USF Research News

USF Students to Compete at NASA Rocket Competition

April 6, 2016
Competition winners could be awarded up to $50,000 and have their work used in future Mars explorations

TAMPA, Fla. – A group of University of South Florida undergraduate students have earned a unique chance to test their skills in front of some of the world’s top minds this month.

Using a high-powered rocket they’ve designed and built, the USF students will compete at the NASA University Student Launch Initiative competition April 12-17 in Huntsville, Ala.

The 13 students, part of the Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) student organization, will compete with more than 50 other teams from across the country. The top three winners of the Student Launch will be awarded up to $50,000 in prize money, and the winning design could be used in future exploration missions on Mars, depending on the level of innovation.

The Student Launch competition is based upon a NASA mission rather than only textbook knowledge, and calls for competing teams to address research needs of the Space Launch System. The challenge is supported by the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and U.S. aerospace industry.

SOAR has spent the last eight months committed to this project, having submitted their proposal in August. Since then, they have had the responsibility of designing, constructing, testing, launching and successfully recovering the reusable rocket. Named the Bullistic II, it stands upright at 11 feet 8 inches and is constructed from G-12 fiberglass.

“In addition to the rocket our team has been developing an autonomous robotic system to load a payload into our rocket and prepare it for launch,” said SOAR President Nick Conde.

While SOAR is not permitted to launch the rocket on USF’s campus, they use a local site to test this robotic arm and rail system, which positions the rocket from horizontal to vertical in preparation for takeoff. Once a month, SOAR visits Barn Ranch in Polk County in order to fully test the rocket’s launching and recovering abilities.

Media opportunities on campus with SOAR’s rocket include:
• The fully-painted rocket
• The working Aviation Ground Support Equipment (robotic arm, rail system)
• A black powder ejection test and parachute check
• Preparation of the rocket and altimeter bay as they would for launch

SOAR formed in 2013, and students competing at NASA represent a mix of academic disciplines, including physics, engineering and mathematics. They meet every Wednesday on campus at 5 p.m. in order to continue their tests and designs.

The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 25 research university among public institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving over 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.

- USF -

Media Contact:
Janet Gillis
(813) 974-3780