Members of SSTA prepare their rocket, Redshift, for takeoff in the 30k SRAD (student researched and developed) Hybrid Category at the 2022 Spaceport America Cup, where they received first place. 

UT’s Student Space Technology Association (SSTA) took first place in its event in the 2022 Spaceport America Cup with their rocket, Redshift.  Members of the organization competed in June in the 30k SRAD (student researched and developed) Hybrid Category, taking first when Redshift reached an apogee of 28,878 feet and a maximum velocity of Mach 1.77. 

The Spaceport America Cup, also known as the International Rocket Engineering Competition, is the most prestigious collegiate rocketry competition. This year, the event took place in New Mexico, and over 1,700 students from nearly 150 universities traveled there to compete across multiple categories with target altitudes of 10,000 feet and 30,000 feet. 

The win is a huge achievement for SSTA and is the culmination of three years of hard work and research. The odds were stacked against them; they had to work with a very small team compared to their competitors, which meant members had to work harder and longer hours.

“The most challenging part of competing this year came from having a relatively small team,” senior and SSTA president James Cooper said. “Some of our members worked well over 80 hours per week on the project in the months leading up to the competition.”

Most teams had over 30 members travel to the competition, with many more at home, but the UT team could only field eight. Additionally, the weather conditions at the competition were not optimal. 

“At the competition, the uncertainty of the launch window introduced major issues for most hybrid teams,” junior and SSTA vice president Thomas Scott said. “This was further exaggerated by an unexpected early start to the monsoon season, where equipment could not be moved some days due to flooded roads.” 

The troubles did not end there. Once at the launchpad, the team discovered some of the rocket’s valves were leaking. Luckily, they were able to secure a replacement in time and fix the problem. 

Despite all these setbacks, the team had a great time and managed to take the top spot.

“While the main excitement was successfully launching the rocket, which had been in development for three years, overlapping generations of leadership and members, getting to meet all of the other teams from across the world and discuss designs and challenges from both sides was a great experience for everyone,” Scott said. 

Emboldened by their success this year, SSTA plans to return to Spaceport in 2023. They are also gearing up to compete in other events throughout the school year, such as the 2023 Argonia Cup in the spring and an upcoming event hosted by Friends of Amateur Rocketry.

SSTA is open to students of all majors and years. It is the largest rocketry organization at UT, and their workshop is the only place on campus that builds flight-worthy rockets. During the school year, they meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Drive Services Building B, with additional projects scheduled as needed. The first meeting is scheduled for Aug. 30.

Interested students are encouraged to visit their tables at the Aug. 26 Student Engagement Fair and Engineer’s Day on Oct. 27. For more information, visit the SSTA website, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Instagram page

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