Sky Is Not the Limit for Yale Aerospace

The 2014-2015 academic year is already flying high for the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association (YUAA). Fresh from being named the 2014 “Best New Chapter” of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), the more than 50 members of YUAA can be found every Sunday in the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design constructing all manner of aerospace projects, from multistage rockets to radio telescopes. And with a recent successful test flight for two of their rockets — plus winning $3,000 from the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium — the team’s efforts are clearly being rewarded.

Led this year by co-presidents Genevieve Fowler and Bolun Liu, YUAA has four very active teams, each working on their own projects: two teams are focused on different types of rocketry with an eye towards winning national competitions in the spring; a third team is building a fully steerable radio satellite dish for use in radio astronomy; and the fourth team is designing and constructing an advanced autonomous aircraft.

Even with such a diverse portfolio of projects, however, YUAA continues to maintain their legacy of excellence. In the five years since the group was founded by Jan Kolmas ('14) and Israel Kositsky ('13), the team has moved from launching a high-altitude weather ballon to winning first place in the 2013 Astro-Egg Lander event of the Battle of the Rockets competition. Furthermore, last spring — the culmination of the team’s first year as a SEDS chapter — YUAA won second place in the payload category of the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition, navigated a blimp in the ASME Lighter than Air competition, took aerial videos of Yale Campus using their Quadcopter, and designed and flew a Rocket-Launched unmanned aerial vehicle.

While this year’s teams are all still prototyping and refining their projects, the three teams designing the multi-stage rocket, advanced unmanned aerial vehicle, and radio telescope have each been awarded CT Space Consortium student project grants worth $1,000. Funded by NASA, the CT Space Grant Consortium is made up of 16 Space Grant affiliated universities and community colleges in the state of Connecticut, and awards only five student project grants each year. In addition to the grants themselves, YUAA will present their winning projects at the Consortium’s annual Career and Grants Exposition on September 25, 2015.

And as part of the prototyping and refinement phase, one of those winning projects — the multi-stage rocket team — recently underwent a test launch. Known as “Archimedes,” the double-stage prototype rocket will ultimately contain 2 motors, ignited in succession one after the other in order to reach higher altitudes. For the test launch, the bright red, nine-foot-tall rocket contained only one motor, but still separated after deployment, parachuting back to the earth after reaching a peak altitude of 2,400 feet.

On the same launch day, the rocket competition team also tested “Skylark,” a competition hopeful in the upcoming 2015 Battle of the Rockets Target Altitude competition. The goal of the competition is to come as close as possible to a peak altitude of exactly 1,500 feet. In the test launch, the gold-colored rocket fought against growing winds to reach an altitude of roughly 1,280 feet before deploying its parachute and gliding back to the earth.

Through their rockets, telescopes, and aircraft, YUAA is poised to make 2015 another memorable year of achievements — one that we’ll surely hear all about in the group’s third annual Aeronautica on March 25, 2015.