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Sydney rocketry students announced as world champions


This article is sponsored by the University of Sydney. Authorised by Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof. Mark Scott. Enquiries: 9351 2000; info.centre@sydney.edu.au

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On Sunday July 17 at 04:00 AEST, the USYD Rocketry Team was announced as the overall winner of the Spaceport America Cup intercollegiate rocketry competition, held annually in New Mexico.

Competing against 97 student teams from around the globe, including ETH Zurich and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the University of Sydney team placed first in three categories – winning the overall competition with the highest points scored, and taking out first place for the launch of their 30,000 feet commercial-off-the-shelf rocket Bluewren and first place for the design of space debris capture payload Callistemon.

The results were announced after a nail-biting, three-week wait due to a data recovery error.

Bluewren soared to a height of 29,933 feet – roughly nine kilometres – over the New Mexico desert before successfully deploying both its parachutes, landing safely and intact three kilometres from the launch site.

Spaceport America Cup judges commended the University of Sydney team for their sportsmanship, comaraderie, rocket launch and design. The team’s payload Callistemon was praised for its performance during the launch and for being an innovative solution to the growing problem of space junk.

The team were announced as the overall winners of Spaceport America Cup.

The USYD Rocketry team were announced as the overall winners of Spaceport America Cup. Image: Spaceport America Cup

The team’s Executive Director, Bachelor of Engineering and Science student Alison Lockley said: “This has been the most incredible and rewarding experience and I could not be prouder. We have overcome some significant challenges to get here and it speaks to the tenacity and dedication of every person on my team that we have been able to achieve this.”

“Callistemon is not just a technical demonstration, but the culmination of novel research conducted by our payload team into the use of computer vision for the dynamic targeting of space debris,” said Bhavesh Balaji, payload director.

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, in June the team flew to the US to compete at the competition, making it their second Spaceport America Cup launch since winning the 10,000 feet competition with their rocket Silvereye in 2019. In 2021 Spaceport America Cup held a virtual competition, with the Sydney team winning silver and bronze for their rocket, Firetail, and payload, Tetratheca.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Mark Scott AO congratulated the team on the triple win.

“After two years of being grounded by COVID, USYD Rocketry Team have got their sky wings back. Their win is testament to their teachers and the skill and determination they have developed together and proves that University of Sydney students are truly world class. Congratulations to the team on this fantastic result,” Professor Scott said.

Academic supervisor from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Associate Professor Matthew Cleary said: “The practical, hands-on experience of designing and building a competition rocket has augmented the students’ technical, project management, logistics and systems engineering skills. However, perhaps most importantly, they have learnt the value of both leadership and team-work – indispensable skills in the aerospace industry.”

Bluewren was constructed from a custom-designed and manufactured carbon fibre airframe and uses a commercial solid propellant to achieve speeds 1.7 times the speed of sound.

About the team
USYD Rocketry Team is Australia’s oldest tertiary student rocketry team – a dynamic group of student aerospace engineers who design and manufacture high-power rockets and space technologies.

The team’s trip to New Mexico was supported by industry partners and over a dozen sponsors including Pirtek and the Sydney Manufacturing Hub, who provided in-kind support.

In 2019, the team was the first Australian team to attend, compete in and win at Spaceport America Cup.

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