KSU veteran student shooting for the stars
By ANDREW bugel | staff writer Published: May 24, 2016 4:00 AM
Brian Stofiel, a Kent State University undergraduate aerospace engineering student, is shooting for the stars with Stofiel Aerospace, LLC., a company geared toward launching small satellites cheaply and more efficiently.
The company attaches helium balloons to the rockets carrying micro-satellites, lifting them to 100,000 feet. Stofiel said the launch actually doesn't occur until the balloons pop at 100,000 feet.
"I can literally bring my balloon and rocket out to your parking lot and launch it because it won't actually explode until it's 100,000 feet in the air," Stofiel said.
Also, the rockets use solid fuel instead of a liquid system.
"These liquid engines take at least three days just to fuel it," he said. "Our rockets can be set aside for 10 years, and can be fired whenever we want them to be."
Stofiel said building liquid-engine rockets takes six months to a year and costs $15 million. His rockets take hours to build.
"It only costs us about $250,000 to $300,000 to orbit," he said.
With the money and time he is saving, Stofiel said he can fire rockets three times a day, every day. That's upwards of 1,000 missions a year.
"If you look at any other rocket company, they are talking about only launching between four and six times a year," Stofiel said.
Stofiel said a major reason for launching these rockets is for imagery. Cameras are attached to the rocket and snap photos that can be viewed every 80 minutes.
"Just take the forest fire going on in Canada right now," Stofiel said. "We can put a rocket up within hours of that forest fire and every 80 minutes, you're going to get a new picture of that fire. We can have live satellite coverage and we didn't have to move a satellite to do it."
Stofiel, 35, a U.S. Air Force veteran, has partnered with other veterans he has met at KSU.
"Being a veteran myself, I know the attitude needed for the job," he said.
Through KSU, Stofiel met current chief operating officer of the company, R. Jay Wilkinson, and computer engineer and software leader William Wilson. Two other members also form the group, which met in 2013.