Stability and Control

Flight Dynamics & Apogee Detection

As a high-powered rocket ascends at velocities faster than the speed of sound, it is important to keep track of how much it’s rotating and tilting, in order to keep the rocket on its optimum path into the sky. To tackle this problem, we are building a robust system of monitoring these and other flight parameters during the entire flight of the rocket, in order to feed relevant data to the rocket’s onboard systems, and to engineers on the ground. This system needs to perform even when the rocket is accelerating at over ten times the force of gravity, and rotating dozens of times per second.

Additionally, it is crucial that the rocket is able to detect the exact moment it finishes ascending, and begins in journey back to Earth. This moment, called the apogee, is important because it is the ideal moment when the parachute should be deployed. Our engineers are currently developing and testing a system which can be integrated with the rest of the onboard electronics, but also with guaranteed fail-safes.

Applicable fields to Flight Dynamics and Apogee Detection are signal processing, fault-tolerance, sensor integration, and hardware development. This technology is expected to be deployed on our Phase IV rocket launch

Reaction Control System

After the rocket is able to determine its current location and orientation, the next step is to find an optimal orientation and trajectory for its current phase of flight, and modify its flight accordingly. In the past, we have relied purely on simple fins at the base of the rocket to stabilize itself. However once our flights begin moving higher and higher into the atmosphere, our next step is to develop an autonomous reaction control system, using miniature thrusters mounted at several locations on the rocket in order to control its current orientation and trajectory. SSS is designing its own system of doing so from the ground-up, with hardware and software both custom-designed to suit our purpose.

Applicable fields to the Reaction Control System are classical and state-space control theory, dynamic control systems, and real-time computing. This technology is expected to be tested on the Phase IV rocket launch, and fully deployed on the next generation.

Communications

Tracking Antenna

In the past, SSS has relied on omnidirectional or half-wave antennas pointed imprecisely in the direction of the rocket to maintain strong radio communication and facilitate one-way telemetry from the rocket to the ground. However, as our rockets become more advanced and fly to higher attitude, there is need for a more advanced and precise system. Our solution is the Tracking Antenna, a modular ground-based unit which, upon receiving telemetry data from the rocket, will autonomously point and track the rocket during its ascent, flight, descent, and landing phases. The system is designed to be completely modular, allowing for a wide variety of antenna and sensor payloads to be deployed.

Applicable fields to Tracking Antenna include signal processing, radio communication and triangulation, hardware system design, and system integration. This technology is expected to be deployed with the Phase IV rocket launch.

Satellite Telemetry 

Alongside the standard radio communication, we will be deploying a second channel to transmit telemetry via satellite. Using a specialized antenna on the rocket, we are able to transmit and receive data, coordinates, and even pictures to and from anywhere on or above the Earth. This technology will allow us to keep track of the rocket even in the unlikely case that radio communication fails, and will expedite the retrieval process.

Applicable fields to Satellite Telemetry include data compression, hardware integration, and software development. This technology is expected to be deployed with the Phase IV rocket launch.

Architecture 

Motor Controller

As SSS undertakes the ambitious task of building hybrid and liquid rocket engines from scratch, it is necessary to design a precise and robust method of throttling to allow for safe and efficient operation. A joint venture between the departments of Avionics and Propulsion, our Motor Controller team is working closely with engine design teams to build a system which can harness the power of our engines to reach the highest possible altitude, while also remaining fault tolerant to any potential malfunctions in a highly-complicated propulsion system.

Applicable fields to Motor Controller include power engineering, FPGA programming, fault-tolerant hardware, and real-time computing. This technology is expected to be deployed with the Phase IV rocket launch.