Longhorn Rocketry Association group
The Longhorn Rocketry Association is reaching new heights with an increase in membership and the addition of new research groups.

Expanding its group to over 138 students for the 2014-15 academic year, the Longhorn Rocketry Association (LRA) is reaching new heights with an increase in membership and the addition of new research groups. The student organization is a student-run amateur rocketry group that applies knowledge learned in the classroom to design, build and launch rockets.

In November, a high-powered team participated in their first launch of the semester. The test launch involved the smaller rocket of the high-powered team successfully launching autonomously. On December 6, LRA held its final launch of the semester, with five successful certification flights.

“This fall, a total of six members earned certification, and most of the rockets launched successfully,” said Nick Shepard, aerospace engineering senior and president of LRA. “Certification is a steep goal to fulfill because it requires about five or more hours every week put into the rocket to make that goal.” 

Certification

There are three stages of certification for earning the ability to purchase higher-powered motors, and each level is more challenging to achieve. LRA generally gains certification through the Tripoli Rocketry Association due to their specialty in higher-powered rockets.

“Last year, we had over 70 members receive level-one certification, which was double the amount we were expecting,” said Shepard.

Two years ago, LRA leaders restructured the group to be more organized. Since then, membership has steadily increased and the group’s retention rate skyrocketed from 30 percent to about 85 percent.

Groups are split into the mid-powered group, the advanced group and high-powered teams. The mid-powered group consists of uncertified members led by level-one or level-two certified members. Members seeking level-two certification make up the advanced group. The high-powered teams consist of both new and experienced members led by a level-two certified member, who builds complex rockets with the goal of eventually launching to 100,000 feet.

LRA member Chase Burt launching his carbon fiber rocket on a CTI 218 at the AARG launch in Hutto, TX.

Since LRA hasn’t historically competed in competitions, the organization’s main goals have been to certify its members during the launches, and as of this year, to develop research initiatives. Recently, the group began to conduct research and build a program that will help predict flight characteristics after a launch using flight inputs. They are using the existing program OpenRocket, open-source software for rocket simulations, as a model. OpenRocket is currently operated to predict high-powered rockets using commercial parts, but the new student-developed program will be designed to calculate flight characteristics of in-house rockets. Using equations and knowledge learned in class, the new program should provide detailed simulations for student-built rockets.

“By doing our own research, we hope that companies will take a larger interest in our organization,” said Shepard.

LRA has also invested in a professional development committee as preparation for their future careers in the aerospace industry. The committee will build press kits and write competition proposals. With significantly larger participation, the group’s funding has not yet scaled up to its increase in membership.

“The committee will help get more funding for the organization, thereby allowing for larger, more complex projects, as well as allow access into the more interesting competitions which will push LRA members even further,” said Shepard.

If all goes as planned, the group is also making plans to compete in their first major competition in fall of 2016 where they will attempt to launch a rocket up to 10,000 feet.

If you are interested in supporting the Longhorn Rocketry Association, please visit our student group giving webpage or contact Bliss Angerman at 512-232-7085 or bliss.angerman@austin.utexas.edu