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RiceX prepares for first rocket launch

By Sapna Suresh     4/8/15 5:17pm

RiceX completed a major milestone in the form of a successful motor on March 22, a large step towards their goal of creating and launching a hybrid rocket this summer.

RiceX began the year with less than $1,000 in their budget and no set goals for the year. Lovett College junior and RiceX president Sarah Hernandez said Brown College freshman Andrew Gatherer’s interest in the club helped spur their growth.

“Andrew emailed me even before school started with questions about how to get involved in RiceX. The club wasn’t serious at all back then, but after getting his messages, I felt like I couldn’t let this kid down,” Hernandez said.

With a keen desire to build a functioning rocket, Hernandez, Gatherer and other committed team members actively recruited members and generated interest in the club. These efforts allowed the club to expand significantly. They were able to recruit many younger undergraduate students in particular: The team consists mainly of freshmen and sophomores, alongside one junior and one senior.

According to Hernandez, one of the factors limiting their success was the lack of funding for the project. To raise money, they worked to get sponsorships from outside organizations. 

“At certain points, students were paying with personal funds for parts to build the project in hopes that, as their project grew, it would acquire more funding,” Hernandez said.

The two biggest successes of RiceX so far have been the model rocket launched about a month ago, as well as the more recent successful motor test.

At their single allotted table in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, members of RiceX constructed the engine. According to Gatherer, each piece of the engine was machined in house, including the nozzle, body and ejector plate. Additionally, they made the fuel out of a mixture of candle wax, rubber and nitrous oxide.

“Not more than approximately 10 other universities in the nation have been able to construct a hybrid rocket motor,” Gatherer said.

As members of RiceX’s avionics and aerodynamics teams work toward a launch this summer, they hope to gain greater funding from the Brown School of Engineering and outside organizations, as well as acquire a larger workspace, accoording to Gatherer. Additionally, they plan on traveling to the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition, where they will see the different kinds of rockets that other top universities around the country are developing.

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