The Notre Dame Rocketry Team (NDRT) had an amazing year, as evidenced by the multiple awards members received at the end of NASA’s nine-month student launch competition in 2021.
Their virtual season was celebrated during an online ceremony honoring Notre Dame in five divisions of the competition. The team took:
- Third place in the Launch Division
- First place in the security department
- Second place in the Altitude Division
- Third place in educational work
- Third place in the team spirit
NASA’s annual Student Launch program challenges middle, senior, and university students nationwide to design, build, fly, and land a high-powered amateur rocket between 3,500 and 5,500 feet above the ground.
Student teams are asked to use rocket principles and computer simulations to predict the height of their rocket months in advance of the launch day. They adjust their height to maximize the scientific benefit of their payload, just as NASA teams target specific heights for their missions.
“We are a completely volunteer team,” says mechanical engineer Brooke Mumma, graduate of the year 2021 and project manager of the NDRT. “But we approached the challenge just like working engineers – going through the design cycle from concept to construction to tests and iterations. Various sub-teams have worked together to integrate all of the complex subsystems into our rocket. “
That year, the college team payload mission was a lander deployed during the descent from the missile. The vehicle had to land upright or contain a system that will erect itself, levels within 5 degrees of vertical, and take a 360-degree panoramic image of the location that was sent back to the team.
Some of the subsystems that were developed to meet the challenge included a recovery system that was able to return all parts of the missile to the team, according to Mumma, and an apogee control system that was used to help reach the target height of 5,300 inches Feet.
“Being part of the NDRT for the past four years has helped me become a better engineer,” said Mumma. “I have developed my strengths in design for production, the creation of thorough documentation, learning how to deal with an interdisciplinary team and many other skills that you don’t always get in a classroom.”
For the past 20 years, NASA’s Student Launch program has provided students with a realistic experience similar to the operational lifecycle that NASA and industrial engineers use to develop and operate new hardware.
Aleksandar Jemcov, scientific associate professor for aerospace and mechanical engineering, has been working as an NDRT consultant since 2014.
“The NDRT team has grown from a small club to a serious 56-person organization with officers, team leaders and a team captain,” he said. “I’ve seen a profound shift in the team’s approach to safety, design, public relations, marketing, finance, and technical responsibility for their operations. Students benefit from the truly collaborative environment in which all technical, financial and leadership challenges must be resolved through everyone’s contribution. “
Another key benefit of the Student Launch Competition, according to Jemcov, is that an independent professional organization (NASA) evaluates each team’s solutions and strategies. The feedback to the teams helps students learn from their successes and failures.
Originally published by the College of Engineering on June 23, 2021.