Apis I launching in Huntsville for NSL 2017. Photo ©2017 Jim Wilkerson, used with permission.

The NASA University Student Launch Initiative (NSL, or USLI) is an annual rocketry competition that takes place in Huntsville, Alabama. The competition challenges student groups not only to innovate in engineering, but also to share that passion for the STEM fields with younger students through educational outreach activities.

In the 2017 event, SOAR developed a rocket that could identify targets on the ground using a camera system and onboard computer, and then perform a controlled upright landing. The rocket launched Alabama on April 8th.

For general information on this competition, see the NASA Student Launch website.

DOCUMENTS (Recent First)


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

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

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 http://www.usfsoar.com/projects/nsl-2016-2017/. 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

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

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

General Body Meeting

Our general body meeting last week, on January 5th, had a great turnout! SOAR members were updated on new policies, current project statuses (see the individual project pages for more info), and upcoming events. New project leaders were introduced and the beginning of the appointment process for next year’s main leadership positions was announced. Afterwards, the NSL computer science team went to the DFX Lab to work on the code for the landing module in preparation for the January  29th build day.  

January Build Day & Update

On Sunday, January 15th, SOAR held a general build day for the NSL and FSGC Hybrid projects. NASA Student Launch Since the last build days, the NSL team has been busy working on the Critical Design Review Report, a 120-page document detailing our plans and data. This can be retrieved from the NSL page on our website. The NSL team continued to work on the full-scale rocket and its programming. NASA FSGC Hybrid Competition The hybrid team began the assembling their rocket, building the motor mount and epoxying it in place with two of three fins.

December Build Days

On December 3rd, December 10th, and December 18th, SOAR held its first major build days for the NSL 2017 project at our off-campus workshop. A number of systems and tasks were worked on, including: Subscale Rocket This is the smaller rocket that will be launched ahead of time to test our systems and collect data. This rocket was reused from last year’s subscale, however it has been adapted to this year’s specifications. Reworked altimeter bay for Data Acquisition Package (DAP, the onboard computer system that will collect flight data when the subscale is launched). Cut and expoxied new bulkheads for

Subscale Launch Day

On December 17th, SOAR participated in the Tripoli Rocket Association Launch Day at Varn Ranch. The primary goal was to launch our subscale rocket for NSL, which we did, reaching a height of 2,115 ft. The video below shows the launch from the viewpoint of the rocket itself (note: this video is loud).

2nd Prototyping Meeting

The NSL Prototyping team held their second meeting this Sunday, November 20th at the Design For X lab. The primary focus of this hands-on meeting was to create a working prototype of the steering system (shown below) for the CS_CE (computer science and computer engineering) team to program and work with. This goal was accomplished and we now have a rough but functional prototype of this system. The next prototyping meeting will primarily focus on developing the landing gear.

1st Prototyping Meeting

On Sunday, November 13th, SOAR held its first prototyping meeting for NSL 2017 in the Design For X lab on campus. The goal of these prototyping meetings is to use lab time develop a functional prototype that will eventually be developed into the final rocket — sort of like a rough draft. In this particular meeting, we worked primarily on the landing module, including: Cutting, sanding, and shaping legs for the lander Cutting and fitting a place to mount the motors that control the steering system Beginning to design and 3D print necessary parts Other miscellaneous small tasks

2nd Mechanical Engineering Design Meeting

On October 18th, the NSL Mechanical Engineering team met in the conference room to revise mechanical engineering plans prior to the development of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) document. Tanner Diberardino led the meeting, answering questions and fielding discussions on both specific and general engineering concerns. The meeting was also streamed live on Google Hangouts for those who couldn’t attend in person. Some of the topics discussed included a revised rotor system for keeping the rocket upright, the reliability and safety of parachute deployment, rocket size and internal layout, and prototyping plans. A temporary subteam was formed to design and 3D

1st Mechanical Engineering Design Meeting

On September 20th, the mechanical engineering team for NSL met in USF’s Design for X Labs to discuss the fundamental design for our rocket recovery system. Mechanical Engineering Technical Lead for NSL, Jaime Gomez, began the meeting by explaining our proposed design. He and the Head of Mechanical Engineering for SOAR, Nick Abate answered questions and discussed ideas with the team. This meeting came after several other brainstorming and design meetings addressing the problem of how to land a rocket upright. The mechanical systems are being designed first. Once the mechanical plans are solidified, the electrical engineering team and the computer

SOAR Submits Proposal for NASA Student Launch 2016 – 2017

On September 29th, SOAR submitted the proposal for 2016 – 2017 NASA Student Launch Initiative (NSL). After several discussion among the SOAR executive board and SOAR’s mentors, and several design meetings, SOAR has decided to pursue the “Target detection and upright landing” option for the NSL competition. The requirements for that option of the competition, taken from the NASA Student Launch Handbook, are: Target detection and upright landing Teams shall design an onboard camera system capable of identifying and differentiating between 3 randomly placed targets. Each target shall be represented by a different colored ground tarp located on the field. Target