Student Projects Edition: RED – Aurora Rocket

Rocket Experiment Division (RED) is a student group from Instituto Superior Técnico, an internationally renowned engineering school in Portugal, devoted to researching and constructing sounding rockets. The group is composed of 4 teams, each devoted to different parts of the vehicle: Aerodynamics, Propulsion, Structures & Materials and Telemetry. In the school year of 2018/2019, the group ’s objective was to develop a rocket, named Aurora, capable of reaching 3km and designed to meet the specifications of college rocket competitions such as the Spacecup America’s SRAD competition, for example, in which we desire to take part in the near future.

Designing a rocket presents a series of challenges, mainly due to the complexity of its systems, where each component’s parameters is dependent on the specifications of the rest. Usually, when one team decides to change any of the components of the rocket, all other teams will need to perform changes to their respective components. For example, if the propulsion team proposes an alteration on the propellant in the motor, the parachute may need to be adjusted due to added or reduced mass and the telemetry will need to be reworked to accommodate the different parameters of the flight path. It’s a real concurrent design challenge, one
might say.

Thanks to our sponsor Valispace since fall 2018, the task of organizing the teams was rendered substantially simpler. Due to its automatic calculation features, the group was able to introduce all the dependencies of all the components directly into Valispace. This allowed the entire team to access the latest parameters of every component at all times without having to contact any members of other teams or shifting through countless excel spreadsheets. This tool was especially useful when, on the later stages of the development process, the motor design was changed considerably due to a problem detected in one of its final tests. By using Valispace, the teams were able to quickly adapt the rocket in order to incorporate the changes and a successful flight was achieved.

Valispace will prove even more useful on the years to come, however. Since the project was still in an early stage of development in the past year, a lot of organizational concepts important for the workflow of the teams were still left unexplored. The many new features introduced by the latest updates to Valispace, such as the Requirements Module and integrations with CAD and simulation software provide many exciting opportunities for the implementation of some Systems Engineering elements in the management of the teams which will definitely improve their workflow and help the group reach the technological level we aspire to and be one of the best student rocket teams out there.

Text by: João Rei – Member of the Structures & Materials Team
Photos: RED – Instituto Superior Técnico, Lisboa

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