generation Orbit researchers advance?
Stay tuned for our next launch report to find out.
Until then, keep your nozzles pointed towards Earth and your nose cone pointed to the stars.
Aaron Harcrow
Chair Emeritus
AIAA Atlanta