The University of Sydney’s USYD Rocketry Team has been announced as the overall winner of the Spaceport America Cup intercollegiate rocketry competition, held annually in New Mexico.
Competing against 97 student teams from around the globe, the University of Sydney team placed first in three categories, winning the overall competition with the highest points scored and taking out first place for the launch of their commercial-off-the-shelf rocket Bluewren and first place for the design of their payload, Callistemon, which was built to capture space debris.
The results were announced after a nail-biting three-week wait due to a data-recovery error.
Bluewren reached a height of 29,933 feet – roughly nine kilometres – over the New Mexico desert before successfully deploying both of its parachutes and landing safely and intact three kilometres from the launch site.
Spaceport America Cup judges commended the University of Sydney team for their sportsmanship, camaraderie, rocket launch and design. The team’s payload, Callistemon, was praised for its performance during the launch and for being an innovative solution to the growing problem of space junk.
‘This has been the most incredible and rewarding experience and I could not be prouder,’ said the team’s executive director, Bachelor of Engineering and Science student Alison Lockley. ‘We have overcome some significant challenges to get here and it speaks to the tenacity and dedication of every person on my team that we have been able to achieve this.’
‘Callistemon is not just a technical demonstration, but the culmination of novel research conducted by our payload team into the use of computer vision for the dynamic targeting of space debris,’ said Bhavesh Balaji, the team’s payload director.
In 2021, Spaceport America Cup held a virtual competition, with the Sydney team winning silver and bronze for their rocket, Firetail, and payload, Tetratheca.
‘The practical, hands-on experience of designing and building a competition rocket has augmented the students’ technical, project management, logistics and systems engineering skills,’ said the team’s academic supervisor, associate professor Matthew Cleary from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering. ‘However, perhaps most importantly, they have learnt the value of both leadership and team-work – indispensable skills in the aerospace industry.’
Bluewren was constructed from a custom-designed-and-manufactured carbon-fibre airframe and uses a commercial solid propellant to achieve speeds of up to 1.7 times the speed of sound.