It isn’t often that a mechanical engineering propulsion team gets an opportunity to compete in a national competition. This year the Hybrid Ballistics team has designed and is currently building and testing a hybrid rocket for a national competition this June.

The goal of the competition is to build a rocket that can carry a 10 lb. payload to an altitude of 25,000 ft. To accomplish this task the team chose to design and build a 15 ft. hybrid rocket. Combining the burn convenience of a solid fuel rocket with a liquid oxidizer, a hybrid rocket delivers both the thrust and control needed for the accuracy requirements of the competition.

Being the first propulsion team to completely build their own rocket, including making the fuel and motor housing, the team faced some peculiar problems. For starters the funding for the starter or igniter came from an ignite research grant allowing research on the best way to set off a rocket of such large scale, yes they are aware of the irony. Hybrid rockets can be tricky to light since the oxidizer isn’t premixed with the fuel.

The sheer size of the rocket was also a problem as the size and tolerance needed was beyond that offered in the machine shop at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Most of the parts for the rocket had to be fabricated through external machine shops. Second, finding the resources needed to build the fuel and various motor components was not readily available.

After many hours the rocket was built which was very rewarding for the team. Team lead Ted Sharp said “It is one thing to design a 15 ft. rocket but when you build one you’re like ‘Good God! That’s a 15 ft. rocket that looks like a missile!’” The team looks forward to their test launch in California, since the rocket exceeds allowable size, speed, and sound barrier regulations in Arizona.


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