University of Canterbury Aerospace Club students are using their summer break to strive for new heights, attempting to break the world amateur altitude record with a sounding rocket.
Last month, UC Aerospace conducted a launch attempt of their latest ‘Into the Black’ rocket with the Spaceshot goal of reaching space and an apogee of 140km.
The student-designed and engineered sounding rocket – dubbed ‘Into the Black III’ – took off from the University of Canterbury’s test site on Kaitorete Spit.
Into the Black III is a 3.46m, two-stage high-powered sounding rocket. The University of Canterbury students are aiming to break the world amateur two-stage altitude record and the world altitude record by reaching an altitude of 120km+.
When she’s not firing rockets into space, UC Aerospace President, Alicia Smith, is studying for her Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) degree specialising in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Canterbury.
“Our ‘Into the Black III’ rocket launched successfully and had a perfect booster burn and stage separation. Unfortunately, we lost communication with the rocket and were not able to confirm the maximum altitude reached,” she says.
“The goal of our Spaceshot project is to be the first student team to send a rocket into space with 100% confidence. We’re incredibly proud of how far we have come, and we have such a great team of dedicated and hard-working students.”
UC Aerospace, one of the largest academic clubs of the 130+ student clubs at the University of Canterbury, is also part of the University of Canterbury’s aim to make Waitaha Canterbury a hub for aerospace talent by building career pathways for students.
The club runs multiple outreach programmes at both primary and high-school levels to grow student interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and rocketry.
“We believe we can reach our goal of getting to space, so we’re planning on having another go. It’s perfect timing that it coincides with the launch of the Aerospace Engineering minor, as it is a great project to get our students involved and excited about opportunities in the aerospace industry,” Ms Smith says.
“It’s a lot of hard work to design and build our rockets, but also to organise a launch of this scale takes a massive effort. There is a lot of learning and experience gained by everyone on the team, and we’re really lucky that we have some incredible UC Aerospace alumni around to pass on the knowledge they’ve gained from the industry. It’s one of the special things about us as a club.”
Companies such as Dawn Aerospace and Rocket Lab have taken student members on as interns and employees after they graduate. UC graduate Flynn Doherty, who was UC Aerospace’s 2020 President, is now a Flight Operations Software Engineer at Rocket Lab.
“UC Aerospace was pivotal for me to discover my passion for rockets and aerospace,” he says.
“The club solidified what I was learning in my university courses and pushed me to develop my leadership skills during club management and launch coordination roles. UC Aerospace gave me an unparalleled headstart into the aerospace industry.”