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Buckeye rocketeers soar to first place at international competition

Buckeye Space Launch Initiative team with their trophy.Buckeye Space Launch Initiative team with their trophy.

Ohio State’s Buckeye Space Launch Initiative team soared to first place at the Spaceport America Cup, taking home a trophy as a repeat champion.

The winning 10,000-foot rocket during preparation for launch.The winning 10,000-foot rocket during preparation for launch.The competition took place June 19-23 at the Spaceport America headquarters in New Mexico, where over 120 teams from around the world came together for the largest annual intercollegiate rocket engineering conference and competition. The event allows multistage rockets and all chemical propulsion types—solid, liquid and hybrid. Teams are graded on how close their rockets are to reaching specified altitudes, as well as through a Technical Report and Flight Readiness Report.

Ohio State’s rocket targeted for an altitude of 10,000 feet took first place in the Student Researched and Designed category when it flew to 10,080 feet over the desert. The rocket, dubbed “I-O,” was propelled by a solid motor and carried a payload of nine pounds.

Ohio State’s 40 team members in attendance also competed in the 30,000-foot category and launched a two-stage exhibition rocket aimed at reaching 100,000 feet.

Launch of the 100,000-foot rocket.Launch of the 100,000-foot rocket.“O-H,” the 30,000-foot rocket, which achieved a first-place finish in 2017, reached an altitude of 27,500 feet before its unplanned descent.

The team’s program manager, Nic Flesher, described what happened. “The flight was straight and stable, but, shortly after liftoff, the onboard avionics lost power and thus the ejection charges for the parachutes never went off.”

“It was tough to see a year of hard work coming in ballistic,” he continued. “There was a lot to learn with this launch and we are ready to come back even stronger.”

The 100,000-foot rocket was a demonstration launch in preparation for competition next year. Using two stages it successfully reached an apogee of 23,000 feet. The team collected valuable feedback to be used in the final design of the project during the upcoming academic year.

“We hope the team can keep building on its successes, with improved designs and manufacturing, in order to ensure we stay competitive internationally,” said Flesher. “Another area of growth will be to expand our engagement with alumni and industry.”

The interdisciplinary team is comprised of undergraduate students, a majority from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Buckeye Space Launch Initiative team members with mechanical engineering's Machine Shop staff.Buckeye Space Launch Initiative team members and rockets—left to right: 30K-foot, 100K-foot and 10K-foot—with mechanical engineering's Machine Shop staff, who supported the team's projects.

Media contact: Holly Henley, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Communications,