It’s not rocket science: UT students plan to bring rockets back down to earth

Tisha Shrestha, General News Reporter

Senior aerospace design students are using this semester to design a propulsive landing method to safely bring rocket engines back to the ground for future launches rather than being discarded. 

The Texas Rocket Engineering Lab collaborated with Aerospace Senior Design to create the Texas Launch and Land Project, which focuses on developing a takeoff and landing rocket named CERMIT with propulsive landing capabilities.

“As of right now, at the University, there’s nothing really tackling propulsive landing,” CERMIT team member Holden Richards said.

According to Launch and Land’s HornRaiser page, CERMIT is currently being designed to fly to an altitude of 50 meters, then land itself within 10 meters of its initial launching spot.

“The industry is going in a direction where we’re looking at propulsive landing, so you have an engine that throttles and brings the rocket back down on land,” aerospace engineering senior Richards said. “We’re trying to bring that kind of solution to a collegiate level.”

Currently, Launch and Land is looking to raise $10,000 to go toward the development of a mobile test stand and engine. Along with fundraising, Launch and Land is also in its initial design phase, Richards said.

Launch and Land plans on competing in the Collegiate Propulsive Lander Challenge, a global competition to build self-landing rockets. Currently, Launch and Land is working toward the first competition milestone where they will take an engine, launch it and demonstrate that it can “vector control” or move the direction of the rocket remotely, Richards said.

“It’s a lot of laying the groundwork and setting this up so that other people beyond us can actually move forward,” aerospace engineering senior Evan Silva said.