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Vanderbilt University NASA University Student Launch Initiative. Flight Readiness Review Presentation. Mission.

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vanderbilt university nasa university student launch initiative

Vanderbilt UniversityNASA University Student Launch Initiative

Flight Readiness Review


  • Our mission is to design, construct, test, launch and recover a rocket that travels to a mile high altitude which complies with the performance criteria laid down by USLI. The payload shall consist of a UAV, launched at a previously selected altitude, and landed separately from the rocket, following some remote sensing operations.
  • We are also interested in developing a robust student-based program, which explores the overall scientific and technical issues in rocketry and aerial vehicle design and operation
the team

Glen Bartley

Thomas Folk

Andrew Gould

Nathan Grady

Chris McMenamin

Brandon Reed

Will Runge

Alex Sobey

Greg Todd


Professor Dr. A.V. Anilkumar

Safety Officer Robin Midgett

Army Engineer Dr. Patrick Taylor

Rocket Enthusiasts Rodney McMillan and Russell Bruner

The Team
where we are
Where We Are…
  • We have completed our first full size test launch, proven our payload deployment mechanism and have fabricated two uniquely designed prototype UAVs
  • Ready for Launch Competition
justification of rocket deployment
Justification of Rocket Deployment
  • The rocket takes the UAV

to its maximum altitude

before using any battery


  • Range is now glide from

starting altitude plus

powered flight from battery

  • Available area available for surveillance is greatly increased
actual range
Actual Range
  • Potential 3 mile ceiling for UAV and Rocket
  • 10:1 Glide Ratio equals 30 miles of glide range
  • Previous powered range of 6 miles increased since level flight requires less energy than climbing flight
  • Estimated Total Range of 42+ miles
uav design history
UAV Design History
  • 2 Wing Rotation Concepts:
    • Split Wing Rotation:
      • Longer Wingspan, Sacrifice Chord Length
    • Single Wing Rotation
      • Larger Chord Length, Sacrifice Wingspan
uav testing
UAV Testing
  • Wing Rotation Limitations:
    • Larger chord length yielded better flight characteristics
    • Single wing rotation mechanism became the primary design
  • 3 Test Gliders:
    • Adjustable wing position glider: Determined the desired center of gravity of entire craft with respect to the quarter chord length of the wing
    • Dihedral wing glider: Demonstrated the static stability advantages of a dihedral wing
    • Full weight and dimensions with control surfaces: Concluded that the results from the previous gliders were applicable at full scale
airfoil and wing dimensions
Airfoil and Wing Dimensions

Max Camber Position = 2.2 in.

Thickness = 1 in.


Max Camber= .5 in.

Cord Length = 8 in.

NACA Designation: 6312

Wing Span: 43.5 in.

Aspect Ratio: 5.9

Dihedral Angle: 5°

uav construction
UAV Construction
  • The tail plane, control, surfaces and wing use 2mm and 4mm CoroplastTM (corrugated plastic sheeting).
  • Fuselage is made from either 1/16 in. aluminum L-channel or 1/16 in. PVC


  • Electronics consist:
    • Standard 8 gram servos
    • HiTEC Micro 05S receiver
    • BP 40A Brushless ESC Controller
    • 450W Brushless Motor
    • 3-Cell Li-Po Battery
wing rotation mechanism
Wing Rotation Mechanism

Center Axis

Locking Pin Hole


Rotation Spring

Locking Pin

  • Materials:
    • ¾ in. Acrylic plates
    • 2 springs
    • Several screws, nuts,

and bolts

  • Spring driven rotation
  • Acrylic Stoppers
  • Locking Pin
rocket design
Rocket Design
  • Static Stability Margin
    • 1.5 ( same as previous test launch)
  • Dimensions
    • 10.125 in OD
    • 14 ft. Tall
    • 80 lbs (loaded)
rocket assembly
Rocket Assembly

