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NEW TECHNOLOGIES, OUTREACH Beyond the competition flight, the Rocket Team explores possibilities and creates new technologies for future use. This year, the team spent considerable time on a new recovery system. Rather than deploy round parachutes after separating its structure at apogee and drifting aimlessly, the system uses an actuated parafoil to guide itself autonomously to a selected landing zone. This required extensive study of parafoil dynamics and control, as well as the development of pyrotechnic rope cutters, frangible bolts, hatch and mortar deployment, custom servomechanisms, and redundant avionics built and coded to be failsafe. The new capabilities have expanded the options for projects and solutions in coming years. The team also sponsors its members to build and launch their own rockets to achieve certification with the National Association of Rocketry. We’ve added eight new people to our considerable number of certified team members. The team is also heavily involved in outreach activities, often joining with the MIT Museum and programs run by the Educational Studies Program. This year, 24 volunteers hosted a Museum-sponsored “Science on Saturday” event with more than 1,000 attendees, mostly elementary school students, who enjoyed a presentation showcasing the basics of rocketry, followed by hands-on activities. The team renovated its Building 17 lab space this year, thanks to the generous support of the AeroAstro Department. The new lab contains needed storage, a composites workstation, an electronics workstation, a parachute-manufacturing station, multiple 3D printers, proper storage for rocket engines, an integration table, and tool racks. For the first time in its history, the Rocket Team moved to become a professional organization set to continue its legacy by establishing methods to pass down knowledge year to year. This year the team spread itself to develop every aspect and system from scratch, and is now poised to build on top of what was learned to reach new heights. ERIC RIEHL is president of the MIT Rocket Team and a member of the AeroAstro class of 2017. He may be reached at


Student Projects: tiny rocket drones, hyper-speed transport, a composite rocket, and a lunar orbit competitor


MIT AeroAstro annual magazine 2015-2016Aeroastro 2015 16  

Annual magazine review of MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department research and educational initiatives.

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