A crowd of 30 or so onlookers stood in a focused silence in the few seconds before the countdown sequence reached zero, but that initial stillness was quickly replaced by a chorus of “oohs” and “ahs” as the test initiated. A liquid rocket engine hot-fire is always an amazing thing to see, whether through the eyes of the concentrated test team, or through the eyes of the inspired spectators.
The first hot-fire of this academic year test took place on Saturday, Sept. 27. Performed by Zenith Propulsion, a Mechanical Engineering capstone team, this test was one of many building up towards the ultimate goal of “launching a liquid bi-propellant rocket in the FAR-Mars Competition,” as team member Matthew Boban described. The competition is to reach “an altitude goal of 45,000 feet” and includes “$50,000 in winnings to the team closest to that altitude,” said Boban.
This capstone builds upon previous work by capstone team Tiber Designs, who designed the Janus rocket engine. Zenith Propulsion is designing a rocket called Altair to fly on Janus. In previous years, “all liquid rocket testing activities have required moths or semesters of preparation,” explained Boban. This year, however, Zenith Propulsion was able to do so within just 27 days of the start of the semester, thanks to the new Test Cell 3 facility. Testing will continue as the semester rolls on with more exciting updates to come as capstone season shifts into high gear.