From the Ground Up

Abigail Johnson/The Avion Newspaper

Abigail Johnson/Senior Reporter

The Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers and Developers Society (ERFSEDS) is a highly active club on campus that promotes and conducts rocketry experimentation and research here at Embry-Riddle. The organization has been around for 25 years, as of this Spring, and has profoundly influenced the lives of several students that have moved on to work for incredible companies in the aerospace industry.

Every semester ERFSEDS creates and completes projects that expand their teamwork skills. Some of these projects get launched as test flights for experimentation at a small farm called Clegg’s Sod Farm located in Bunnell, Florida. It is here every month that NEFAR (the Northeast Florida Association of Rocketry) hosts an opportunity for members and students of all kind to launch rockets off into the sky. “As a member of a rocketry club, it is important to be able to understand and work with teams that you don’t see on a daily basis, and Bunnell [NEFAR] is a great way to do that,” active ERFSEDS member and AE student Eric Fielman says.

This past Saturday, Feb. 10, ERFSEDS staked their claim as an established collegiate rocketry club by launching two club projects successfully off the launch pads. Artemis X2, a past program test rocket, followed by the maiden flight of Gryphus I, a new experimental project, both were prepped, loaded and launched almost flawlessly and safely returned to the ground by parachute. Gryphus I was then launched a second time without its original duct to gather data on its change of thrust. Overall the experience was inspiring and enjoyable for everyone involved. “I’ve built many rockets before,” Enrique Ayala, an AE student in the club, explains. “That was the first time I went to a public rocket launch event. It was fun!”

The Falcon Heavy wasn’t the only historical maiden launch this week. The launch of Gryphus I was an essential event for the students involved in ERFSEDS, especially the members engaged in Project Gryphus. “I wanted to study thrust augmentation on solid-fueled rockets,” James Le, ERFSEDS treasurer and the project lead for Gryphus, says in an interview. “There is not a lot of research that has been done on thrust augmentation and air augmentation on rockets that use solid fuel and I wanted to fill that gap.” Le proposed this project last semester and began building Gryphus I with his team last fall. “The concept is to mix air with rocket exhaust to provide the rocket with more thrust. Right now we’ve built one and we have the second one in the works.” It was questioned by many club members why Gryphus was chosen to be the name of this program and what the name meant. “The point is to have a less expensive rocket with more thrust…. most of our parts were scavenged from parts across the lab… and a gryphus is a creature that scavenges,” explains Le.

The Artemis X2 rocket, while not as new, was still a significant launch for new ERFSEDS members as well as ERFSEDS alumni. The club retired their Artemis program, but the organization still uses it as a promotional flying beacon. “Artemis X2 was originally used as a test vehicle to test a system for a competition rocket. It has a 4-inch diameter and weighs 18 pounds. It was supposed to launch in the fall to show new members how to build a rocket… and [for] prepping systems for launch,” James Le says. However, it was various things that made this launch particularly interesting. It was decided before launch to include a payload inside the Artemis X2, and, inspired by the recent SpaceX launch, a red Hotwheels Tesla Roadster was strapped inside for flight. Spaceflight Operations student Justus Bishop proposed the idea. “I like Elon Musk and I can’t afford a flamethrower,” Bishop told the Avion. “Is there any better reason?” His team leader, James Le, was in full support of the idea. Le proclaims, “As far as we know, the Hotwheels Tesla Roadster is the highest Tesla Roadster to be launched on a solid propellant rocket. It went to 7,000 feet.”

Vipul Telang/The Avion Newspaper

After a successful day in Bunnell, ERFSEDS left happily with both rockets fully intact and rapidly recovered. Artemis X2 will be placed back into retirement in the ERFSEDS/ERPL lab until it is needed to launch again. Gryphus I, however, will continue to be used for research about thrust in rocketry. “I thought the whole process went well,” Le told the Avion after returning from Bunnell. “But we don’t know yet… [we won’t] until the data of the flight is processed. The duct added a lot of mass and drag… compared to without the duct, but we weren’t testing for that. We were testing for the acceleration.” Le was rewarded kindly by fellow members of ERFSEDS and his teammates that worked with him on the project after the end of the day. “We had a great time working on the Artemis X2 and Project Gryphus,” said Ricardo Iparrairre, and AE student and ERFSEDS member. “In my opinion, James is one of the best ERFSEDS mentors and a good leader.”

ERFSEDS will continue throughout this semester to work on Project Gryphus as well as its current competition rocket that will launch this summer, PathfinderVIII, and numerous other projects funded through the club. Small ideas can lead to significant victories, as so many ERFSEDS officers and members demonstrate with their rockets that go from the ground up.