Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition Rules
IMPORTANT NOTE: “Shall” indicates a requirement, “should” indicates a recommendation.
Summary: design, build and launch a rocket with a 10-lb (minimum) payload closest to 10,000 feet above ground level (AGL) (14,355 feet above mean sea level).
- Rocket shall reach at least 5000 feet AGL and not exceed 12,000 feet AGL to qualify for any of the awards. This altitude will be taken from one or more on-board altimeters (see below) and verified by a judge or designated surrogate during ground recovery. If no altimeter reading is available, judges will have the discretion to estimate whether the rocket was within the qualification altitude band or not.
- Provide a 36" x 48" (approx) poster with a technical description of the rocket design at the IREC (see Deliverables). The poster needs to be self-supporting on a 6' long table (provided) since no partitions or other places to hang a poster will be provided.
- Have the team be present with the poster during the poster session to answer questions from the judges. An informal oral summary of the poster is recommended, followed by questions from the judges.
- Provide 10 copies of a summary of the poster (on standard 8 1/2" x 11" paper, 3 pages minimum) for the judges.
- E-mail pdf versions of the poster and summary to firstname.lastname@example.org before the start of the IREC
- Teams are welcome to take their posters back to their schools for display.
Summary: design, build and launch a rocket with a 10-lb (minimum) payload closest to 23,000 feet above ground level (AGL) (27,300 feet above mean sea level). (Explanatory note 3/11/15: due to high-altitude traffic conflicts, the FAA will probably not approve our waiver request for the original altitude (25,000 ft AGL plus 2000-foot buffer) for the Advanced category. We are currently in discussions with them, and at this point it looks like we will need to change the target altitude to 23,000 feet AGL. Apparently the higher-clearance morning flights last year were more problematic than the FAA anticipated. Please consider ways to reduce your peak altitude such as adding ballast, switching to a lower-impulse motor grain or other propulsion changes, and/or lowering the launch angle. There will still be a 2000-foot buffer, but rockets that exceed 25,000 ft AGL will be disqualified from the competition and may put the entire IREC in jeopardy for next year. We apologize for the inconvenience and will add information as it becomes available.)
- Rocket shall reach at least 12,500 feet AGL and not exceed 27,000 feet AGL to qualify for any of the awards. This altitude will be taken from one or more on-board altimeters (see below) and verified by a judge or designated surrogate during ground recovery. If no altimeter reading is available, judges will have the discretion to estimate whether the rocket was within the qualification altitude band or not.
- Rocket airframe (body tube, nose cone, fins, stage adapters, bulkheads, motor mounts and retainers, etc.) shall be student-designed and built. Exceptions may be made for commercial components that are significantly modified and substantial student design and construction went into the modification.
- New requirement for the 10th IREC: all parachutes shall be student-made. Fruity Chutes has lots of good information on their web site.
NOTE: we had planned to make it a requirement for the propulsion system to be student-designed and -built for the Advanced category of the 10th IREC (2015), but after discussion decided it may be too difficult for non-US teams to get materials in their home countries and/or transport a propulsion system into the US. So STUDENT-BUILT PROPULSION IS NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR EITHER CATEGORY. However, we will be emphasizing student design and construction in the points breakdown for the Advanced category.
- A technical paper, no longer than 6 pages of text (including tables) and 2 (separate) pages of illustrations, describing the rocket design ( (see Deliverables). Late submissions will be assessed a 10% penalty for each 24-hour period after the due date/time. Click the links for the paper format and papers from previous IRECs (note: there was no specified format in in some of the previous years).
- A 15-minute oral presentation on the rocket design will be given at the beginning of the competition. Click the links (all may not be active yet) for the presentation format and presentations from previous IRECs (note: there was no specified format in previous years).
RULES COMMON TO BOTH CATEGORIES:
NOTE: The following apply to all rocket stages.
NOTE: Rockets and teams will be evaluated using the Judging Sheet. (Note 9/25/14: the link has been disabled while we refine the judging sheets).
- Deliverables to be included in the judging are:
-- Electronic copy of single-page "Executive Summary" for each rocket: photo of team with rocket, Basic or Advanced, number of stages with propulsion types, any special features.
-- Electronic copies of written reports and presentation slides (Advanced) or posters and handouts (Basic) in the proper formats
-- Electronic copies of Safety/Risk Analyses in the proper format
-- Applications and semi-monthly updates in the proper format
NOTE: Payload Awards will also be given. Please see the SDL Payload Challenge page for details.
- "Payload" Definition: Rocket shall be designed to deliver the payload to the target altitude independent of any payload function (i.e. the payload could be replaced with ballast of the same mass and form factor with no change to the rocket's trajectory in reaching the target altitude). Payload location in the rocket or method of installation/removal is not specified, however, payloads shall be weighed for the judges prior to flight.
Launch Operations (note: please see Launch Operations page for additional details):
- Any wireless launch controls shall be spread-spectrum or wi-fi.
- See the Safety page for safety rules.
- Non-toxic solid, hybrid, or liquid propulsion is acceptable. Note: ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP), "rocket candy" KNO3/sugar, nitrous oxide, liquid oxygen, propane, hydrogen peroxide, and kerosene are all considered non-toxic. Toxic propellants would require breathing apparatus, special storage and transport infrastructure, extensive personal protective equipment, etc.
