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Colorado State University Rocket Team benefits from Prodigm, Composite One & Lattice Composite Support

Dr Marchese founded the Colorado State University (CSU) Intercollegiate Rocket Competition (IREC) team in 2014, with a group of only four students. Today, the 2018-2019 group, co-advised by Dr Guzik, includes 14 students with a passion for pushing rocket innovation to new heights.

The team has been preparing for the 2019 competition by focusing on refining the liquid-fueled motor, advancing the aerodynamic design of the rocket, continuing the use of the innovative honeycomb/fibreglass composite, developing an interesting experimental payload, and successfully implementing active flight controls.

With a payload size of 8.8 pounds and target altitudes of either 10,000 or 30,000 feet above ground level, competing rockets are typically 4 to 8 inches in diameter and 8 to 20 feet long. Multistage rockets and all chemical propulsion types (solid, liquid, and hybrid) are allowed.

Jeff Bassler, Prodigm’s President, had engaged one of the team members for one of his company’s projects. During their discussions, a team member mentioned their challenge of finding an option to replace the current fibreglass fuselage. He explained the advantages of a filament winding for their fuselage application. Prodigm also offered the CSU rocket students his lab facilities, connections for composite materials and industry knowledge. The CSU team quickly agreed to take Prodigm up on the offer.

In the Prodigm lab, students wound their rocket fuselage using LCWR-1.2 (a specially engineered two-component epoxy winding resin) donated by Lattice Composites and carbon fibres donated by Composites One.

The team designed their rocket fuselage composite laminate makeup using Autodesk Helius Composite. Using Prodigm pattern design software and CNC control platform for filament winding they turned that design into reality. Filament winding is an ideal manufacturing process for the CSU rocket because it places fibres around the circumference of the tube to produce parts with high strength. Filament winding also provides the capability to use very long continuous fibres to add additional strength and reduce overall lower cost when compared to pre-preg composite options.

Working in the Prodigm lab, CSU team members were educated on the filament winding process and the nuances of composite resins and fibres. Prodigm designed an intensely hands-on-lab experience so students would explore small-scale filament-winding technology that would inspire the production of larger rockets or lightweight composite parts in future aerospace roles. Prior to the competition, students produced several versions of the rocket body for live testing by utilising supplies/ support from Prodigm and Lattice Composites, and Composite One.

Here are links to videos of the CSU rocket pre-competition rocket test held in Colorado:

The Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC):

The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association and the Spaceport America Crew ESRA hosts the annual Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) with student rocketry teams from across the United States of America and around the world. These teams represented the best and brightest from more than 70 institutions located all across the US and around the world. Over 1,500 students and faculty gathered in Southern New Mexico for the Second Annual Spaceport America Cup in 2018. The organisers anticipate similar attendance in 2019.

Judging Criteria Overview

  • Technical poster and podium sessions before an expert judges’ panel during a conference day
  • Written technical report on their project concept, requirements, design implementation, and testing
  • Written technical report appendices on safety analysis, including hazard and risk assessments
  • Quality and competency of final design implementation
  • Amount of student researched and developed systems versus off-the-shelf components
  • Rocket flight performance measured by distance from target altitude and successful recovery
  • Payload innovation and functionality
  • Professional conduct and use of procedures

Companies: Spaceport America Cup

Industries: Aerospace

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