High Powered Rocket Team Competes in Spaceport America Cup
In June, the Kent State High Powered Rocket Team attended the 2023 Spaceport America Cup in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The 6-day design build fly style competition is the largest annual collegiate rocketry competition in the world, bringing together nearly 6,000 students from 24 different countries. The Kent State Team, also known as Golden Flashes Rocketry, was just one of 120 teams that competed. Mentored by Dr. Benjamin Kwasa, Steve Eves, Ean Hudspeth, and Julia Taylor, 11 students attending including:
- Issac Samodell, Senior Aerospace Engineering
- Godwin Shitta, Senior Aerospace Engineering
- James Kaspar, Senior Aerospace Engineering
- Sydney Maller, Junior Aerospace Engineering
- Autumn Ohl, Sophomore Aerospace Engineering
- Joey Hefler, Sophomore Aerospace Engineering
- Mark Stallone, Sophomore Aerospace Engineering
- Lindsay Gordon, Sophomore Aerospace Engineering
- Savannah Vinkler, Sophomore Cybersecurity Engineering
- Nathan Wredberg, Freshman Aerospace Engineering
- Tristan Magel, Freshman Aerospace Engineering
The team’s rocket, Flashpoint, earned a 5th place finish in its category, and a 46th place finish overall. According to Ohl, the rocket’s name refers to the temperature at which a combustible substance releases enough vapor to ignite in the air–like the rocket will ignite and take off into the air–while also giving a subtle nod to the Kent State mascot, Flash. After winning the 2022 Spaceport America Cup in the 10,000 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) Student Researched and Designed (SRAD) category, the team made strategic improvements to the rocket’s design leading up to the most recent competition. Major changes, intended to improve stability and add space for a new motor design, included shortening the overall height, increasing the diameter of the body, and adding a fourth fin to the bottom of the rocket.
The final rocket stood at 110” tall and 5.5” in diameter, weighing in at 48 pounds. The rocket body itself consisted of G10 fiberglass with a fiberglass and aluminum nose cone. The team competed in the 10,000 feet AGL SRAD category, meaning that the targeted apogee was 10,000 feet with a motor designed, built, and tested by members of the team. The result was an M-Class motor capable of putting out 5,800 Newtons of force per second it burned, which propelled Flashpoint to an incredible 8,015 feet above the New Mexico desert.
Between June 19th and June 24th, team members spent many hours preparing Flashpoint for its launch and networking with fellow rocketeers. On day 1 of the competition, team members checked in before officials from the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association reviewed each project for compliance with safety standards. After confirming that Flashpoint was flight ready, team members participated in the annual competition group photo. On day 2, the team engaged with industry professionals at various booths throughout the Spaceport complex, other teams in attendance, and displayed Flashpoint alongside a poster detailing a year’s worth of work on the project. The following three days of the competition are reserved for launch days. Despite a weather delay on Wednesday, Flashpoint was able to take flight on Thursday, June 22nd, and the team received bonus points for being flight ready on the first possible day. On the final Saturday of the competition, teams wrapped up their flights before attending the Spaceport America Cup Awards Ceremony.
Many members of the High Powered Rocket Team have expressed how grateful they are to be able to participate in both the club and competition. Autumn Ohl, the team’s Secretary, Treasurer, and Aerostructure Lead, says that “the experience that I have gained from this team is insurmountable. I have been offered jobs due to not only the technical experience, but also leadership roles.” Payload lead Tristan Magel, detailing challenges the subsection faced throughout the year with their rover’s sensor systems, says that adaptability was one of his biggest takeaways from the competition. “You can go in with the greatest plan, but if you can’t modify it at all it's useless…regardless of where the problem comes from, you need to be ready to fix it and give yourself the best chance of success.”