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Mizzou SEDS rockets to first place in competition

Mizzou SEDS members looking up at the sky.

Members of the Mizzou Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, joined by family members and other spectators, watch their dual-stage rocket successfully deploy its parachute seconds after reaching a top altitude of more than 5,700 feet.

The Mizzou chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) took home first place among 12 schools in the University Student Rocket Challenge at SEDS’ annual conference, SpaceVision2016. This year’s event was held at Purdue University the first weekend in November.

Mizzou SEDS members in a group photo.

Mizzou SEDS members pose for a group photo prior to launching their rocket.

The challenge was judged from the telemetry data recorded when the team launched its high-altitude dual-stage rocket about a month prior. Team president Alex Thornton, a senior in mechanical engineering, said members began working on the rocket’s design about a year ago and built it over the summer. The rocket features a two ignition stages – a competition minimum requirement – that were electronically controlled and launched the rocket from the ground and while in mid-air.

Alex Thornton loading parachute into rocket in a truckbed outside.

Alex Thornton (center) loads the parachute into the team’s rocket prior to launch.

The rocket reached a maximum altitude of 5,709 feet and reached a maximum velocity of 747 feet per second, about .67 Mach, Thornton said. A panel of three industry judges graded the results, and placements were based on total points awarded for the data, primarily altitude and the number of stages. For its first place finish, the team received a trophy and $750 prize, which Thornton said would be put toward team funds.

Mizzou SEDS rocket launching.

The Mizzou SEDS rocket launches from its base.

Nine members attended this year’s SpaceVision, and although they were not able to attend the awards banquet, they were nevertheless thrilled to learn of their winning result. Thornton said it was about midnight while driving back that SEDS Rocketry Competition manager Jonathan Jennings, a 2016 mechanical engineering alumnus and founding Mizzou SEDS president, contacted them to let them know the results.

“Everyone was super pumped about it,” Thornton said.

Thornton said there were times team members worried they were spending too much time questioning and reworking trivial components.

“But those little details that we focused on really paid off,” he added.

Update: Story was updated to reflect accurate prize winnings.