Press Release: SOAR Announces First Multistage Rocket Launch


Download Full Press Kit (PDF)

UPDATE (April 6): The FSGC Hybrid Rocketry Competition has been rescheduled; information on that event has been removed from this release and will be re-released at a later date. All other information in this release is still valid.

Taurus I Two-Stage Rocket Launch

The sustainer section of Taurus I (without the booster section) was launched as a single-stage rocket in Maryland last year. ©2017 Nadine Kinney. Used with permission.

The Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) at the University of South Florida announces the completion of Taurus I, its largest and most powerful rocket built to date. This two-stage rocket, which stands over 24 ft. tall and weighs about 100 lbs., is entirely designed and built by USF students. SOAR’s first-ever multistage rocket launch is scheduled to take place on August 14th in Bunnell, FL, as part of the Northeast Florida Association of Rocketry (NEFAR)’s sanctioned launch weekend. If Taurus I reaches its target altitude of 12,000 ft., SOAR will more than double the previous launch site altitude record of 5,100 ft.

As a two-stage rocket, Taurus I consists of a booster section, or first stage, and a sustainer section, or second stage. The booster section will ignite its solid-fuel motor at launch, which will burn until it runs out of fuel (delivering an average of 320 lb. of force for about 7 seconds). At that point, the booster section will separate from the rocket and fall to the ground under its own parachute. The sustainer section will then ignite and burn through a second motor (delivering an average of 250 lb. of force for another 4.5 seconds). Finally, the sustainer will coast to the maximum altitude deploying the main parachute system and coasting to the ground.

Being the culmination of two years of dedicated work, this launch is a crucial milestone for the organization. As SOAR President Jonathon Fitzer puts it, “Taurus symbolizes SOAR moving from a small group of engineers building rockets, to a large national organization where the sky is not limit…To have had a hand in that process and bring others in SOAR along for that journey is really what makes it all worth it.”

This launch in April is open to the public, and spectators are welcome. Event information can be found on SOAR’s Facebook page: This will be a low-altitude test prior to competition at the Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico in June, where SOAR will attempt to launch Taurus I to 30,000 ft. using even more powerful motors.

About SOAR

The Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry is a USF student organization founded in 2013 that is dedicated to the research and development of rocketry and aerospace technologies. SOAR is one of the largest and fastest-growing engineering student organizations on campus, and is open to students of all majors. SOAR has built more than a dozen high-powered rockets and helped more than 20 students earn national high-powered rocketry certifications. The organization currently houses six major rocketry projects, including three national competitions: Spaceport America Cup, the FSGC Hybrid Rocketry Competition, and the NASA Student Launch Initiative. The group is primarily funded by USF Student Government and sponsored by CAE. More information on SOAR and its work can be found at

Press Resources

Media Contact

Ian Sanders, Chief of Operations:


The sustainer section of Taurus I (without the booster section) was launched as a single-stage rocket in Maryland last year. High quality photos of that launch are available at NOTE: All photos ©2017 Nadine Kinney. Used with permission. (Permission is explicitly granted for press uses).

A high-resolution logo file for press use can be found at

After the event, photos and videos will be posted to or


NASA Student Launch 2017-18 Proposal

SOAR has officially completed its proposal for the 2017-2018 NASA Student Launch Initiative! NSL is an annual national rocketry competition that focuses on innovative designs such as unique payloads. This year, SOAR has chosen the “Deployable rover” option, described in the NSL handbook as such:

  • Deployable rover
    • Teams will design a custom rover that will deploy from the internal structure of the launch vehicle.
    • At landing, the team will remotely activate a trigger to deploy the rover from the rocket.
    • After deployment, the rover will autonomously move at least 5 ft. (in any direction) from the launch vehicle.
    • Once the rover has reached its final destination, it will deploy a set of foldable solar cell panels.

SOAR’s official proposal is located at the following link: NSL Proposal 2017-2018.

Launch Day!

Both the NASA Student Launch and LDRS rockets are scheduled to launch tomorrow (Saturday, April 8th)! The NSL team will be launching their 13-ft tall, 47.5 lb Apis I with it’s vision recognition/camera aiming payload in Alabama; and the LDRS team will be launching the upper stage of Taurus I in Maryland. Check out the Current Projects tab for more information on our teams’ projects this year, and also be sure to watch the NSL live stream tomorrow to see all 40+ NSL launches in realtime. We will be launching at approximately 10:00 am CT.

This week at SOAR — getting ready for competition!

This is an exciting week for SOAR! Both the Large Dangerous Rocket Ships (LDRS) and NASA Student Launch (NSL) teams are all hands on deck, working on last minute preparations for both events in just a couple of days! Many hundreds of hours have gone into both of these projects, so it’s amazing to finally see them come to fruition.

