Michigan Aeronautical Science Association (MASA) is the winner of the Best Preliminary Design award in Phase One of the Base 11 Space Challenge. Three student leaders of MASA, Katie Lerond, President; Jack Taliercio, Chief Engineer; and John Letarte, Propulsion Lead represented their team at the Next Frontier event at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) on June 24th, 2019. Following a brief presentation summarizing their design, they were awarded a $25,000 prize.
The Base 11 Space Challenge is a competition that challenges student teams to design, build, and launch a liquid-propelled, single stage rocket to an altitude of 100 kilometers (the edge of space, called the Karman Line) by December 30, 2021. Unlike previous competitions that MASA has entered, the Base 11 Space Challenge is three to four years in length, providing students with long-term exposure to the try-fail design cycle. Base 11’s mission is to “motivate universities to bolster their rocketry programs and to empower students to learn far more than the theory of liquid propulsion systems by providing access to critical resources and to world-class experts,” helping young engineers to prepare for careers at top space employers like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Google, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Dassault Systèmes, and Boeing.
Base 11 also encourages students to hold outreach events within their communities to spread knowledge and enthusiasm about space exploration. MASA has a strong track record of giving back to the community; they have volunteered at SWE’s Summer Engineering Exploration (SEE) Camp, Klager Elementary School Math and Science Night, the UM Aerospace Department’s semesterly Aerospace Day. These events serve multiple purposes; younger students learn how to build model rockets, but they also gain mentors who show them the exciting prospects of working in STEM.
MASA’s next task is further development of their design for Phase Two of the competition: the critical design phase. This stage of the competition focuses on hot fire engine tests. MASA is already one step ahead of the game, having hot fired their engine in April and May of 2019. Currently, the team is working toward longer-duration engine burns and recording the work, setup, and safety procedures necessary to conduct a hot fire test. Their Phase Two interim report will be due to the Base 11 jurors on November 8th, 2019.