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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



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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

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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.


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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!

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Vibration test at Quanta Labs

On Tuesday, March 7th, members of our rockets Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) team visited Quanta Labs to perform a vibration test of our avionics system. Our unit passed the test. No major problems were detected, but we did gain insight into how to make our avionics system even more vibration and shock tolerant.

The Avionics System:
The avionics system in our rocket for IREC has been designed for high-reliability using redundant commercial altimeters and a custom student researched and developed flight computer. Its main function is to trigger deployment of the payload and recovery parachutes. In addition, the unit provides an RF beacon for locating the rocket after landing and a telemetry stream of live flight data using an RF link. Thanks to our recent sponsorship from Harwin, our avionics system features high-reliability connectors in important, safety critical connections.

The Test:
The unit that we tested included the parachute deployment assembly and avionics. This full assembly sat inside a sample section of our in-house custom fiberglass and carbon fiber airframe. To fixture our airframe section to the shake table, a CNC’ed delrin clamp was bolted into the shake table.
Integration of the system on the shake table

Using a shaker table at Quanta Labs, we performed the following tests of the system 
  1. 30G 6ms positive direction per axis, 3 axes
  2. 30G 6ms negative direction per axis, 3 axes
  3. 10Grms thrust axis 20Hz - 2kHz 20 seconds
  4. 7.6Grms lateral axes 20Hz - 2kHz 20 seconds each

The test specifications came from two sources. For shock, we used real values that we had recorded on previous flights. For vibration, we used the specs from the NASA Sounding Rockets User Handbook - Vehicle Level 1. These vibration specs are used to qualify payloads for going to space on NASA sounding rockets.

Here is a plot of the spectral content of the vibration applied for one of the tests:

To measure the continuity of the ignition lines from the avionics bay during the vibration and shock tests, we used one of our Keysight oscilloscopes, and recorded a 30 second session of the voltage across all of the lines.Our Keysight Oscilloscope used for recording ignition line continuity during the test

Here are some other pictures from our testing:Overhead view of the shake table


Connections for the test


We owe a huge thanks to Quanta Labs for providing their facilities and time to allow us to perform this test. Vibration and shock testing is critical for safety and reliability, and would not be possible without our sponsors.


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