WUSTL students excel in national satellite competition

A University team took fifth place in the national CanSat competition June 8 in Amarillo, Texas.

The competition was for students to design and build a soda-can-sized payload for a large model rocket; the rocket blasted up to about 3,000 feet, where the payload was released and supposed to gently return to Earth.

Bonus points were awarded for landing closest to a designated target and for returning panoramic images of the descent.

Twenty-seven teams submitted designs for the competition, and 13 showed up with working hardware (plus one high-school team, graded separately).

According to Michael Swartwout, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical, aerospace and structural (MASE) engineering, coming in fifth was a welcome surprise and bodes well for WUSTL participation next year.

The CanSat team was made up of 10 undergraduates and was managed out of the MAE 190 class (now the MASE 1701). The students selected an ambitious “spring-loaded wing” concept, by which the CanSat descends as an unpowered helicopter (autorotation similar to how a maple seed falls to the ground). WUSTL was one of only two teams that did not attempt a parachute descent.

The CanSat team was sponsored by the NASA Missouri Space Grant Consortium.

More information on the competition and results can be found at the the MASE nanosat Web site (nanosat.wustl.edu) and the national Web site (www.cansatcompetition.com).