Small Satellites for Secondary Students (S4) and Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) Summer Camp

S4 Images
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July 13-17 at West Virginia University Department of Physics and Astronomy

Sponsored by the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium, STEM Enterprise, WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy, and the West Virginia Rocketry Association
Hosted by WVU Department of Physics and Astronomy
Delivered by WVU Physics and Astronomy and the NASA IV&V Educator Resource Center

Contacts: Dr. Dimitris Vassiliadis This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / (304) 293-4920 or Todd Ensign This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / (304) 367-8438


Who: Middle and High School teams. A team is defined as a 1-2 coaches (teachers, parents, mentors) and a group of 3-5 students. (If a group has more than 5 students, they must apply as two "teams".) While no experience is required, this program is intended as a follow up to a team's participation in TARC.

When: July 13-17. Most days are 9am-5pm but we will start at 10 am on Monday and plan to end at 3pm on Friday.

Where: The camp will be held on the WVU downtown campus in White Hall, home of the Physics and Astronomy Department.

What: Small Satellites for Secondary Students (S4), is a NASA sponsored initiative developed by Sonoma State University in California where youth learn to solder, build atmospheric science and GPS experiments to be launched on a balloon or small rocket. In the process the students learn to build advanced electronic circuits, solder, program a microprocessor, and test the system before using it.

The Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) is the nation's largest model rocket competition involving up to 1,000 teams of students The students design a custom built rocket to carry a raw egg and electronics up to a specific altitude and back in a pre-defined time safely. The program engages students in engineering, physics, and solving real-world-problems.

Our summer camp will blend the two programs with student teams learning to both build a small satellite and a rocket that can carry their payload up to approx. 1,000 ft. and back safely. The camp will be led by Ph.D. scientists, NASA education outreach specialists, and WVU students who build much larger satellites as part of a separate NASA project. Your team will learn about atmospheric sciences, electronics and soldering, programming, rocket design and simulation, 3D design and 3D printing, and more. Your team will build the satellite and rocket and will perform a static weather balloon test on their satellite and will launch their payload aboard their rocket. Finally, your team will analyze the data collected and present their findings to the public.

Cost: Thanks to our generous sponsors, this program is being offered for FREE but teams will have to cover their own travel, meals, and lodging expenses as needed. In addition, there is an optional module of the S4 that our budget cannot afford for the teams that allows live telemetry (radio communication). This optional module costs approx. $100 if you choose to add it onto your payload.


Summer Camp Schedule (tentative):

On Monday we will begin with presentations on atmospheric and space science and provide recommendations for related experiments. Beginning on Monday and carrying on through Wednesday, the teams will be  developing their payload, programming the Arduino for data collection, and will build selected rocket components compatible with TARC guidelines. On Thursday, at the end of the workshop the students will fly their payloads on a rocket or balloon, collect measurements, and begin their work on data analysis. On Friday, students will analyze data and develop presentation which will be delivered immediately after lunch in lecture hall.
10 am Welcome, introductions, agenda, atmospheric science.
11 am soldering practice and lesson (cover resistors?)
12 pm Lunch
1 pm Continue soldering and pass "test"
2 pm Introduction to Rocket Science
4 pm RockSim (computer lab)
5 pm dismiss
HW rocksim your design, read about payload and sensors, etc.
9 am Introduction to payload
10 am programming activities
12 pm lunch
1 pm Sensors, what they measure, how, what the data may mean?
2 pm 3D Design
4 pm Rocket Building from RockSim
5 pm dismiss
HW finish any 3D designs
9 am Assemble and test solder joints S4 payload
12 pm Lunch
1 pm Testing of sensors
3 pm tethered balloon testing
4:30 pm download data
5 pm dismiss
HW  data analysis
9 am Present initial data
10:30 am Finish rockets
12 pm Lunch
1 pm Mylan Park to launch rockets
2:30 pm Return to WVU
3 pm Download data and analyze
5 pm dismiss
HW work on presentations
9 am How to compete in TARC in 2016
10 am finish presentation
12 pm lunch
1 pm presentations
3 pm dismiss

WVRock has been supporting a number of school aged groups to implement projects called S4.  S4 is the Small Satellites for Secondary Students (S4).  S4 is a partnership between the Education and Public Outreach group at Sonoma State University, Tripoli Rocketry Association’s AeroPac prefecture and the Endeavour Institute.

The website for S4 can be found here.

In addition to the fun and learning for the students and the photos and articles on this site documenting the progress of some of those teams, several resources have been generated during these projects.

These include a spreadsheet that can be used to analyze data logged on an S4 flight.  The spreadsheet can be found here.

Another resource is a presentation that describes some data analysis done on the data returned from an S4 flight.  The presentation can be found here (with fancy animations :-) ) or here (no animations :-( ).

Data has been collected from a number of flights of S4 payloads mentored by WVRock team members.

This data is shown and can be accessed in the table below:

Date Team Launch Vehicle Data Analysis Data Google Earth KML
August 30, 2014 Scieneers Tethered Balloon SCIENEERS-BalloonFlight-20140830.TXT S4_AnalysisSheet_20140830_Scieneers_BalloonFlight1.xlsm
August 30, 2014 MLA Tethered Balloon MLA-BalloonFlight-20140830.TXT S4_AnalysisSheet_20140830_MLA_BalloonFlight1.xlsm  MLA-BalloonFlight-20140830.kml 
October 12, 2014 Scieneers S4 Rocket Scieneers-RocketFlight-20141012.TXT S4_AnalysisSheet_20141012_Scieneers_RocketFlight1.xlsm  20141012-Scieneers-RocketFlight1.kml 
October 12, 2014 MLA S4 Rocket MLA-RocketFlight-20141012.TXT  S4_AnalysisSheet_20141012_MLA_RocketFlight1.xlsm  MLA-RocketFlight-20141012.kml 



High Power Rocketry in WV

Click here for the link to our club HPR engine order form (as of 6/21/2015:  hopefully it permanently remains the right link).  Orders will be made periodically as noted at club meetings.

