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With a burgeoning commercial space industry in the United States, more reliable and cost effective methods for qualifying critical flight components are required in order to reduce the costs of spacecraft development programs. Electronic payloads designed to undergo high acceleration loading during military and civil rocket flight have proven especially difficult to properly flight test prior to operational use. This paper describes the design, construction, flight testing, and post-flight analysis of a single stage launch vehicle with an intended apogee of 50,000 feet and maximum velocity in excess of Mach 2 with a simulated electronic payload. Software suites including OpenRocket, RasAero, and AeroFinSim were utilized in order to confirm rocket stability, a projected flight outline, and structural integrity of the airframe and fin composition/attachment that commonly fail during supersonic flight regimes. The airframe was primarily constructed of G12 filament wound fiberglass tubing in addition to a composite fin can centered around CNC’d G10 fiberglass cores with a wet carbon fiber layup by hand. Flight roll control was achieved via the onboard reaction wheel, which was constructed of 3D printed components and inertial measurement sensors. The completed vehicle experienced a successful flight to 42,000 ft, maximum velocity of Mach 2.2, and maximum acceleration of 16 G. The airframe and all components were safely recovered and in working order post-flight. A successful test of the simulated electronic payload was performed and a low cost flight verification method was established.

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2021




Rocket; Test; Propulsion; Reaction Wheel; Space

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7000 KB


Faculty Mentor: Brendan O'Toole, Ph.D.


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Development of Experimental Rocket for Component and Payload Acceleration Load Testing