The American Astronautical Society, in conjunction with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and Tarleton State University, recently hosted our 14th annual rocket payload design-build-launch competition for college and university students from around the world. It’s called CanSat, and this year’s competition was one of the best ever.
CanSat is set up to give students an experience that closely resembles what they could go through as aerospace or electrical engineers when designing, building, and flying true orbital or deep space satellites. They go through all of the major phases of a program and are judged and reviewed each step of the way. It’s a very difficult and sophisticated contest in which only the best teams can prevail.
Each year, competition director Ivan Galysh from NRL designs a new mission challenge. This year’s was to design the CanSat, which is about the size of a couple of stacked oil cans, to carry an egg internally and, upon release from the launch vehicle, deploy an aerobrake to slow the CanSat’s descent, eject that aerobrake at a specific altitude, and deploy a parachute for the final descent. Also, throughout the flight, the CanSats are supposed to collect data such like altitude, descent rate and others and transmit that to a ground station via wireless telemetry. A daunting exercise to say the least.