Many interested students want to join the Space Team every year. In order to help them with their first steps, Project FIRST (First Introduction to Rockets and Space Team) was initiated.
New members should form small teams and design, build and fly their very first rocket within three to four months. The necessary knowledge and know-how will be passed on through seminars and workshops held by experienced members. They comprise model rocket basics like aerodynamic stability, motor classification and recovery as well as crash courses in simulations with OpenRocket, 3D CAD designing and 3D printing. All parts and materials indispensable for building the rocket like e.g. body tubes, GRP sheets, filament for 3D printing and Kevlar cords are provided by the Space Team. The participants are however allowed to go beyond the minimum requirements for the rocket and add e.g. additional sensors or a camera.
In order to check the teams’ progress and designs, experienced Space Team members will conduct several reviews. The teams passing all reviews, meeting all design requirements and managing to finish their rocket in time will be allowed to participate in a launch event and perform their first rocket start.
FIRST Campaign 2019/2020
During the winter semester 2019 Project FIRST began its second installment and was able to build on the success of the previous year. With 18 Teams of two to four persons participating, the already high expectations were surpassed. In the beginning lots of workshops and seminars about rocket basics, simulations with OpenRocket, 3D CAD design, 3D printing, etc. were held to give the new members the necessary know-how for building and flying their first own rocket.
On December 13 and 17 the preliminary design review (PDR) took place where experienced Space Team members took a look at the initial design ideas, simulations and launch checklists that the teams came up with so far. All teams were well prepared and passed the PDR successfully. This allowed the teams to start constructing and building the first rocket parts. About two weeks before the end of the semester, from January 14 to 16, the final rocket designs were closely inspected by longstanding Space Team members during the critical design review (CDR). At this point in time all parts where already manufactured or at least available as 3D models. As expected, the teams performed well again.
The FIRST launch event in Straubing, Germany, was planned as a single day event which made it logistically impossible to allow all 16 remaining teams to start there. Therefore, two alternative launch possibilities in May and September were offered. Unfortunately, both of them had to be cancelled later on due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that thus far only the four teams which already participated in the first event on March 1 were able to launch their rockets. To the delight of everyone involved all rocket starts went well and apart from a few scratches and a broken fin, everything was recovered intact. So, at least for these four teams the project was completed successfully. Some of the other teams stayed positive and motivated even during the corona crisis and have already signed up for the next FIRST campaign to get another chance to experience their first rocket launch.
FIRST Campaign 2018/2019
After the recruiting event on November 14th 2018 the very first edition of project FIRST was started. It enjoyed a lot of popularity and eight teams with three to four participants each were present at the official beginning – the course on rocket basics. Subsequent seminars and workshops on OpenRocket, SolidWorks and 3D printing were well-attended too.
The preliminary design review (PDR) took place on December 19th. Design drafts for the mechanical structure as well as a simulation of the rocket were examined by three longtime Space Team members. Also a launch checklist had to be provided. The teams were well-prepared and completed the PDR successfully. A couple weeks later, the critical design review (CDR) was conducted. Here, the final design had to be presented. All components had to be available as 3D models or as actual hardware. The new members performed well again and had to make only minor adjustments.
The next challenge was to build the actual rocket. With the launch event approaching fast, a lot of cutting, drilling, 3D printing, gluing, screwing and wiring was done especially in the last week. Six of the originally eight teams managed to finish their rocket in time – a remarkable achievement!
The launch event took place in Straubing on March 2nd. Despite the bad weather – it was a cloudy, cold and windy day – five of the six teams successfully launched their rocket. For a more detailed report of the event see here. The sixth team as well as those who could not come to Straubing are still working diligently and plan to fly their rocket at the next possible event – most likely in Leipzig at the end of May.
With that project FIRST is not completed yet, but it can already be seen as a success. Therefore it will almost certainly be renewed in the winter semester of 2019.