The recently formed Longhorn Rocket Association (LRA) is proud to be taking off to a great start. The purpose of LRA is to provide a hands-on opportunity for undergraduates in the Department of Aerospace Engineering to become familiar with designing, building, and launching amateur rockets.

The rocket group was originally started in spring of 2007 and is the only rocketry group at UT. Last semester, LRA became an official group of the Department. In November, they held their inaugural launch at Pickle Research Center. Over 20 people, including aerospace engineering students, advisors, faculty, and staff, showed up for the historic first launch, in which the group launched over 10 model rockets that they built themselves throughout the semester. The rockets ranged from 3 inches tall to one six-foot tall rocket: The Mean Machine. One of the most fascinating launches was the Comanche 3, which is a three stage rocket. Some of the rockets flew as high as 1,500 feet and each rocket came back to the ground with either parachutes or streamers that deployed from the nose cone. After each launch, the group sent out “search parties” to find the rockets that the wind carried away during landing. Despite strong winds and a bit of drizzle, the group had a very successful first launch and all members and spectators had a great launch experience. Over the past couple of months, over 30 students ranging from freshmen to seniors have met Friday evenings and Saturday mornings in the Air Systems Design Lab for their weekly “Rocket Builds”.

LRA Group Photo

Last semester they started with model rockets in order to orient everyone who was new to rocket building. With their own tools, materials, glue, and hard work, they constructed multiple rockets. This semester, the group is moving on to more advanced projects. They will be building their own fiberglass rockets, made almost entirely from scratch. The rocket bodies and fins will be constructed of fiberglass, while the nose cones will be produced by rapid prototyping. The group will be involved in every stage of the process, from designing the nose cones in SolidWorks, to creating the parachutes and recovery systems, to incorporating electronic instrumentation. In addition to building the fiberglass rockets, the group will participate in a model rocket competition in April. Two of the senior rocket group members are also working on rocketry research projects which will ultimately benefit the group’s future. The members are also working on becoming certified members of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR). In addition, LRA recently volunteered at UT’s open house, Explore UT, on Saturday, March 1, where they built model rockets with children from the Austin area.

In the upcoming semesters, the Longhorn Rocket Association has set many goals. This includes fiberglass rocket competitions, competitions amongst themselves, with other universities, and hopefully a competition where the group will travel out of state for a NAR competition. The group also plans to launch a “Cricket Sat” during one of their upcoming launches. They also hope to test their rocket engines at Pickle Research Center, build high powered rockets, and calculate and build reusable rocket engines. With the efforts of all of the new and dedicated members, and with the help of Dr. Varghese as their sponsor and Dr. Hayes as their Advisor, the group has come far. The members are excited about the opportunities that lay ahead and are proud of the distance the group has come in such a short time period.

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