Alabama Rocket Engineering Systems team, or ARES, has set out to inspire a passion for rocketry and design at The University of Alabama. This team, currently made up of 30 students, is working toward the eventual goal of providing the University direct access to space.
This long-term goal is termed the ARES Initiative and the plan consists of allowing a University satellite to be put into space on a University rocket. ARES is split into both a junior and senior design team, which each work respectively on their portion of this initiative.
“Every project we do somehow relates back to this overall goal of the ARES Initiative,” said Karson Holmes, ARES project manager and senior mechanical engineering student. “This is the second real year of the 15 to 20-year initiative.”
The senior team is currently working on developing the first version of a liquid rocket engine that will eventually be scaled up and be used as an actual launch vehicle.
The junior team is customizing a solid rocket motor to be used to work toward accuracy for high altitude flights. In addition to this, they are working on developing a way to transmit live feed of data back to the ground to track information during the flight.
“It’s common for college groups to buy rocket motors,” said Brett Austin, ARES systems integration lead and aerospace engineering senior. “But for them to be designing one exactly for the flight that they want and then creating one is a pretty big deal.”
The purpose of the two separate teams is to ensure that there is a continuation of the design teams each year in order to maintain work toward this goal. Having two teams allows the information to be easily passed on and continued through the juniors that move up to the senior team.
The ARES junior team will end the school year by competing against 120 colleges from around the world at the Spaceport America Cup. This competition involves trying to fly to 30,000 feet with a student-researched motor.
The end of the senior design project this year will be testing the liquid engine either in California or through a potential partnership with NASA in Huntsville.
“It’s incredible the amount of real engineering that we’re getting to do with this project,” Holmes said. “We’ve made some incredible industry connections and we hope that the University is able to continue having those connections.”
The ARES team is hoping to grow in the upcoming years to include multiple senior design groups all working toward different portions of the initiative in order to reach the end goal of providing UA access to space.
In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s College of Engineering has more than 5,800 students and more than 130 faculty. In recent years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Portz, Boren, Mitchell and Truman scholars.