Rocketry executes 'ground-breaking' launch

Subterranean search and rescue underway.

Deliverance II - launch rail.jpg

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017
Penn Yan, New York, USA

The Rocketry Division of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team set out Saturday at the crack of dawn to upstate New York for their second launch attempt of the 2016-17 academic year.

This launch was the culmination of two years of development for a hybrid sounding rocket set to compete in the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) hosted this past June in New Mexico. The rocket, DELIVERANCE II, was designed to generate approximately 18,000 Newton-Seconds of total impulse and travel to an altitude of 23,000 ft.

Sounding rockets like DELIVERANCE II launch in relatively low arcs within the atmosphere to collect scientific data, specifically taking advantage of the environment of a sounding rocket’s flight. The team’s hybrid rocket is unlike a typical solid rocket in that it contains two different types of propellant: an oxidizing liquid (nitrous oxide) and solid fuel (paraffin wax).

The September 23rd launch was sponsored by the Upstate Research Rocketry Group (URRG) at Torrey Farms of Potter, NY. This opportunity enabled the Rocketry Division to test the entire rocket system in flight and use of ground support equipment in the field, unlike regular tests which only evaluate thrust on a stationary test stand.

Saturday was the perfect day for rocketry.  At noon, with a clear sky and low winds, DELIVERANCE II was raised to the launch rail, the area was cleared for launch, the rocket was fully loaded with nitrous oxide at 700 psi of pressure, and finally DELIVERANCE II was armed for take-off.

Following a five second countdown a plume of white smoke billowed from DELIVERANCE II, standing ten feet high on its rail. Suddenly the rocket vanished, soaring into the sky, accelerating to its maximum velocity in 3 seconds.

Deliverance II.jpg

Sounding rockets, unlike conventional rockets, don’t constantly burn propellant. Upon reaching maximum velocity, and only a fraction of the way into its climb, DELIVERANCE II finished its burn. It then coasted up to the apex of its flight, decelerating under the force of gravity.

This flight of DELIVERANCE II lasted 45 seconds.  At the apex of the flight the recovery system failed to deploy, meaning no parachute was released, and DELIVERANCE II continued its arc back down to the ground. At the end of the rocket’s flight it buried itself in a nearby field, impacting at over 700 kilometers per hour.

While video recording showed the general area of landing, after a day and a half of coordinated search efforts DELIVERANCE II has not been found.  The team plans to return to the area to continue the search when conditions in the fields are more favourable.

Although the recovery system failed to deploy, the Rocketry Division is excited by the result. This launch was the first successful firing of a hybrid rocket in real-world conditions by the University of Toronto Aerospace Team. In this respect, two years of laborious effort and dedication on the part of the Rocketry Division have paid off.

Footage and data are being reviewed to determine the cause of the system failure, and the learnings from this launch will be incorporated into the next design. While finding DELIVERANCE II would be valuable to analyze the in-flight data recordings, with or without, the Rocketry Division’s next rocket will stand on years of data and learning to reach new heights.

UTAT Innovation Fund Passes

On Thursday March 16th, 2017 voting concluded in the UTSU spring election period.  In addition to many executive positions voted annually this year's ballot also included a binding referendum for the students of St George Campus on whether or not to establish a $2.77 levy on tuition each semester from September 2017 to April 2019.  

This levy, the UTAT Innovation Fund, directly supports the University of Toronto Aerospace team in one of its stated objectives of enhancing opportunities for students at the University of Toronto in applied learning in science and engineering.    For the 2017 to 2019 collection period of the levy that objective will be pursued by funding the development and launch of the Space Systems Division's HERON MK II project, an ambitious undertaking to develop the first student-designed student-constructed microbiology satellite for launch in 2019.  

 The  HERON MK I  cubesat with its protective cowling removed.

The HERON MK I cubesat with its protective cowling removed.

HERON MK II is a 3U cubesat, a small satellite constructed to standard dimensions of approximately 30 by 10 by 10 centimeters.  Cubesats have been in use for a number of years by space agencies and research laboratories and recently universities notably including the University of Toronto which has launched multiple cubesats in recent years from the Space Flight Laboratory at the Institute for Aerospace Studies.  

HERON MK II's mission aims to change the way that scientific experimentation is done in space in three ways:

Reduce costs associated with using astronauts in research by experimenting remotely.

Create opportunity for new scientific discoveries on a variety of potentially dangerous organisms without the risks associated with having astronauts present.

Allow student teams and scientists to adapt HERON MK II's open source blueprints to avoid the long and complex design period necessary with most satellites.

UTAT's Space Systems Division originally developed HERON MK I from the ground up over the course of two years in preparation for the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge (CSDC). Following CSDC in 2016 the Space Systems Division returned to the university with the dream of launching the next iteration of their satellite into space.


The University of Toronto Aerospace Team would like to extend its most sincere gratitude to the undergraduate students of the University of Toronto's St George Campus.


Today, their dream is just steps away from becoming a reality.  The UTAT Innovation Fund passed with a 54.8% "Yes" response.  With this result HERON MK II is now funded to launch and is slated to become the first ever student-funded microsatellite in space.  

The funds of the levy will be distributed into two categories: development and launch.  With the past development of HERON MK I the Space Systems Division already has the basic design of the new iteration of the satellite.  As such the development costs which encompass both design and construction of the craft will total approximately a quarter of the levy funding.  The remaining three quarters of funding will be allocated to the launch of HERON MK II.

The current launch window for the satellite is summer 2019.  Mark your calendar.  

UTAT introduces New Portfolios, Directorships, and Advisory Boards

UTAT introduces New Portfolios, Directorships, and Advisory Boards

Over the past five years, UTAT has grown from a team of under 20 students to a team of more than 100 undergrad and grad students, 6 Divisions, 6 annual competitions, 1 annual aerospace conference, and a strong legacy of alumni start-ups like Kepler and Defiant Labs as well as of employment at top-tier destinations like SpaceX.

To support this growth and enable further development into the future, we are pleased to announce critical additions to UTAT's organizational structure and leadership...