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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2015

NRL, Aerospace Industry Hosts 11th Annual CanSat Student Challenge

By Daniel Parry

Created in 2004 by the American Astronautical Society (AAS) and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the Texas CanSat Competition is an undergraduate and graduate level design-build-launch event simulating the end-to-end life cycle of a complex engineering project.

Since its start in 2004, the CanSat competition has become an annual event providing a unique opportunity for university and college student teams to design, build, and launch a soda can-size satellite (CanSat) designed to meet specific mission objectives. Teams must be able to design and build a space-type system following the approved competition guide, and then compete against each other at the end of two semesters to determine the winners.

The 2015 mission simulates a science vehicle traveling through a planetary atmosphere, sampling the atmospheric composition during descent. The CanSat is composed of two primary components, a science vehicle and a re-entry container that protects the vehicle during descent.

When deployed from the rocket the re-entry container must descend, via parachute, with the science vehicle secured in the container. When released, the science vehicle should utilize a passive helicopter/auto gyro recovery method to reduce its descent rate to less than 10 meters per second. The vehicle must then stabilize and descend at a minimum altitude of 300 meters. During descent the science vehicle should record video (pointing at Earth) until it lands, and must collect telemetry data during the descent at a 1 hertz (or one cycle per second) rate to a ground station. When the vehicle lands it should hold one large hen's egg, unbroken from the fall.

Spanning a decade long commitment by the U.S Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and other federal and commercial sponsors, the goal of CanSat is to foster student growth in multiple disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Competition sponsors like NASA Goddard, AAS, JPL, Kratos, and the NRL, continue to help make this competition successful year after year, said Ivan Galysh, NRL engineer and organizer of the CanSat competition. In adding to this year's success, I additionally appreciated the help of NRL team members Dhiman Sengupta, Jim Yen, Ashley Wall, Dmitriy Bekker, Jamie Hartman, and Peggy Newman who, on short notice, pulled together 400 certificates for the event.

Beginning in October, student teams from around the nation, as well as South America, Europe, and Asia, enter to design and build a space-type system. With preliminary design reviews held in February and critical design reviews held in April, the competition culminates in June on the donated property of Texas landowner, Mr. Jim Burkett.

Thanks to Mr. Burkett and other volunteers from Texas, such as Gary Strickland and his students from Coleman High School, and Pat Gordzelik's team for providing food and launch support for more than 100 attendees, this annual event continues to be rewarding, providing opportunity for students to learn, hands-on, the fundamentals and challenges necessary for successful real world missions.

Of the 59 original teams, 42 attended the launch competition with first place being won by Team AGH Space Systems from AGH University of Science and Technology, Poland; second place went to Team Ground Pounder University of Alabama Huntsville, USA; third place was Team Raven Knights Carleton University of Ottawa, Canada; fourth place, Team MetuSat from Middle East Technical University, Turkey; and fifth place was Team Vaimaanix from SRM University, India; and the Tenderfoot Award was The Preachers from Seth Jai Parkash Mukand Lal Institute of Engineering & Technology, North India.

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