The University of Sheffield prepares to launch a rocket in the USA

Engineering students from the University of Sheffield are embarking on a project which aims to bring together engineering skills and innovation for rocketry design.

The Sheffield University Nova Rocket Innovation Design Engineering, also known as SunrIde, is the first student-led rocket design team to represent the UK in world's largest intercollegiate rocket engineering competition, Spaceport America 2018.

The team will design, build and launch a rocket which is designed to be single stage supersonic rocket which will reach 10,000 feet (3.05 km) on an M-class commercial-of-the-shelf solid motor. The rocket will need use a dual deployment recovery system to be able to carry a 4 kg payload back down to earth safely.

The design of the rocket has been guided by the design guidelines of Spaceport America Cup and UKRA’s Team Project Support Scheme. This includes creating control systems to ensure the rocket’s ground station launch and stabilisation in flight.

Eighteen students from five engineering disciplines and mathematics will be pooling their knowledge to create the rocket from scratch using the university of Sheffield facilities. The students’ design will be put to the test at the competition between the 19th and 23rd of June, where SunrIde will be competing against teams from all over the world.

Jae Hyun Lim, a MSc (Eng) student in Advanced Control and Systems Engineering and the SunrIde project lead, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity to work with UK and overseas students doing different degrees, giving them the chance to put into practice the knowledge they have learned in lectures and also giving them the opportunity learn new cross-disciplinary skills along the way.”

The rocket has been named Amy to honour the pioneering female pilot, Amy Johnson, who graduated from the University of Sheffield in 1925.

The majority of the project is funded by the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering (ACSE) and the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield.

Dr Viktor Fedun, the ACSE faculty advisor for the team, said: “The SunrIde project will allow the students and the University to expand its knowledge in rocket engineering. Although ACSE has worked with ESA and NASA on various projects, such as the Cluster II launch in 2000, we have not had the opportunity to focus on building a rocket and the associated control systems from scratch. Collaborating with all areas of engineering disciplines is a great opportunity for the students to get real life experience and expand their knowledge.”

Dr Gary Verth, the SoMaS faculty advisor for the team, said: “This is a fantastic cross-faculty research led teaching project with both engineering and mathematics students working together to achieve success for the University of Sheffield in the Spaceport America Cup competition.”

The team will be drawing inspiration from the success of the Sheffield University Nova Balloon Lifted Solar Telescope (SunbYte) project which a Nova Balloon successfully launched a purpose built telescope to 30km above the Earth to capture images of the sun without atmospheric disturbances. The telescope was the first of its kind to be built from scratch by a team of more than 30 UK students. SunbYte was the only UK project to participate in the prestigious REXUS/BEXUS (Rocket and Balloon Experiments for University Students) programme in 2017 and its success has inspired a new team to develop the concept further, using rocket power.