Static Test Rig Progress

The CUSF team have been building a rig to test a rocket motor whilst it is firing. The rig is designed to mechanically separate the X-Y-Z components of thrust, using a series of spring steel flexures. The 3 axes of thrust are then measured by 5 separate load cells to get the axial thrust, off-axis thrust and off-axis moments from the rocket motor.

This week, one of the measurement arms has had the flexures assembled and load cells bolted on. The main thrust bearing cage has also almost been finished.

New Website

After a long time working on it, we launched our new website yesterday. We hope the change makes the site more user friendly and easy to navigate. We’ll be adding more content over the next few weeks.

Thanks to everyone on the CU Spaceflight team who was involved with the new site, we think it has been worth it!

Team Meeting

We have some new members working on new Arduino trackers, following in the footsteps of the very successful Weasel project last year.

In the vein of ramping up work on rockets this year, some have been ordered! We’re getting a LOC Precision ISIS, a LOC Precision Caliber ISP and a LOC Precision Bruiser EXP. Hopefully the ISIS will arrive in time to get playing as soon as possible, while the Bruiser should be big enough to start testing a lot of electronics.

The Weasel Arduino Tracker launched on Nova 19
The Weasel Arduino Tracker launched on Nova 19

UKHAS Conference

Several CU Spaceflight members attended the first annual UKHAS conference in Islington, London this weekend.

Jon and Adam gave a talk introducing the society and the new Wombat radios and flight computers which are currently in development.


This was followed by Ed’s talk on the Squirrel smartphone flight computer project.



Nova 19 Recovered

After four months in a tree in Exning, the Nova 19 payloads (Squirrel and Weasel) have been recovered thanks to the help of some local tree surgeons.

The Weasel payload with its Canon A560 camera took some stunning photographs.

Nova 19 Horizon
The view from Nova 19, miles above the clouds.

See all of the Nova 19 images on Flickr.

The Squirrel Nexus One smartphone was also extremely successful, taking some excellent images and videos.

The Android Nexus One smartphone from project Squirrel
A shot from the Android Nexus One smartphone from project Squirrel

Micrel Prototype Radio

One of the current projects is to build a radio module to be a replacement for the excellent, but large and expensive, Radiometrix NTX2.

A first prototype uses the Micrel MICRF112 10mW FSK transmitter with a varactor controlled crystal pulling arrangement. An onboard variable capacitor also allows tuning of the centre frequency to anywhere in the LPD433 ISM band.

This prototype was soldered up today and is working well. We hope to develop this technique further to produce a cheap & reliable radio capable of MFSK and DominoEX as well as the standard 50/300 baud RTTY.

MICRF112 Prototype
MICRF112 Prototype under test

Introduction to the Comet Project

Admin note: originally a page published 27/09/2011

The aim of the Comet Project is to develop a small sounding rocket system that will be launched from a helium balloon at around 30km altitude. The rocket will have a maximum apogee of around 150km, taking it past the official boundary boundary of space that is set at 100km. Launching at this altitude is much more efficient as air density is only around 1% of its value at ground level, so much less energy is wasted by the rocket in drag. The reduced pressure of the environment also allows further expansion through the nozzle of the rocket motor, increasing the thrust from a given motor. For small rockets, the increased difficulty of launching from a balloon is outweighed by these benefits and provides great potential for payload carrying at minimum fuel cost.

Advanced computer modelling and prototyping has begun and our current concept is two-stage, powered by two commercially available L-class motors. The casing will be constructed by the team with carbon-fibre prepreg by using an industrial standard autoclave and precision moulds.

Prototype Mould Created

A prototype mould of the nosecone and frontal body section has already been manufactured by Cambridge Precision, one of our Platinum Sponsors. The mould was hand finished and polished to an almost mirror sheen before being chemically coated in a layer of teflon using Freekote 44. Prototype rocket body sections will now be constructed and tested with different composite laminations before a full carbon-fibre rocket will be built for a ground launch.


To test launch high-power rockets from UKRA (united Kingdom Rocketry Association) rocketry sites certification exams must be passed for the appropriate motor power of the rocket. We have embarked on achieving UKRA certification with a small test rocket, “Racing Blue”. The inset video shows its maiden flight at Big EARS 2008, when it passed the Level 1 Certification exam. It reached an altitude of roughly 960m and accelerated to around 380 mph in 1.8 seconds. On its next flight, it should pass Level 2 certification and allow us to fly rockets up to L-Class motors. However, this second launch has been delayed by bad weather several times.

Nova 19 – Another CUSF Altitude Record

Nova 19, the 19th official Cambridge University Spaceflight payload was launched today from Churchill College.

Filling was impeded due to very high winds and heavy rain showers, but eventually the payload carrying the Squirrel Nexus One smartphone and the Arduino tracker was in the air.

Nova 19 Filling
Nova 19 Filling

After beating the UK altitude record for high altitude balloons at 36206m, Nova 19 landed in a tree in Exning. We were unable to retrieve it, but stay tuned for the photos and videos when we get it back!

Nova 19 Tie Off
Nova 19 Tie Off

Nova 19 in the tree
Nova 19's landing site

Nova 18 Launch

Today saw the launch of Nova 18, carrying the Squirrel smartphone and the Ferret Arduino tracker. Ferret has had some bugfixes since its last flight and seemed to perform much better this time.

The Nova 18 Payloads
The Nova 18 Payloads

The Squirrel smartphone was running a custom app called SquirrelPhoto enabling it to take pictures at set intervals. Unfortunately the software crashed at about 14km, but some excellent images were recorded up until that point.

Nova 18 from 14km by the Squirrel smartphone
Nova 18 from 14km by the Squirrel smartphone

Some work is planned for the Squirrel software and another flight can be expected soon, perhaps with video!