Rocketry students first Australians to compete in US challenge

15 June 2019
The University of Sydney's Rocketry Team will be the first Australian team to attend the Spaceport America Cup Rocket Engineering Competition held this month in New Mexico.
Silvereye's custom-design has allowed it to travel at high speeds.

Silvereye's custom-design has allowed it to travel at high speeds.

A grueling year of intensive testing, planning and hard work has a team of budding rocket scientists over the moon.

Next week, the University of Sydney Rocketry Team will be the first Australian team to attend and compete in the 2019 Spaceport America Cup, an annual university rocketry competition held in New Mexico. 

This year’s competition has attracted over 100 university teams from around the world – each team will be launching their student-built and designed rockets in a race for the sky.

Spaceport America Cup is comprised of several categories that allow student teams to compete based on varying altitude targets and a range of propulsion systems. 

The University of Sydney team has entered their custom-built rocket Silvereye in the 10,000 feet commercial off-the-shelf category, meaning the team’s rocket will be launched with a commercial solid rocket motor with a target altitude exceeding 3 kilometres. 

During a recent test launch in regional New South Wales, Silvereye soared to a record height of over 10,000 feet on its very first attempt. The team then replicated this flight at the Australian Universities Rocket Competition held in Queensland earlier this year. 

Named Silvereye after the Australian bird, the 23kg rocket has reached a maximum speed of over 1,000 kilometres per hour while carrying a miniature satellite. 

“Silvereye is able to fly any standard 2U sized CubeSat allowing us to achieve a variety of missions such as test flying student-built satellites or even performing low gravity experiments.” explained the team’s Chief Engineer and Aerospace Engineering student Mitchell Galletly.

"We have used a systems engineering approach to design our rocket from the ground up in order for it to be safe, reliable, and customisable,” he said.

Although no other Australian team has ever entered the Spaceport America Cup, the team is confident they will excel in their category while representing Australia on the international stage.

“Silvereye is constructed from a custom-designed and manufactured carbon fibre airframe and uses a solid propellant to achieve speeds approaching the speed of sound,” explained Mitchell.

Team Vice-President and Aerospace Engineering student Clara Morris said competing in this year’s Spaceport America Cup is the result of the team’s long and continuous effort. 

“Silvereye is a culmination of more than a year’s worth of detailed design, analysis, construction and testing conducted by undergraduate students,” she said.

“It has been tremendously rewarding to extend our knowledge outside of the classroom and gain practical  experience as a team of engineers.”

The rocketry team has already successfully launched Silvereye in both regional New South Wales and Queensland.

The team has already been commended for their recent launches and for successfully entering the American competition. 

"Silvereye will be the first Australian university rocket to compete in the Spaceport America Cup, which demonstrates the team’s determination and skill,” said former NASA astronaut and Lawrence Hargrave Adjunct Professor of Aeronautical Engineering, Professor Gregory Chamitoff.

“I’m really impressed with the quality of workmanship and professionalism of this entire team. I’ve never seen such attention to detail from any student team and it will serve them well during the competition,” he said.

Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee believes the students’ entry to the international competition is testament to the high calibre of tertiary education in New South Wales.

“I wish Sydney University’s rocketry students the best of luck as they make history as the first and only Australian team ever to compete in the Spaceport America Cup.

“These inspiring students and their dedicated teachers are a shining example to the world of the first-class education facilities we have here in New South Wales, and we wish them well in New Mexico,” he said.

Silvereye is the second high-powered rocket to be fully designed, built and launched by the University of Sydney Rocketry Team following the launch of their first high-powered rocket, Wedgetail, in 2017. 

About the University of Sydney Rocketry Team

The University of Sydney Rocketry Team is Australia’s oldest tertiary student rocketry team and is made up of a multidisciplinary group of student engineers who design and manufacture high-powered sounding rockets. In late 2018, the team became the first Australian university team to successfully reach 10,000 feet.

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