Contact Us

Becoming a sponsor: Shi Tuck at [email protected] or Gabi Palavecino at [email protected]

Speaking at Stanford: Kai Marshland at [email protected]

General Inquiries: Our leadership team




Launching Balloons at Total Solar Eclipse

This August 21st, SSI had the wonderful opportunity to view and launch some balloons from Central Oregon during the Great American Eclipse.
Photo Credits to Anjali Roychowdhury
In order to launch in the band of full totality, we endured a 12-hour drive up to Oregon, braving traffic, supply shortages, and the hoards of people also vying to catch a glimpse of this incredible sight.
The SSI Family
Once we arrived, we prepared to launch two payloads; a live ATV video stream and sun tracking photography payload, and ValBal Mk VIII-A.
The ATV and photography payload included a DSLR, a drone camera attached to the ATV live stream video transmission system, and three Go-Pro cameras, one of which was modified with a motor system and magnetometer to track the sun during flight.
This ValBal flight was a test of a brand new mechanical system made of three 3D printed modules: a ballast module which controlled the release of the biodegradable BB pellets we use as ballast, a payload support, and a valve module which opened or closed to control the release of helium from the balloon during flight control. This new design is a monumental step forward in our technology, not only making ValBal much easier to assemble, but also reducing weight by over 40%, giving us longer flight times and a greater capacity for cool scientific experiments.
About to launch ValBal Mk VIII-A
We launched our photography payload from Ochoco state park just in time to catch the eclipse, and our photography payload captured some amazing images of the total eclipse from thousands of feet in the atmosphere! We launched ValBal right after the eclipse.
The total eclipse from thousands of feet in elevation
We watched our balloon disappear into the sky as darkness set down upon us. From our launch location, high on a cliff, we could see all around us for miles. The shadow of the moon rushed towards us and then everything went dark. The horizon glowed all around, like a 360-degree sunset. The sun itself was replaced by a black circle surrounded by a bright ring, the suns corona. We stared up at it for a minute in awe, and then the moon moved on and the sun came back into view. The light flooded back over the landscape and it looked like a time lapse of a sunrise.
A full minute of darkness
It was a breath taking experience, and wouldn't have been possible without everyone who helped contribute.
SSI-58 mission patchFinally, we would like to thank the Platt family for generously hosting us at their home.

Continue Reading

Rockets 1st Place in Category at IREC

 This last week, SSI Rockets embarked on a long journey to New Mexico to compete in the first inaugural Spaceport America Cup, one of the world's largest rocketry competitions, with over a hundred teams from five continents.


Our official mission patch!



After a long car trip to Spaceport America in New Mexico, we set about preparing for launch in the blistering 118F heat and occasional 25mph winds. And although everything we owned was soon covered in a light layer of dust, we managed to be one of the first teams to launch!





The IREC team at the launch site, taking a break just before launch!



Our rocket, Heart of Steel, officially became SSI's fastest and highest launch, getting within 1.5% of our altitude target of 30,000 feet, reaching a final maximum velocity of 1.8 times the speed of sound and enduring, at one point during recovery, over a hundred gravities of acceleration! Although we suffered an imperfect recovery and our payload - a novel telemetry system which does not require a ground station - failed to deploy, our launch overall was one of the most successful in the competition.

In fact, when the (literal and figurative) dust had settled, we were first place in our altitude and motor category, with a score nearly 50% higher than the second place team!



Heart of Steel taking off - PC Benno Kolland




We are immensely grateful to everybody who made this success possible - our team, the university, our sponsors, our friends in the amateur rocketry community, and of course Spaceport America and the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association, for making all of this possible. IREC 2017 was a wonderful experience, full of growth and progress for our team - we gained invaluable experience managing what was by far our largest project yet, becoming even more professional and efficient, forming relationships in the collegiate rocketry community and building the expertise we need to make even greater leaps in the future!

We are impossibly excited for this coming year and are already busy cooking up something even cooler - onwards and upwards!



Heart of Steel, heading skywards - PC Benno Kolland



Continue Reading

SSI 52 Breaks World Record (Again)

On May 22nd, 2017, at about 9:00AM, we launched our two-time world record breaking, self-equilibrating latex balloon payload, called ValBal (since it uses a valve to vent helium gas to reduce lift, and drops ballast to reduce mass and rise).
SSI-52 Mission Patch
SSI-52 was our first launch of the spring quarter and our first test of a new generation of avionics, as well as a test of a new polycarbonate mechanical structure.

