5 July 2024
by Sarah Morgan

'Record-breaking' rocket launched by Sheffield students

A supersonic rocket, built by a student team at the University of Sheffield, UK, has reportedly broken a series of UK and European altitude records.

Rocket launch in Calfornia, USA © University of Sheffield

The previous student record of 21,274 feet was held by Danish students.

The rocket, called Desert Winds, was built by the team in less than six months alongside their studies, and has seen them achieve their dream of becoming the first students in the UK to launch a liquid-fuelled rocket – a propulsion system used by the likes of NASA and SpaceX.

The Sheffield students launched their rocket from the Mojave Desert in California, USA, and witnessed its supersonic speed in reaching an altitude of 26,879 feet – the highest any UK team has reached with a rocket of this type since the 1970s, says the University.

The students of Project Sunride built the rocket as part of the University’s engineering student-led projects – an extracurricular programme. 

Project Sunride aims to be the first UK student team to launch a rocket into space by passing the Kármán line, at 62 miles above the ground.

Tom Danvers, an Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Sheffield and Director of Project Sunride, says, ‘Designing, building and launching a liquid rocket in six months initially seemed like a crazy idea. We knew it was something we wanted to achieve as a team, but at first we thought it might take us until 2025 or 2026.’

‘The launch sounded incredible and the flame from the engine was a brilliant sight to see. It’s such a great feeling to set a new altitude record on our first ever attempt.’

The Sheffield students designed and built their own rocket engine, Sunfire III, over the past academic year. The engine was tested in March earlier this year.

The engine was 3D printed out of aluminium and is regeneratively cooled.

The Sheffield students hope to improve their rocket engine in the coming weeks. 

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