Wow! It's a new UK rocket record for this Sheffield team

Sunride launch record-breaking rocket 'Helen'Sunride launch record-breaking rocket 'Helen'
Sunride launch record-breaking rocket 'Helen'
Fired-up students from the University of Sheffield have launched themselves into the record books after competing in the world’s biggest competition for student rocket engineers.

Team SunrIde, made up of engineering and science students from across the University, has set a new UK altitude record for high powered rockets which has been verified by the UK Rocketry Association.

The Sheffield team smashed a long standing 19-year- old UK record of 34,579 feet, by reaching 36,274 feet while representing both the University of Sheffield and the UK in the Spaceport America Cup.

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Sheffield rocket launchers in AmericaSheffield rocket launchers in America
Sheffield rocket launchers in America

They were pitted against students from more than 120 of the best science and technology universities from around the world.

Footage of the dramatic launch and recovery can be seen at the SunrIde team’s Facebook page.

The students travelled to New Mexico in the US for the competition, after designing and building their rocket through the academic year as part of the University of Sheffield Space Initiative. 

Their record-breaking rocket was named Helen, in honour of Dr Helen Sharman OBE, the University of Sheffield science alumna who was the first Briton to go into space.

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Launch of Sheffield rocket 'Helen'Launch of Sheffield rocket 'Helen'
Launch of Sheffield rocket 'Helen'

The SSI is a programme of activities for any student at the University who is interested in space or space exploration to get involved with. It was founded to inspire students with science and engineering challenges within the exploration of space.

Vishan Nair, a fourth year mechanical engineering student at the University of Sheffield and project lead of the SunrIde Rocket Team, said: “Setting a new altitude record for the UK has been the aim of our team since we started designing the rocket at the start of the academic year. I’m massively proud that we have fulfilled this amazing feat.

“This would not have been possible without the amazing team of student engineers, scientists, academic mentors, technicians and our corporate sponsors who have collectively helped us to break these boundaries despite only being just under two years since SunrIde's inception.

“I’m super proud of the team and would like to thank all of them from the bottom of my heart.

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“Without those late nights, the countless meetings throughout the year, and them balancing their full-time studies with this project on the side, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

Vishan added: “I strongly believe that SunrIde has the potential to evolve into the leading rocket engineering programmes for science, technology, engineering and maths students in the UK.

“Sheffield is continuously breaking boundaries in UK student rocketry. With the great influx of support from the different departments and the University’s Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre, we can truly define ourselves and be at the forefront of rocket engineering in the UK.”

Matthew Lennard, a third year mathematics student at the University of Sheffield and SunrIde team member, said: “From the first meeting with the team I could already tell that I would become part of a very intelligent and driven group of people that wanted nothing less than to push the boundaries of what students can achieve throughout their academic career.

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“It has been an absolute pleasure this year to be able to fly out to New Mexico to participate in the launch of Helen in person. There is no feeling more incredible than witnessing something that you have poured your time into become a success.

“SunrIde has taught me that nothing is impossible as long as you have the mindset, drive and are willing to put in the hard work.  There has been a strong team spirit driving the project and it has been an excellent opportunity to reach out and network with fellow students from across departments and the world.”

Viktor Fedun, a Senior Lecturer in the University’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, and Academic Lead of SSI and SunrIde, added: “The space industry in the 21st century is growing year by year. It is very exciting to be part of it.

“Currently the SSI is running five different student-led projects and is dedicated to establishing mutually beneficial links with industry and academia.

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“The SSI runs highly cross-disciplinary space science and engineering projects for our STEM students that bring successful technological developments to the University of Sheffield. SSI has now also forged partnerships with other institutions in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and the US. 

“The great success of rocket Helen this year is built on our great achievements in the past.  In 2018 the SunrIde team won the James Barrowman Award for Flight Dynamics – 10,000ft category – at the Spaceport America Cup with the successful launch of rocket ‘Amy’, named after Britain’s famous aviation pioneer and University of Sheffield alumna, Amy Johnson.

“During this year we have got incredible support from the University’s AMRC, SHD Composite Materials Ltd and AC Composites Ltd who helped us build a rocket body that is capable of performing at a speed of 2.67 Mach and acceleration of 29G.

“The University of Sheffield has shown its leadership in the student space exploration as our success in last year’s competition was an inspiration for three other UK universities to take part in the Spaceport America Cup 2019.”

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Gary Verth, a Lecturer at the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics added: “Through the SSI, it has been extremely rewarding to help mentor our multinational and cross-disciplinary SunrIde team.

“As well as home students, the team consisted of students from Romania, Greece, Russia, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India and Malaysia.

“Although we only established the SSI in 2017, it has already proved successful in attracting STEM students from around the world who specifically want to get involved with our space science and engineering projects at undergraduate and masters level.

“I must emphasise that all these activities are extracurricular but all the students involved in our SSI projects will be credited for their individual contributions in their final Higher Education Achievement Reports.”