Though launches usually take multiple hours, we streamlined our operational procedures for this launch so well that we launched only 40 minutes after arriving on site at Brigantino Park, in Hollister, CA.  SSI-52 smoothly equilibrated at about 15 km, even higher than commercial airlines flight paths, and floated east as we all sat on the edges of our seats.
Balloon Team Co-lead Davy Ragland with ValBal Prior to Launch
We monitored ValBal over the course of several sleepless nights and cheered it on as it struggled through a rough storm in North Carolina. Eventually, it passed the point of no return and flew out over the Atlantic Ocean, becoming our second balloon payload ever to do so.

After just over 79 hours of flight, ValBal again broke the world record for the longest duration flight by a latex balloon.

As the days dragged on, ValBal began to run low on both power and ballast capacity, but neither of those ultimately ended the mission. After 3 days, 16 hours, and 40 minutes of flight, the balloon popped and ValBal proceeded to fall under the parachute for the descent, finally landing in the Atlantic Ocean half an hour later off the coast of Western Sahara. SSI-52 Flight Path

Continue Reading

SSI Biology Unveils New DNA Synthesizer Design

How do you construct the first ever DNA synthesizer to operate in space?

This is the challenge that Stanford SSI’s brand new Biology team is tackling as it races to complete a functional device by the end of Spring Quarter. Controlling temperature, ensuring that all reagents needed for the addition of nucleotides to a single strand of DNA are compatible, and verifying that the scientific endeavor was successfully completed is no simple task. To tackle this difficult task, SSI Biology created a minimally viable product (MVP) design it had the pleasure of unveiling at the Uytengsu Teaching Lab Spring Showcase.

The device design is simple, compact and elegant.

The core of the minimally viable product design is a clear, biosafe plastic container for our DNA synthesis reagents, which include the enzyme that builds the DNA strand and a complementary single DNA strand that will bind to our product. This capsule will be encased in aluminum for temperature regulation, using Peltier modules or another heat source to activate the synthesis reaction. An LED and a photodiode will be focused on the synthesis chamber, exploiting the fluorescence of chemicals that bind to DNA to determine that the DNA sequence was elongated.


This design was unveiled on April 13th at the Uytengsu Teaching Lab Spring Showcase, an opportunity for undergraduate student groups to present to faculty, students, representatives from DNA synthesis companies and NASA researchers. We had the privilege of learning from experts in the field the difficulties that we will surely face as we approach a launch, as well as gaining technical feedback that our members are presently incorporating into the design. 

As far as we have come, there is undoubtedly still a lot to be done. If you would like to be involved or have questions about this project, please contact co-leads Alan Tomusiak ([email protected]) and Cynthia Hao ([email protected]).



We would like to extend a special thanks to the Uytengsu Teaching Lab managers, Mong Saetern and Jeffrey Tok, without whom this presentation would not have been possible.


Continue Reading

IREC Test Launch at FAR

This past Saturday, April 16th, the IREC team on Rockets made a journey down to the launch site owned and operated by the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) near Mojave, CA. It was a long car ride there and back, but it was well worth getting a chance to test the rocket design that we will ultimately take with us to New Mexico for the Spaceport America Cup in June.
From left to right: Saylor Brisson, Marie Johnson, John Dean, Rushal Rege, Logan Herrera, Ian Gomez, James Kolano, William Alvero-Koski, Derek Phillips, Christopher May, Thomas White, Rebecca Wong, Shi Tuck, Ruqayya Toorawa

Although we only managed to get one flight of our rocket in, we were very pleased with the opportunity to test all of our basic systems, from the deployment mechanism for our payload, to our motor retention system, to our SRAD avionics and beacon + GPS tracking. All of our sub-teams learned a lot from the journey and were excited that we got to return home with all of our components in-tact and recovered! We're looking forward to our next test launch when we return with various tweaks and improvements.
Outreach


Some additional bonuses to the trip were getting to meet the Cal Poly team and watch their rocket have a beautiful flight, and getting a chance to chat with some local middle school students about our project! Lastly I'd like to make a large shout-out to Eric Melville for his continuous support as we progress through our project. He's been a wealth of guidance and information both on and off the launch site. Thank you, Eric!Lift Off!

Continue Reading

Want to learn more? Subscribe to our newslists!