Sheffield engineering students launch winning rocket at UK Championships

A team of engineering students from the University of Sheffield proved they are high-fliers after achieving the top spot at a national rocketry championship.

Students from the SunrIde team stood together at the launch site with the rocket
The SunrIde team at the launch site in the UK championships.
  • University of Sheffield students have designed, built and launched their own mid-powered rocket to win a national rocketry competition
  • Sheffield students beat 27 teams from across the UK in a competition run by the UK’s national student space society (UKSEDS)
  • Win is the latest success for the Sheffield students who already hold the UK’s National Open Altitude record - a record that is still to be beaten 

A team of engineering students from the University of Sheffield proved they are high-fliers after achieving the top spot at a national rocketry championship. 

The group of students, named Project SunrIde (Sheffield University Nova Rocket Innovative Design Engineering), have won first place overall after designing, building and launching their own mid-powered rocket.

In the competition, run by the UK’s national student space society (UKSEDS), teams of students from across the UK were challenged to design, build and launch a mid-power rocket, with the primary goal of reaching the greatest apogee possible (the highest point in the trajectory of the rocket). The teams all had to use a specific motor to ensure fair competition, a 29mm Cesaroni 2 grain motor, with a payload of at least 100g.

The Sheffield team - made up of students from across the University’s Faculty of Engineering - started working on the rocket for the UKSEDS competition in October 2020, initially meeting remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions. Once restrictions eased, the team worked in the iForge makerspace - an innovative facility in the University’s Diamond building giving students the space and facilities needed to collaborate, create and make - to manufacture the rocket and test the parts.

The SunrIde team's rocket on the launch pad
SunrIde Jr. Jr. on the launch pad.

The students designed and manufactured a rocket named SunrIde Jr. Jr using cardboard, wood and 3D printed parts. 

Paulina Adzgauskaite, a fifth-year chemical and biological engineering student at the University of Sheffield, said: “We wanted to create a lightweight, aerodynamic structure. Using cardboard and wood reduced the weight of the rocket and kept the costs down. The 3D printers in the iForge enabled us to manufacture the custom nose cone and other parts that were both lightweight and rigid.”

SunrIde Jr. Jr was officially launched in the summer on 27 June 2021 from a site in Cambridge, reaching an apogee of 1474m (or 4836 ft). 

Twenty eight teams from across the UK entered the competition and they had until 12 July 2021 to launch their rockets. Teams were scored on flight performance, payload and the reports, pictures and videos documenting the project’s entirety. 

The SunrIde team preparing the rocket for launch
The SunrIde team preparing their rocket for launch.

Once the data from all of the teams was collected, analysed and verified, UKSEDS confirmed that the Sheffield team placed first overall.

As winners of the competition, the SunrIde team will now tour the facilities of competition sponsors, Orbex, a UK-based spaceflight company, and join a test firing of Orbex’s main stage rocket engine. 

The competition win builds on Project SunrIde’s previous success in 2019 by setting a new UK National Open Altitude record of 36,274ft - a record that is still unbeaten. In 2018, the team was the first from the UK to take part in the world's largest annual student rocket competition, Spaceport America Cup. SunrIde launched their own rocket ‘Amy’ and won the James Barrowman Award for Flight Dynamics for the most accurate altitude prediction by competing against more than 100 universities.

Zefy Pissaki, the team coordinator and an Electronics Engineer at the European Council for Nuclear Research,  said: “Huge congratulations to everyone involved who worked tirelessly up until the last minute to ensure the rocket was set for success.

“Thanks also to all of the staff members, supervisors and engineers who facilitated the training, offered advice and support and to all of the team’s sponsors  - The University of Sheffield Alumni Foundation, the Faculty of Engineering, the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering and our industry sponsors”.

Viktor Fedun, Senior Lecturer in Control and Systems Engineering at the University of Sheffield, and the academic supervisor of the SunrIde Team, said: “Taking part in this competition enabled the students to learn more about the exciting engineering principles behind rockets, whilst also gaining hands-on experience in building and manufacturing the rocket. Overcoming the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic to do this successfully as a team is an incredible achievement and one they should be very proud of. We hope to build on this success even further at next year’s competition!”

How a rocket built by Sheffield students broke the UK altitude record


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