Team “KU SpaceHawks” earned second place in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation’s prestigious Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition. Teams were challenged to design a launch vehicle with as many reusable components as possible with capabilities of transporting a payload of 10,000 to 20,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.
Ben Hofmeier, team captain and 2013 engineering physics graduate from Wichita, said the spacecraft, known as the “Jay Hopper Reusable Launch System,” worked to maximize reusable components while maintaining safety.
“A vast majority of our design is reusable, practically everything except our solid rocket boosters,” he said. “We studied creating an entirely reusable system, and it just wasn’t cost-effective, and there were some doubts about long-term safety. We also tried to take into account future technological developments that could enable a 100-percent reusable design down the road.”
The team of 2013 graduates — composed of four aerospace engineering students and four majoring in engineering physics — developed the project in the spring 2013 semester as part of a senior capstone design course that focused on spacecraft design. Mark Ewing, associate professor of aerospace engineering, served as the team’s adviser.
From computer modeling, fuel estimates, structural analysis and developing a business plan, each member focused on a different aspect of the project.
This year’s success is the first time in more than a decade that KU has brought home an honor in the space category. KU is among the top institutions in the world in winning and placing in AIAA student design competitions.