Students break UK record with rocket launch

Students from the University of Sheffield broke the altitude record for amateur high-powered rockets

A team of students from the University of Sheffield have broken the UK altitude record for amateur high-powered rockets during the Spaceport America Cup.

Team Sunrlde, made up of science and engineering students from across the university, has had their record officially verified by the UK Rocketry Association (UKRA).

The team beat a 19-year-old record of 34,579ft, launching their own rocket, Helen, to an altitude of 36,274ft. The rocket is named in honour of University of Sheffield alumna Dr Helen Sharman OBE, the first Briton to go into space.

Vishan Nair, project lead of the Sunrlde Rocket Team, said: “Setting a new altitude record for the UK has been the aim of our team since we started designing the rocket at the start of the academic year. I’m massively proud that we have fulfilled this amazing feat.

“This would not have been possible without the amazing team of student engineers, scientists, academic mentors, technicians, and our corporate sponsors who have collectively helped us to break these boundaries despite only being just under two years since Sunrlde’s inception.”

During my two years on the project I have had the opportunity to learn an uncountable number of new skills as well as properly applying techniques and knowledge that I have acquired in my degree.
– Matthew Lennard, Sunrlde team member

Taking place in New Mexico, USA, the Spaceport America Cup is the world’s biggest student rocket engineering competition, and this year welcomed students from more than 120 universities around the world.

Matthew Lennard, Sunrlde team member, said: “During my two years on the project I have had the opportunity to learn an uncountable number of new skills as well as properly applying techniques and knowledge that I have acquired in my degree.

“Sunrlde has taught me that nothing is impossible as long as you have the mindset, drive, and are willing to put in the hard work.”

The team developed their rocket throughout the academic year as part of the University of Sheffield Space Initiative (SSI), a programme founded in 2017 for any student at the university who is interested in space or space exploration.

The SSI collaborates with universities across the world, and is supported by the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Science, Alumni Fund, Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Higher Education Innovation Fund, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), IPE, SHD Composite Materials Ltd, AC Composites Ltd, RS Componets UK, ANSYS Inc, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMecE).

Although we only established the SSI in 2017, it has already proved successful in attracting STEM students from around the world who specifically want to get involved with our space science and engineering projects at undergraduate and master’s level.
– Gary Verth, University of Sheffield

Gary Verth, lecturer in the University of Sheffield School of Mathematics and Statistics, said: “Through the SSI, it has been extremely rewarding to help mentor our multinational and cross-disciplinary SunrIde team. As well as home students, the team consisted of students from Romania, Greece, Russia, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India and Malaysia.

“Although we only established the SSI in 2017, it has already proved successful in attracting STEM students from around the world who specifically want to get involved with our space science and engineering projects at undergraduate and master’s level. I must emphasise that all these activities are extracurricular, but all the students involved in our SSI projects will be credited for their individual contributions in their final Higher Education Achievement Reports.”

Footage of the rocket launch and recovery can be viewed on the Sunrlde team’s Facebook page here.