The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) hosts an Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) for student rocketry teams from across the USA and around the world. With a payload size of 8.8 pounds and target altitudes of either 10,000 or 30,000 ft. above ground level, competing rockets are typically 4 to 8 inches in diameter and 8 to 20 ft. long. More than 600 students participated in the 2016 competition, representing over 50 schools from 6 different continents.
For the 2017 competition, ESRA partnered with Spaceport America near Las Cruces, NM to host the innaugural Spaceport America Cup.
BYU Rocketry's High Power Team of 14 students spent the 2016-2017 school year building a 9 foot rocket called "Kevin". It aimed for 10,000 feet using an Aerotech M2400 rocket motor. The team was divided into three subteams: Avionics, Structures, and Propulsion.
For the competition, 11 of the students traveled to Spaceport America, located near Las Cruces, NM. They spent a week participating in a variety of events and were accompanied by Dr. David Fullwood of the BYU Mechanical Engineering Department.
The rocket, Kevin, performed very well in flight and achieved an altitude of 9,535 feet above ground level. Including the loaded rocket motor, Kevin weighed just over 50 pounds and carried two payloads. These payloads had a combined weight of 8.8 pounds, or 4 kilograms.
Kevin was built using many different materials, including a fiberglass nosecone and fiberglass fins. Strong adhesives, called epoxy, were used to construct the rocket and ensure that it would stay in one piece for the duration of the flight. Unlike many teams present at the competiion, all 4 of the fins remained attached to the rocket body.
While at Spaceport America, the team had the opportunity to meet recruiters from many space companies, including Blue Origin, SpaceX, Orbital ATK, and many more. This opportunity provides students with the chance to discuss careers in the space industry by interfacing with representatives of companies that are revolutionizing technology used to travel to space.