Terrapin Rocket Team Flies High, Takes Second in Category at Spaceport America Cup

Terrapin Rocket Team Flies High, Takes Second in Category at Spaceport America Cup

Terrapin Rocket Team Flies High, Takes Second in Category at Spaceport America Cup

Students setting up their rocket, 'Karkinos,' in the New Mexico desert.
Students setting up their rocket, 'Karkinos,' in the New Mexico desert.

In just two short years, the Terrapin Rocket Team re-energized their trajectory to take a top spot at the 2023 Spaceport America Cup rocket competition. With lessons learned from last year, the team came back better than ever to secure a strong second-place finish in the 10K-foot Student Researched and Designed (SRAD) Solid Motor category. In addition, the team finished fifth overall in the competition—out of 119 competing teams—a giant leap forward from the team’s 2022 44th place finish—and the team’s technical report placed 3rd.

The team built onto their 2022 competition rocket design to refine their 2023 rocket, ‘Karkinos,’ named for the giant crab of Greek mythology, and a nod to Maryland’s iconic blue crab.

“Our design approach  this year  was to keep our designs simple and manufacturable. The quicker we can build the product, the more often we can test,” explained Hailu Daniel, team president and rising aerospace engineering senior. “Every month, we were able to bring some kind of rocket into the field for testing, and that methodology allowed us to continue to iterate and improve our designs.”

The additional test flights not only allowed them to identify potential issues and refine their rocket, but the extra launch time gave team members more opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the program.

“We were a whole month ahead of schedule compared to last year, so we were able to do four full-scale launches of our competition rocket,” added Andrew Bean, team vice president and chief engineer. “We were also able to achieve the first successful deployment of our airbrake system, which we’ve been working on for three years.”

Despite the team’s stellar performance at the Spaceport America Cup, the competition was not without its own set of unique challenges.

“The competition is out in the hot sand, the winds were blowing, and sand was getting everywhere,” explained Sophie Jack, member of the airbrake sub team and rising sophomore in aerospace engineering. “We were towards the end of our rotation in the competition, and our rocket was sitting out there in the hot sun which led to some overheating issues. We did our test launches bundled up in the Maryland winter, but it’s a little different in the 110-degree heat of New Mexico!”

With copious competition notes taken, the team is already looking ahead to 2024.

“We have a really good base to start off of for next year,” said Daniel. “And while there’s a lot of room to refine our subsystems from avionics to payloads to airbrakes, we’re definitely shooting for a first-place finish!”

The Terrapin (Terps) Rocket Team is always looking for interested and enthusiastic team members, and is open to all majors, from engineering to business and beyond.

“We have sub-teams working on a variety of projects that involve different field of studies,” added Daniel, “ In addition, all members have the opportunity to build and fly their own rockets!”

If you are interested in learning more and want to join a dynamic student team with hands-on opportunities, visit www.terprockets.com.

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July 13, 2023


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We have a really good base to start off of for next year, and while there’s a lot of room to refine our subsystems from avionics to payloads to airbrakes, we’re definitely shooting for a first-place finish!

Hailu Daniel, Team Captain and Aerospace Engineering Rising Senior



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