The University of Sydney Rocketry Team is Australia’s oldest tertiary student rocketry team and is made up of a multidisciplinary group of students who design and manufacture high-powered sounding rockets.
During a test launch in regional NSW in late 2018, the team’s rocket reached a height of over 10,000 feet (3.05km) on its first attempt, the first flight by an Australian university team to reach this mark. 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 1000km/h while carrying a miniature satellite. It is the second high-powered rocket to be fully designed, built and launched by the team following their first high-powered rocket, Wedgetail, in 2017.
Later this month, the team will be the first from Australia to attend and compete in the Spaceport America Cup, an annual university rocketry competition in New Mexico. This year’s competition has attracted over 100 teams from around the world, and each team will shoot for the sky with their student-designed and -built rockets.
The Spaceport America Cup includes several categories based on altitude targets and propulsion systems. The team has entered in the 10,000 feet commercial off-the-shelf category, meaning the rocket will be launched with a commercial solid rocket motor with a target altitude exceeding 3km.
“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,” says Mitchell Galletly, an aerospace engineering student and the team’s chief engineer.
“It 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.
“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.
Clara Morris, an aerospace engineering student and the team’s vice-president, says the team is confident they will excel in their category while representing Australia on the international stage, and that competing in this year’s competition 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 says. “It has been tremendously rewarding to extend our knowledge outside of the classroom and gain practical experience as a team of engineers.”
Professor Gregory Chamitoff, former NASA astronaut and Lawrence Hargrave Adjunct Professor of Aeronautical Engineering, says, “Silvereye will be the first Australian university rocket to compete in the Spaceport America Cup, which demonstrates the team’s determination and skill,” he says.
“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.”
NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee believes the students’ entry to the competition is testament to the high calibre of tertiary education in the state.
“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 says.