Battle of the Rockets

by Clay Penney '19

printed circuit board

A solid-engine reusable rocket was designed, built, and tested in a team led by Clay Penny '19 and advised by Prof. Jim Squire as part of a national collegiate competition called the Battle of the Rockets: Mars Rover. The rocket’s mission is to launch an autonomous robot to at least 1,000 feet, eject the robot, and recover the rocket pieces safely. The rocket’s size required the team to follow a variety of federal regulations by the Federal Air Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the National Rocketry Association. The most difficult design constraint was a limitation on the maximum total impulse of the engine, since otherwise the rocket could be arbitrarily large to simplify the robot design. Other restrictions were also challenging to meet, such as keeping the thrust-to-weight ratio of the rocket greater than five to ensure sufficient airspeed for the fins to stabilize flight. Simulations show the largest rocket that meets the specified maximum engine impulse while attaining an altitude of at least 1,000 feet is one that is 11 feet tall, 8 inches in diameter, weighs 62 pounds, and flies on an Aerotech K1999 ammonium perchlorate high-power rocket motor.

Penney, C, Squire J.C. VMI Develops Seismic Communicator. WSLS Channel 10 News, Roanoke with Jay Warren, April 20, 2007.