IREC 2016 Competition – UCLA WINS INNOVATION AWARD

ucla-irec-2016Thank you to all of our advisors, alumni, and sponsors who have helped us reach further than we could have without you. You really do make a big difference, and the energy you give to our project shows in moments like these.

The following is part of an email sent by former president Hayden Johnson on June 19, 2016:

Hello everyone,

This past Thursday the 16th, we successfully launched at our competition in Utah! Cerberus, with a hybrid core and a cluster of three solid rocket motors, launched just after noon.

As many of you who have helped on the work with the take-of-assist motors know, the timing of ignition is crucial. Using a break-wire system to ensure that the solid rocket motors would not ignite before the hybrid motor lessened the risk of catastrophe from non-simultaneous ignition, but did not necessary eliminate the risk in how long one motor might take to ignite. During our launch, two of the boosters ignited simultaneously and the third ignited less than 250 milliseconds after the first two. Instead of having a vertical flight path, the rocket titled to about 60 degrees before correcting itself once the third motor built up thrust and flew to just over 6,300 ft.

The drogue parachute deployed as designed, but because the rocket was moving so quickly downrange at apogee, the shock cords cut through the airframe and tore out the main parachute early. We have recovered both the main and upper airframes, which descended on the main parachute, but were unable to find the glider payload because of the rough terrain that blocked our recovery beacons. We have high hopes that it will be found by the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club, who assist the IREC with tracking and recovery.

But the exciting news is that the rocket was recovered with minimal damage to any critical parts, meaning that it can be easily repaired and flown again! We are hoping to use the repairs to the rocket as an educational experience for new members next fall, and be able to launch again in Southern California, where more people can come and watch. We also think that with new ignition methods for the solid motors and some testing, we can further improve on simultaneous ignition.

While we were aiming for 10,000 ft, we still managed to fully impress both the judges and other teams with our design and performance. Never before had they seen a team attempt to use parallel staging to reach 10,000 ft, let alone couple that arduous task with the complexity associated with filling and flying a hybrid motor. They were blown away by our new launch control system, the elegantly simple booster structure, and the level of testing and simulation that we had performed to ensure success. The judges awarded the Rocket Project at UCLA the Dr. Gil Moore Award for Innovation and a cash prize because we not only tried, but succeeded in our ambitious task to fly our rocket with boosters.

This is no small award, as it validates the effort we put into our work to experiment, to focus on trying new and difficult ideas because their payoffs are great. Words cannot express how proud I am of all of you who have put your collective heart and soul into your work this year on the rocket. Know that your work was not only recognized by the judges at IREC, but also the sponsors like Orbital ATK, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, and the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, who sent representatives and recruiters to this competition to seek out schools who perform well at this competition.

Thank you to all of our advisors, alumni, and sponsors who have helped us reach further than we could have without you. You really do make a big difference, and the energy you give to our project shows in moments like these.


 

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