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Team of Lassonde students launches rocket to over 18,000 ft at Launch Canada rocketry competition

Lassonde students, rocketry team,, August 4, 2022, at the Launch Canada rocketry competition in Cochrane, Ontario
From left to right: Marjan Siddiqi, Jordan Birley, Matthew Olver, Andreas Tryphonopoulos, Ariyanna Kresnyak, Tricia McMillan

Arbalest Rocketry, a team of Lassonde students, had a successful rocket launch on August 4th as part of the Launch Canada rocketry competition in Cochrane, Ontario. The team took home a third-place prize in their category.

There were over 1,100 student engineers from across Canada who made up 15 teams at the Launch Canada competition. Arbalest comprises six members, including five students/alumni from the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University and one student from Toronto Metropolitan University. Since Arbalest is a relatively new team, it was much smaller than its competitor teams, some of which had over 100 members.

This competition was the first of its kind to take place in Canada, which has traditionally pursued space technology through robotics and satellite communications as opposed to rocketry. Arbalest competed in the basic category.

Once the clouds cleared and blue sky was visible, the team launched their rocket “Goose 2,” which flew to 18,157 ft at a top speed of Mach 1.37 (1,690 km/h).

The team’s rocket was equipped with two parachutes, a smaller drogue that released first and a larger nine ft main parachute. Once the rocket landed, the team had to search for it for over an hour in a nearby forest using a GPS beacon. Once they found it, they saw that no structural damage was sustained.

“Our drogue parachute released successfully but our main parachute had tangled shroud lines,” says Ariyanna Kresnyak, an alum of the Space Engineering program at Lassonde. “We hit the forest floor at 100 km/hr but the fibreglass was tougher than the forest, so we took no damage. The only damage our rocket sustained was that one of our decals melted from the mach speeds.”

The team spent much of the time developing this rocket from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Finding a place to manufacture was challenging,” says Jordan Birley, a fourth-year Space Engineering student at Lassonde. “Much of the School was not available to use during the pandemic which restricted the team. What helped keep us going is that the community is grassroots and built upon people who are taking the initiative to get it done. Persistence is key, and we were very persistent!” Arbalest Rocketry faced numerous challenges on their way to success. In addition to developing the rocket from home and with limited resources, they also faced delays and procedural errors. Ultimately, these lessons brought the team closer together and reinforced the idea that you can often learn more from failures than successes.

Beyond the competition

In addition to participating in the competition, the students have all been volunteering with Launch Canada and helping with everything from researching crown land to leading the logistics for the test-firing of an LR-101 liquid rocket engine in the summer of 2021. “I joined the team when I was in my second year of studies,” says Marjan Siddiqi, team member and third-year Space Engineering student. “The courses I took helped me keep up with the team’s work on a technical level. There is so much you need to learn to build a rocket or even understand the design. Now that I’m in my third year, the courses are making it easier and easier for me. That said, our courses are not dedicated to rocketry, so it does take a lot of initiative to learn the topic.”

Lassonde students, rocketry team 2022, left to right: Tricia McMillan, Andreas Tryphonopoulos, Ariyanna Kresnyak, Jordan Birley
Left to right: Tricia McMillan, Andreas Tryphonopoulos, Ariyanna Kresnyak, Jordan Birley

The rocketry team is just one of many examples of students across the School coming together and combining their passion with their education. For their capstone project, some of the group members worked on a flight stabilization system to help them in the competition. Interdisciplinary collaboration and hands-on learning are highly valued at Lassonde and a big reason for Arbalest team member, Tricia McMillan, choosing to study at the School this September.

“I was initially interested in Lassonde’s Space Engineering program and as I looked into Lassonde further I found out about Arbalest, as well as the co-op program, which both further inspired me to choose Lassonde to pursue my studies,” says  McMillan, first-year Space Engineering student at Lassonde. “I’ve learned a lot about teamwork since joining the team this summer. I also got to have an in-depth look into just how much work a project like this takes and the immense efforts that are put into testing a launch vehicle prior to flight.”

“I found out about Arbalest through Jordan Birley, who is part of the team,” says Matthew Olver, third-year Mechanical Engineering student at Toronto Metropolitan University. “He took part in the ESSENCE satellite mission which I work on and encouraged me to join. I’d definitely recommend that other students pursue opportunities like this. Diversify your opportunities, skills and projects!”

Members of team Arbalest Rocketry posing with the Goose 2 rocket along with other Lassonde School of Engineering community members
Members of team Arbalest Rocketry posing with the Goose 2 rocket along with other Lassonde School of Engineering community members.

Building a rocket is a challenging task and the team completed it with sponsorship and support from community members from around the GTA. Locally this included The Lassonde School of Engineering and the Lassonde Engineering Society. Arbalest expressed great appreciation to these sponsoring partners for their support.

“I began learning about rocketry as a hobby between classes; I never imagined that hobby would result in the Goose 2 launch vehicle,” says Tryphonopoulos. “If I could say one thing about this entire journey it would be to never underestimate where passion and self-learning can take you. I know I can speak for all those at Arbalest when we say we are very excited for all that is to come. We went above the clouds with Goose 2, and Goose 3 will go above the blue!”

By setting a more challenging goal with each project the team will continue to learn and grow. Arbalest Rocketry has now taken on a handful of new students to support their growth and will be back at Launch Canada for 2023 where they aim to fly both faster and higher.

Any students who are interested in learning more or taking part can contact the team at ArbalestRocketry@gmail.com.