Project Altair was the ARES III Junior team. Deriving its name from the the brightest star in the constellation Aquila, Project Altair – Arabic for “flying eagle” – was centered around the capability of designing a solid rocket motor for various mission purposes. This component was a critical development for the booster stage of an eventual CubeSat launch vehicle, providing the high thrust needed to overcome aerodynamic forces on the rocket. Project Altair’s primary mission objective was to send a rocket to 30,000 feet at the Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico. The design and manufacturing was completed entirely in-house with a heavy emphasis on testing and verification.
The structures subteam was responsible for the design and manufacturing of Altair’s body, fins, nose cone, and stage separation device. Additionally, the subteam aided in the design of the customized composite motor casing, which was designed by the propulsion subteam. This subteam was also heavily research-based, with emphasis on ANSYS simulations and hands-on testing.
The propulsion subteam was responsible for design and manufacturing of Altair’s propulsion system. Altair’s propulsion system was a solid rocket motor featuring an APCP propellant (ammonium perchlorate composite). The subteam modified an existing propellant to specifications, and developed a custom grain geometry to produce the required impulse to bring the rocket to 30,000 feet. The grain geometry was BATES style, with a 5 inch outer diameter and 2.5 inch cylindrical bore. The motor delivered approximately 32000 Ns impulse, with an approximate 8 second burn time. The subteam also designed a custom solid rocket motor casing and nozzle. The nozzle was externally machined out of graphite, and the casing, retention system, and pressure plate are all student-machined from aluminum. The casing will withstand more than two times the expected chamber pressure of 500 psi. This subteam was heavily research-based, with emphasis on MATLAB simulations and flight design iteration. *
The payload and electronics subteam was responsible for all electrical systems on the flight vehicle. This is split into two specific areas: live telemetry data collection/transmission and payload. The team developed a standard electronics bay that gathered data on flight via IMU, magnetometer, GPS, barometer, and other flight standard hardware. This sub-team was also responsible for development of a payload for the flight vehicle, the object being carried that gives the rocket purpose. For Project Altair, the subteam developed the first ever standard ARES 1U Cubesat, carrying sensors to measure carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, respiratory irritant, ozone, and carbon dioxide with altitude. The payload was exposed upon rocket separation at apogee, and gathered data upon descent. Lastly, the payload/electronics team was responsible for the recovery of the rocket, configuring altimeters to deploy the drogue and main parachutes at the appropriate altitudes. This subteam worked with microcontrollers, general programming, hardware integration, and wiring.
Meet our Team
Merritt Island, FL
West Allis, WI
Bel Air, MD
Payload and electronics