A team of Sheffield students have launched themselves into the record books during the world’s biggest competition for student rocket engineers.

Team SunrIde, which is made up of engineering and science students from across the University of Sheffield, broke a 19-year-old UK record for amateur high-powered rockets on Friday 21 June.

The students travelled to New Mexico in the USA to take part in the Spaceport America Cup after designing and building their rocket throughout the academic year as part of the University of Sheffield Space Initiative (SSI).

Their rocket, ‘Helen’, named after Dr Helen Sharman OBE, a Sheffield alumna and the first Briton to go into space, reached 36,274ft in the competition, breaking the previous record of 34,579ft.

Team SunrIde represented The University of Sheffield and the United Kingdom at the Spaceport America Cup

This record has since been officially verified by the UK Rocketry Association (UKRA) and the rocket was successfully recovered.

Vishan Nair, a fourth year mechanical engineering student and Project Lead of the SunrIde Rocket Team, said: “I’m super proud of the team and would like to thank all of them from the bottom of my heart. Without those late nights, the countless meetings throughout the year, and them balancing their full-time studies with this project on the side, this wouldn’t have been possible.

“Setting a new altitude record for the UK has been the aim of our team since we started designing the rocket at the start of the academic year. I’m massively proud that we have fulfilled this amazing feat.”

‘Helen’ is the second rocket built by Team SunrIde

Last year, the SunrIde Team won the James Barrowman Award for Flight Dynamics at the Spaceport America Cup with the successful launch of rocket ‘Amy’, named after Britain’s famous aviation pioneer and University of Sheffield alumna, Amy Johnson.

Crucial to their achievements was the Sheffield Space Initiative which is a programme of extra-curricular activities for any student at the University who is interested in space or space exploration.

Viktor Fedun, a Senior Lecturer in the University’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering, and Academic Lead of SSI and SunrIde, said: “The Sheffield Space Initiative was founded in 2017 to further engage our students in the science and engineering challenges related to the exploration of space.

“The University of Sheffield has shown its leadership in the student space exploration as our success in last year’s competition was an inspiration for three other UK universities to take part in the Spaceport America Cup 2019.”

Team SunrIde is a group of 15 students from all over the world

Gary Verth, a Lecturer at the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics and mentor of the SunrIde team, said: “Through the SSI, it has been extremely rewarding to help mentor our multinational and cross-disciplinary SunrIde team. As well as home students, the team consisted of students from Romania, Greece, Russia, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India and Malaysia.

“Although we only established the SSI in 2017, it has already proved successful in attracting STEM students from around the world who specifically want to get involved with our space science and engineering projects at undergraduate and masters level.

“I must emphasise that all these activities are extracurricular but all the students involved in our SSI projects will be credited for their individual contributions in their final Higher Education Achievement Reports.”

Vishan Nair, Project Lead of SunrIde, believes that the team has the potential to evolve into a leading rocket engineering programme in the UK.

He said: “Sheffield is in a unique spot for being consistent and continuously breaking boundaries in UK student rocketry.

“With the great influx of support from the different departments and the University’s Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre (AMRC), we can truly define ourselves and be at the forefront of rocket engineering in the UK.”


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