The WV Rocketry Association is committed to supporting its members in obtaining high power rocketry (HPR) certification if they so desire. To this end, our Level 1 Certification chairman, Chris, has filed for and obtained HPR permission from the FAA for our Mylan Park launch site. As the club president and the FAA designated Range Safety Officer (RSO), I have some suggestions for members as they work their way up the HPR ladder.

1. You may want to use a level 1 composite kit (such as the fiberglass Hawk from MadCow) or if you are making your rocket from scratch, over-engineer it using TTW (through the wall) fins, epoxy for all joints, and heavy-duty shock cords to ensure that you don't fail your certification because your rocket was damaged.

2. Have other members double check your design and evaluate your rocket for safety concerns. For example, I learned that my rail button placed at the upper centering ring was positioned a bit too low, and should have been placed at CG. It was an easy fix, but one that I am glad someone pointed out.

3. Use a simulator such as RockSim to validate your rocket's stability and to determine the most appropriate engine. Just like we do with low power rockets, we should ensure our design is as accurate as possible (by weighing components and the final rocket), running simulations with numerous engines, and testing a variety of environmental conditions. Additionally, make certain that your rocket will be leaving our 8' launch rail with sufficient velocity to be stable, that you have adjusted your ejection delay to allow for the optimum ejection (typically at apogee), and you have sufficient size or numbers of parachutes. Here is an example of the simulation data for my quite heavy level 1 rocket. Be prepared to share this data before launching.

4. WV Rock follows the safety guidelines of the NAR with respect to pairing the proper engine with your rocket. While there is no given weight limit for HPR, the NAR Safety Code sates, the rocket max weight should not exceed 1/3 of the total impulse. For rockets under 20 lbs I suggest dividing avg impulse by 25 to determine maximum rocket weight. For example, let's look at my H400: 400/25 yields rocket max weight ~ 16 Lbs. Since my rocket is only 7 pounds, I feel confident that I am safe using this engine. To be safe, you should always look at your engine's thrust curve. A good source of this data is I can't recommend enough, that you should read more on this topic when you have time. Visit this great discussion on the Rocketry Forum.

5. And remember, as a club we want to ensure that our launches are both safe and by the book. Anyone can make a mistake so let's follow the NASA motto: "If it's not safe, Say So!"

- Simulation results

Engine selection


Simulation control parameters

  • Flight resolution: 800.000000 samples/second
  • Descent resolution: 1.000000 samples/second
  • Method: Explicit Euler
  • End the simulation when the rocket reaches the ground.

Launch conditions

  • Altitude: 1000.00000 Ft.
  • Relative humidity: 50.000 %
  • Temperature: 50.000 Deg. F
  • Pressure: 29.9139 In.
  • Wind speed model: Slightly breezy (8-14 MPH)

    • Low wind speed: 8.0000 MPH
    • High wind speed: 14.9000 MPH

    Wind turbulence: Fairly constant speed (0.01)

    • Frequency: 0.010000 rad/second
  • Wind starts at altitude: 0.00000 Ft.
  • Launch guide angle: 0.001 Deg.
  • Latitude: 40.000 Degrees

Launch guide data:

  • Launch guide length: 96.0000 In.
  • Velocity at launch guide departure: 78.2044 ft/s
  • The launch guide was cleared at : 0.225 Seconds
  • User specified minimum velocity for stable flight: 43.9993 ft/s
  • Minimum velocity for stable flight reached at: 33.5579 In.

Max data values:

  • Maximum acceleration:Vertical (y): 423.612 Ft./s/sHorizontal (x): 0.755 Ft./s/sMagnitude: 423.649 Ft./s/s
  • Maximum velocity:Vertical (y): 242.6027 ft/s, Horizontal (x): 19.7616 ft/s, Magnitude: 243.2171 ft/s
  • Maximum range from launch site: 430.57588 Ft.
  • Maximum altitude: 867.77559 Ft.

Engine ejection charge data:

  • Using a delay time of : 7.000 Seconds
  • Velocity: 15.7053 ft/s
  • Altitude: 867.40639 Ft.

Recovery system data

  • P: Parachute Deployed at : 7.641 Seconds
  • Velocity at deployment: 15.7053 ft/s
  • Altitude at deployment: 867.40639 Ft.
  • Range at deployment: -80.71985 Ft.

Time data

  • Time to burnout: 0.641 Sec.
  • Time to apogee: 7.491 Sec.
  • Optimal ejection delay: 6.850 Sec.

Landing data

  • Successful landing
  • Time to landing: 34.294 Sec.
  • Range at landing: 430.57588
  • Velocity at landing: Vertical: -33.0559 ft/s , Horizontal: 19.7616 ft/s , Magnitude: 38.5125 ft/s


President, Todd Ensign (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 304-367-8438)
Secretary, Ricky Beamer
Treasurer, Brian Hill
Membership, Barbara Pill
NAR Advisor, Ed Pill

Education, Government, and Industry Liaisons:

WVU, Brandon Friedlander
FSU, Galen Hansen
NASA IV&V, Steven Hard
Aurora Flight Sciences, Jamie Higginbotham

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