“I have always been very passionate about space so it was natural for me to go into Aerospace Engineering. I started my master’s this year. Because I like applying techniques and working with people more than just studying, that’s how I ended up working with DARE. I’m the Chief of Propulsion and I have a team that is responsible for testing and manufacturing the engine for Stratos IV.
There are three other rockets that launched before this project. Stratos II and III were hybrid rockets like the one we are currently building, but we are always continuing to iterate. With Stratos IV our goal was to reach space because with Stratos III we saw the potential that we could reach a distance of 100 kilometres.
The Kármán line is 100 kilometres from earth, which is universally agreed upon as where space begins. That was the goal we started with, but sadly we had to change our goals because of financial and logistical challenges. The launch site we can afford is unlikely to have sufficient space for us to launch to 100 kilometres, so now we’re aiming to break the student record by getting to 61 kilometres.
‘We don’t get funded for working on Stratos IV’
At the end of the day, we’re still launching a rocket. What’s cooler than launching an actual rocket? Being there on the pad, putting the rocket in the tower, listening to the countdown, someone will press the red button and the rocket will go up. That feeling is what we want to experience.
It will be happening in Spain at INTA (National Institute for Aerospace Technology), which is the same launch site that we had for Stratos III. We started a crowdfunding campaign and reached our initial goal of affording the insurance to launch. But on top of that, all of us are students who are working on this project. We don’t get funded for working on it and we don’t get any study credits, but we do it because we’re passionate about the project. To go to Spain for four weeks to prepare and launch the rocket, we will have to pay a fee of EUR 850 for each student. That’s for the travel, the stay, and the food. That’s why we are continuing with the campaign. Everybody had put so much effort into it so we want to make it a little easier for them to go. Not every student has EUR 850 lying around.
This year I took fewer courses so I could continue with building the rockets so now I plan to finish my master’s in two years. When I’m done, I would really like to work at a place like ESA (European Space Agency). This project has shown me that I really like working with a team of passionate engineers. Working together, organising the team and building something that is super cool.”
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