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The EPFL Rocket Team’s educational project is nearing completion. A look back at a year of learning while waiting for the launch.

 

Created in 2019 and reinforced in 2020, Space Race is the EPFL Rocket Team’s educational project. It brings together around 70 members divided into three teams: Cosmos, Vostok and Echo. Their goal is to design, build and launch rockets in a friendly competition while discovering the world of aerospace. After 3 cancelled launches since January (due to the coronavirus pandemic…), the teams hope to be able to launch their rockets in the coming weeks.

 

The Space Race system engineers have challenged the teams to carry a very special payload: a raw egg that the teams will have to recover intact once the rocket has returned to the ground.

 

The aim of these launches? To obtain an official LVL2 certification from the Tripoli association, which brings together amateur launchers. And this is where the internal Space Race competition will take place. To make it more fun, the Space Race system engineers have challenged the teams to carry a very special payload: a raw egg that the teams will have to retrieve intact once the rocket returns to the ground. On the day of the launch, teams will be judged by other EPFL Rocket Team members who will award points according to a list of precise criteria, covering numerous areas: structure, data recording by the avionics, payload, aerodynamics, or efficiency of the recovery system.

  

Taking action

For Space Race, this year was divided into two parts, explains Karl Khalil, one of the project’s system engineers. The first – fall semester – was design-based. The members familiarised themselves with the physical theories of rocketry and created the model of all future subsystems. During the second part – spring semester – the teams were able to put their knowledge into practice by building their rockets. This was an opportunity for all the members to acquire a whole range of skills, from soldering electronic components to materials manufacturing, including the use of cutting and control machines.

 

Cosmos and Vostok recovery teams collaborated to produce the drogue parachute for Bella Lui 2

 

The three teams have each chosen to develop their rocket a little differently, explains Zaid Kaddour:

  • The Echo team set itself the challenge of building its own relatively sophisticated electronics for the ejection of the parachute
  • The Vostok team chose to take advantage of the experience to learn as many manufacturing techniques as possible, in particular by producing a fibreglass nosecone, the manufacture of which is quite advanced and required several days’ work in the LPAC composite laboratory at EPFL. This new knowledge allowed some of the team members to produce a fibreglass tube for the Bella Lui competition rocket.
  • The Cosmos team focused on the aerodynamics of its rocket by producing fins with a rather advanced design (CNC-cut aerofoil profile reinforced with fibre)

“Another interesting point to mention is that the Cosmos and Vostok recovery teams collaborated to produce the drogue parachute for Bella Lui 2, under the supervision of Alejandra Plaice (structural team leader, Bella Lui 2)”, says Zaid.

An innovative project in French-speaking Switzerland

Beyond the EPFL Rocket Team, Space Race is an innovative and rather novel project in French-speaking Switzerland, which evolves from year to year in order to maximise its educational contribution. Education and introduction aspects are indeed the least developed of rocketry associations. Space Race allows its participants to evolve in a very technical environment, close to professional standards, while becoming familiar with a new subject, being accompanied by more experienced students and having fun teasing the sky.

 

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