- For non-commercial propulsion systems, an instrumented (chamber pressure and/or thrust) full-duration static firing shall be conducted prior to the IREC, with no leaks or major anomalies. The pressure or thrust trace should be sent to ESRA by 31 March 2015.
- All motor/engine ignition circuits/sequences (including upper stages) shall not be armed until all personnel are at least 50 feet away from the rocket. An engine is armed if only one action must occur (i.e. ignition signal) for the engine to ignite. The "arming" action is usually something that enables the ignition signal to ignite the engine. Often it is as simple as a switch in series. Please note that if you have a software-based control circuit that automatically cycles through an arm function and an ignition function, then that "arm" function isn't really an arm function because a single action (starting the launch software) could be enough to ignite the engine. So the software should require a manual interrupt to truly "arm" the engine. See Safety page for more information/rules regarding arming.
- All rocket and payload components must be recovered. Maximum points are awarded if components are in re-flyable condition after recovery (less consumables such as propellants or battery charge).
- Recovery shall use a sensor for primary deployment at or shortly after apogee. NOTE: the requirement that this sensor be attitude-based is waived for the 10th IREC (2015).
- An additional apogee sensor, with a separate power supply, and with a separate electric initiator shall be used for backup deployment. (In this context, “electric initiator” is the device energized by the sensor electronics, which then initiates some other mechanical or chemical energy release to deploy its portion of the recovery system. Examples include electric matches, nichrome wire, flash bulbs, etc.). Note 3/6/14: this sensor can be identical to the primary recovery sensor.
- Rocket descent velocity from apogee to 1500 feet AGL shall be slowed considerably as compared to an unrestrained, streamlined rocket, but not so much that will result in excessively long ground recovery distances. Descent velocity should be between 75 and 150 feet/sec (approx. 50 and 100 mph). NOTE: deployment of the main recovery system at or near apogee will result in a significant loss of points (50%) for recovery.
- Maximum rocket landing speed shall be such that the rocket does not present a hazard. NOTE: rockets impacting at high speed will receive zero points for recovery.
- Any arming devices for stored-energy release for recovery (e.g. black powder, compressed gas, springs, etc.) shall be located on the rocket so that any inadvertent energy release will not impact the person arming the device.
- Ground or flight demonstration of the recovery system (apogee and low-altitude) shall be conducted prior to the IREC. For a ground test, sensors will need to be functionally included in the demonstration (that is, they will need to be "fooled" into initiating their deployment function). Manual extraction of parachutes is acceptable. A video of the demonstration should be submitted to ESRA or posted on a publicly available web site such as YouTube by March 31, 2015. Note 3/26/14: this date is a recommendation to help teams be ready in time for the IREC, not a requirement. The test will need to be completed before the IREC (see first sentence in this paragraph).
- Each rocket stage shall carry a radio beacon or transmitter to aid in finding the rockets after launch. Details are on the Rocket Finding page. Exceptions may be made for rockets with other locating devices if the team has a way of tracking the rocket..
- Wiring critical to safe operation and recovery of the rocket should conform to the wiring guidelines. Other wiring is exempt.
- The rocket shall have sufficient velocity upon leaving the launch rail that it will follow a predictable flight path. The velocity should be at least 100 ft/sec (approx. 70 mph) when it leaves the rail (i.e. the first instant when rocket pitch/yaw rotation is possible).
- Rockets shall be statically stable (but not overstable) for the entire ascent (regardless of cg position, movement of cp due to transonic effects, etc.). Static margin should be between 1 and 2 calibers.
- (Clarification 9/25/13: The following rule applies to rockets that will be launched from unmodified ESRA launch rails. Teams are welcome to provide their own launch rails/towers or attach custom devices to the ESRA rails to support their rockets as alternatives.) Rockets shall have 2 rail guides, together capable of supporting the rocket's weight when suspended from them horizontally. Also, the bottom rail guide shall be capable of supporting the entire rocket's weight when vertical (since it will rest on a mechanical stop in the guide rail). Judges may ask the team to lift their rockets by the rail guides and/or demonstrate that the bottom guide can hold the rocket's weight when vertical (using a table edge, etc.) before allowing them to proceed to the launch rails.
- At least one commercial altimeter shall be flown to record apogee altitude. If multiple altimeters are flown, their readings will be averaged to arrive at the best estimate of apogee altitude. A judge or designated surrogate will accompany the ground recovery team to verify the peak altitude reported by the altimeter. The altitude shall be verified prior to two hours before the Awards Banquet. Therefore, it is to your advantage to be ready to fly sooner rather than later.
- A Safety/Risk Analysis in the format shown (example) identifying potential hazards, risk assessment, and risk mitigating procedures shall be prepared (see Deliverables).
- Teams must consist of members who were matriculated undergraduate or graduate students during the previous academic year (e.g. former students who graduated shortly before the IREC are eligible). There is currently no limit on the number of students per team or how many graduate students are allowed.
- There is currently no limit on the teams' budgets for their rockets. The more sponsorships/donations you can get, the better!
Final Launch Deadline:
- Rockets must launch by 3 PM on the second day of the Competition to qualify. Rockets that are not ready to launch by that time may be allowed to fly on the third day, but they will be disqualified from the Competition.