Three main components, each with its own system

parachute sizes
Parachute Sizes
  • Drogue Deployment
    • Size: 4 ft.
    • Descent Rate: 18.4 m/s
  • Main Body Section
    • Size: 10 ft.
    • Descent Rate: 5.4 m/s
  • Payload Section
    • Size: 8 ft.
    • Descent Rate: 5.9 m/s
motor selection and rail exit velocity
Motor Selection and Rail Exit Velocity
  • Motor Selection
    • Aerotech M1939W
    • Total Impulse = 10240 N-s
    • Prop. Weight = 5300 g
    • Burn Time = 7 s
  • Rail Exit Velocity
    • 66.5 ft/s
rocket airframe
Rocket Airframe
  • Original Airframe
    • Thumper rocket kit
    • Fiberglass over cardboard
    • 12 feet tall
  • Airframe Modifications
    • Payload Bay
      • Lengthened to accommodate longer UAV
      • Two standard body sections fiberglassed together
      • 14 feet new overall length
    • Fins
      • Originally Baltic birch
      • Updated with carbon fiber laminate
carbon fiber fins
Carbon Fiber Fins
  • In order to increase the dynamic stability of the rocket, the center of gravity had to be moved up
  • Therefore, either weight had to be added to the nose thus creating dead weight or removed from the bottom section of the rocket.
  • Solution: reduce the weight of the fins by replacing the Baltic Birch material with Carbon Fiber
    • The specific compressive strength of the carbon fiber was found to be roughly 6 times greater than that of the birch
    • In order to preserve the center of pressure, the overall fin shape was not altered
carbon fiber fin fabrication
Carbon Fiber Fin Fabrication
  • Carbon fiber sheet made in house
    • Three layers of woven aerospace grade tri-axial carbon fiber cloth
    • Impregnated with high temperature epoxy resin to withstand exhaust heat
    • Air dried overnight between sheets of glass
    • Baked in kiln for 18 hours to finish curing
    • Over 30% weight savings and twice as strong
launch pad
Launch Pad
  • Portable launch pad constructed specifically for the large rocket’s demands
  • Main Parts
    • 3/16 inch thick 3 ft.

square steel blast plate

    • Four foldable legs
    • Adjustable feet for


    • Hinged 16 ft. 80-20

launch rod

    • Simple, heavy, effective
flight test
Flight Test
  • Test rocket configured with short payload bay and ballast to simulate UAV weight
  • 1.5 calibers of stability
  • M1297WP motor with 5417 N*s impulse
  • Calculated altitude was 3500 ft
  • Actual Altitude was 3052 ft
deployment avionics
Deployment Avionics
  • Four Perfect Flight MAWD altimeters will be used for deployments
    • Two for the drogue and main parachutes
    • Two for the UAV deployment
    • Redundancy in the design minimizes chutes not deploying as needed
  • The altimeters will be tested in a pressurized chamber before their use
  • Previously tested Copilot altimeters were used on the test flight
ejection charge test
Ejection Charge Test
  • The commercial supplier of the base rocket, Polecat Aerospace, suggested the use of 3 – 4.5 grams of back powder for ejection charges
  • The test:
    • Four 256 nylon screws as shear pins
    • 3 grams of black powder
    • The rocket was resting horizontally
  • It was found that this configuration of shear pins and charge amount is acceptable for the rocket’s stage deployments
sled payload deployment
Sled Payload Deployment

The weight of the nosecone can produce a torque which turns the piston inside the payload bay tube disrupting deployment.

Preventing this torsion in the sled would add unnecessary weight and decrease the amount of volume in the payload bay.

sabot payload deployment
Sabot Payload Deployment
  • The UAV will be encased in two form-fitting pieces of foam and placed in the payload tube
  • A piston at the aft end of the tube will cause the pressure in the chamber to increase after a 6 gram black powder charge, ejecting the nose cone which will pull the UAV and its foam casing out