The NSL team had their rocket (Apis I) painted as gift from Jim’s Body Shop in a beautiful bright green, white, and metallic gold (USF’s colors) scheme, while the computer science, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering specialists worked on final updates to the navigation and vision software as well as assembling the landing module itself. The rocket was even featured on Tampa’s FOX 13 News, and it looks amazing. This rocket will be launching at Bragg Farm in Toney, AL on Saturday, April 8th. More information for spectators and interested parties can be found here, and a remote live stream can be accessed here on launch day.

The LDRS team also placed the finishing touches on their two-stage rocket (Taurus I), installing a camera and painting it in-house using professional airbrushing techniques. This 24′ tall rocket will launching at Higgs Farm in Price, MD, sometime during the weekend of April 6th – 9th. More info on this event can be found here.

Finally, be sure to subscribe to @USFSOAR and @StudentLaunch on Instagram and Twitter for the latest up-to-the-minute updates as it happens.

Stay tuned for updates, photos, and videos to follow after this week! As always, recent photos up to now are attached below:

Final Launch Day (Before Competition)

On Saturday, March 18th, the NSL team successfully completed the final test launch prior to the competition launch on Saturday, April 9th! For more information on the competition, including dates and location, see the event brochure. You can also tune into the live stream at Ustream on April 9th to see the launch remotely.

For this test launch, we continued to use a test payload, as our landing module isn’t quite ready for a full test yet. The rocket completed a successful ejection test prior to the launch (as pictured below), which tests the rocket’s ability to separate the sections with parachutes effectively using carefully measured black powder charges. The launch itself was a great success and we reached an apogee (maximum altitude) of 4,159 ft (1267 m), about 1,000 ft. (300 m) lower than our goal of 1.0 mile (1600 m). Photos and videos are below:

Click here for a video of the launch.

Flight Readiness Review Report

This is just a heads up that we have published our final report before the actual NASA Student Launch in Alabama next month. This report (the Flight Readiness Review Report or FRR) is 145 pages long and represents our entire project, including test data, launches, safety information, budgeting, and our final plans. It can be accessed along with our previous reports at Go check it out!

Full-Scale Launch Day

On Saturday, February 20, 2017, the NSL team completed their first full-scale test launch for the 2016-17 season! After a succesful black powder separation test on the ground and despite heavy rain, the launch proceeded as planned. While they didn’t hit the target apogee of 5,280 feet (1,610 m) (reaching approximately 3,600 feet (1,100 m) instead), all stages did separate as planned. The parachutes for the main rocket body and landing module deployed and proved sufficient, while the parachute for the nose cone was tangled and did not fully deploy. Despite this, no components suffered any damage due to the soft ground of the launch field and the sturdy nature of the nose cone.



February Build Days

SOAR has held two build days so far in February, on the 4th and the 11th. During these workdays extensive progress was made in all of SOAR’s major projects, including NSL and LDRS.

Don’t miss us at the USF Engineering EXPO tomorrow!

NASA Student Launch

The NSL computer science team continued to develop the code for both the steering and the vision systems in the landing module. The module can now turn towards a GPS destination and fly in that direction. Current remaining challenges include accounting for wind speed and optimizing the vision system code. The navigation code is located on GitHub.

The mechanical engineering team also worked on the landing module/steering system, and are on track to finish the hardware by February 18th, barring any setbacks. The main issue facing this team is a design flaw in the top of the landing module, where the strip of phenolic is too thin and needs to be reinforced.

The rocketry team prepared the full-scale rocket for this weekend’s test launch by completing all the aeropoxy fillets, installing the black powder reservoirs, constructing bulkheads, packing and fitting components, preparing the simulated weight payload, installing shear pins, and installing the motor retainer ring.

Large Dangerous Rocket Ships

The LDRS team continued to prepare for the event by installing carbon fiber over the fin fillets and working on the second stage of the rocket. All components were successfully test fit and the 24′-tall fully-assembled rocket will easily top the height of a multi-story building.

Partially assembled LDRS rocket, with people for scale. This does not include the nose section or rear fins.

2nd January Build Day

On Sunday, January 29th, SOAR held a general build day for all projects at our workshop space. Progress was made on all three of our main projects — NSL, LDRS, and FSGC.

NASA Student Launch

The NSL rocketry team worked on test-fitting components and tweaking rocket layout. They also began the process of epoxying the fillets for the fins, which will take a total of three build days. The computer science and electrical engineering teams worked on tweaking the code for the landing module, getting it to use rotors to face towards a specific compass heading and lock onto that direction. That code is located on GitHub and the effect is shown in the video below.


Large Dangerous Rocket Ships

The LDRS rocket tubes were wet-sanded to prepare for painting, and the fin fillets finished with more sanding. The engines to be used at LDRS were recieved and inventoried. On February 1, the team met separately to begin preparing the booster motor mount with the installation of the first fin.

FSGC Hybrid Competition

The Hybrid Rockets Team finished installing their fins and assembled the altimeter bay. All that’s left for this projec before the competition is to insert the parachute, install the motor retainer, and epoxy the top part of the bulkhead plate.