Houston, there was no problem.
The inaugural Tuloso Midway High School hybrid rocket successfully lifted off April 25 at 10:53 a.m., kicking off the two-day Rockets '08 event at the Paul Meek Ranch, south of Fredericksburg.
T-M's first year aeroscience class designed and custom built the 7-foot long, 10-pound machine they affectionately christened, The Arrow. T-M's rocket reached an altitude of 5,032 feet, attaining a top speed of 558 mph while carrying a 5-foot banner emblazoned with a single gold arrow sporting the signatures of the builders as a payload.
The Arrow's unique design, construction and superior performance were highly lauded by the program directors and flight inspection team, said aeroscience instructor Chris Schulz.
T-M seniors Chad Tschauner and Zack Lang were overall program managers supported by a team of nine students and Schulz.
"Each student played an integral part in the design, development, acquisition, and fabrication process," Schulz said.
Other members of the launch team included senior Luke Duis, juniors Buster Crow and Justin Guinn and sophomore Marcus Kellogg. Members unable to make the trip were seniors Billy Clawson, James Wallace, Danielle Ocker, Noel Narvaez, and junior Travis St Clair.
The semester-long project required parts from South Carolina, Louisiana, Colorado, and a motor from Canada, in addition to a lot of epoxy, sandpaper, and simple hand tools, Schulz said. Students utilized computer design software to compute stability and performance parameters while researching and computing structural load forces caused by recovery pyrotechnics and parachute deployment shock.
"Teamwork, coordination, and a great deal of research were required to complete The Arrow," Schulz said.
The Arrow's Hybrid Rocket Motor system utilizes a nitrous oxide cylinder connected by a valve to a thermoplastic fuel grain, all totally inert until remotely combined and ignited by a pyrotechnic free electric match, making this a much safer evolution than solid rocket propellants, Schulz said.
A barometric altimeter was used to initiate a dual deployment recovery system that included breaking the aerodynamic shape of the rocket by popping off the nosecone and deploying the 5-foot banner at 5,032 feet, then deploying the parachute at 1,200 feet.
This all resulted in a recovery less than 100 feet from the intended position, a feat deemed to be remarkable by the launch director due to the significant number of variables at work, Schulz said.
The event was sponsored by Ignite, a non-profit organization formed to enhance the education of Texas students through its aeroscience program.
Rockets '08 is a continuing annual event where aeroscience students from across the state gather to launch their experimental rockets. Rockets '08 consisted of 10 schools launching a total of 18 rockets.
First-year schools were aiming for 5,280 feet with up to a pound of payload, while second-year programs were shooting for Mach 1, the speed of sound, about 760 mph, with a ceiling of 11,000 feet.
As a result of Ignites' efforts, 25 new schools including Robstown High School will enter the program.
"The infectious excitement of this program was evident as the T-M team sat and watched other schools launch, they were busy plotting next year's designs," Schulz said.