Charger Rocket Works earns Vehicle Design Award at NASA competition


The Charger Rocket Works team at the 18th annual NASA Student Launch at Bragg Farms.


NASA awarded the UAH Charger Rocket Works team with the Launch Vehicle Design Award for creative and innovative overall vehicle design for the intended payloads while maximizing safety and efficiency at its 18th annual Student Launch.

UAH competed with 54 other teams in the event at Bragg Farms in Toney on April 8.

"Winning the Launch Vehicle Design Award was a great capstone for the project. Hopefully everyone on the team learned from this experience and can apply the skills they learned to future projects," says Nathanial Long, project lead. "I'm really proud of the team for their creative work and great documentation."

The UAH team successfully launched ShadowFax, a nine-foot rocket, to an altitude of 5,080 feet. To compete for various awards in NASA’s Student Launch, teams build and fly rockets with specified payloads. The contest’s target altitude is 5,280 feet, or one mile.

charger rocket works team award

"Things went great!" Long says. "This was the third time we had launched the rocket and our fourth time preparing it for launch. We had our procedures refined and were able to prepare most of the rocket the night before the launch."

Issues with the rover deployment system kept the team from deploying the payload but members haven’t given up yet.

"We did not have a successful ground test of the deployment system before our launch readiness review, so in the interest of safety we did not activate the system," he says. "We plan to conduct a full system ground test once the deployment system is reliable."

Recovery was a sloppy job following recent rains, and the recovery team found itself slogging through mud up to knee deep for about a half mile.

Advised overall by Dr. David Lineberry, a research engineer at the Propulsion Research Center, NAR/TRA advisor Jason Winningham, a computer systems engineer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and graduate teaching assistant Evan Tingley, the UAH team engineered and built the 41-pound rocket with a six-inch diameter fairing section and a four-inch diameter main body.

"In my opinion, rocket design is the most challenging senior design class due to the compressed schedule, the outside documentation requirements, the complexity of the rocket, its payload and the interface, and the fact that everything has to be manufactured and integrated," Long says.

"The most rewarding part of this project was seeing my team overcome challenges and push themselves. After the late nights, challenging technical problems and moments of uncertainty just before a launch, I am proud to call my teammates my friends, and I look forward to following their success as engineers."

Members of Charger Rocket Works are:

  • Bao Ha, safety officer; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Davis Hunter, launch vehicle lead; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Nathanial Long, project manager; senior in aerospace engineering;
  • Brian Chubb, launch vehicle forward subsection design; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Walter Pico, launch vehicle payload piston; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Chloe McFadden, launch vehicle central subsystem lead; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Ray Sherbourne, launch vehicle coupler subsection and black powder charges; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Forrest McKee, launch vehicle avionics and tracking; senior, mechanical engineering;
  • Justin Hobbs, launch vehicle aft subsystem lead and simulation; senior, mechanical engineering;
  • Amanda Steinmetz, launch vehicle motor retention; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Eric Zimovan, launch vehicle computer aided design; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Andrew Weaver, payload lead; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Will Hill, payload chassis, drivetrain lead and payload computer aided design; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Rebecca Hone, payload solar panels and payload ground station; senior, aerospace engineering;
  • Stephen Bailey, rover wheel design and payload software; senior, mechanical engineering;
  • Dashiell Hajian, payload electrical system; senior, aerospace engineering.

Team sponsors are the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, the UAH College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the UAH Propulsion Research Center.