Longhorn Rocketry Association faces challenges amid NASA competition

Natalie Venegas

The Longhorn Rocketry Association was chosen to compete at this year’s NASA Student Launch.

Although members said they faced many obstacles that ultimately prevented them from participating in the competition on April 6, the organization plans to launch their NASA student rocket later on their own later this month to see their project through. 

The association is a UT organization focused on designing, building and testing high-powered rockets. After submitting a proposal in September, the association was one of 45 teams from universities around the country chosen to compete at NASA’s Student Launch in Huntsville, Alabama. 

The launch is an annual competition in which groups of rocketeers construct and fly their own rockets. However, project manager Madison Hiu said the organization was unable to meet its test flight deadline and did not compete. 

“It was very exciting when we were chosen to do this competition because we had very little idea of what we were getting ourselves into,” Hiu said. “Each day, this project brought something new and challenging.” 


The goal for the student launch was to launch a rocket with an altitude between 4,000 and 5,500 feet, land it safely and deploy an unmanned aerial vehicle from within the airframe. With the challenge of building and launching a successful rocket on this scale, Hiu, an aerospace engineering junior, said the team struggled with time constraints and technicalities.  

“We were almost taken aback by how rigorous the competition was,” Hiu said. “With such a high-level project, it was a lot for me to help out all the freshman and sophomores who were learning it along the way. It was definitely a learning curve.” 

As part of the launch vehicle team, James Schoener oversaw the construction and design of the rocket. He said the team also faced challenges with resources during the construction of the rocket. 

“A lot of our materials that we ordered took a long time to come in,” said Schoener, an aerospace engineering freshman. “You can’t build a rocket if you don’t have materials for it, and this forced us to be creative.”   

Jake Ashenden, who was part of the payload deployment team, said the competition offered hands-on experience in the aerospace industry.  

“The workload was a lot for our team, but we all worked extremely hard,” said Ashenden, an aerospace engineering freshman. “You learn more from people with hands-on experience, and (Longhorn Rocketry Association) has been eye opening in that sense.”