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NEWS | Sept. 19, 2014

NRL, Aerospace Industry Hosts 10th 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.

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). 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 goals selected each year by competition sponsors and co-sponsors.

This year's 10-year anniversary CanSat competition, co-sponsored by NRL in cooperation with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), AIAA, AAS, Ball Aerospace Technologies, Praxis Inc., and Kratos Integral Systems International, required teams to develop a CanSat capable of harvesting energy from the environment, and once deployed, transmit telemetry in real time to the team ground stations.

Beginning in October and culminating in a final competition mid-summer, teams from around the nation as well as South America, Europe and Asia, entered to design and build a space-type system and then compete against each team at the end of two semesters to determine winners.

The CanSat had to use aero-braking to slow its descent and protect a raw egg during the launch, deployment, descent and landing. Parachutes or similar devices were not allowed. Preliminary design reviews were held in February and critical design reviews in April. Those teams able to compete attended the three-day launch event in June in Burkett, Texas. The first day was committed to safety checks and preflight briefings, the second day launch competitions were held, and day three, posting of flight reviews and announcement of final awards.

Of the 54 original teams, 39 attended the launch competition with first place being won by Team Arisat from Istanbul Technical University; Second place went to Team Wilkensat from Sri Ramaswamy Memorial (SRM) University, India; Third place was Team Wind Chargers from University of Alabama Huntsville; Fourth place, Team Tomahawk from Ryerson University, Canada; and Fifth place was Tarleton Aerospace Club from Tarleton State University, Stephenville, Texas.

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