West Point, N.Y. – On April 18, the student-led Space Engineering and Research Rocket (SPEAR) program showcased a two-staged solid rocket, which traveled 5.2 times the speed of sound (nearly 4000 mph) reaching 90km above sea level, at Spaceport America, New Mexico.
“Our work is important for the Army because it is a future means to quickly reconstitute destroyed satellites in the event of conflict,” said the United States Military Academy (USMA) Class of 2022 Cadet Lakin West, a Mechanical Engineering major at USMA.
The rocket design is set to become a reliable and cheap-sounding rocket for future research in the upper atmosphere.
The team was 10km short of the internationally recognized boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space. This boundary is also known as the Karman Line (100km in altitude). According to the SPEAR hypersonic rocket team (HRT), this was the farthest and fastest the team has traveled since 2018.
“Additionally, our work can serve as a test platform for improving the Army’s hypersonic launch vehicle capabilities in the air and space domains,” West said.
The SPEAR-HRT has the potential to become a hypersonic testbed to support DoD research activities.
Funding for hypersonic research increased by 740% between 2015 and 2020. According to the Government Accountability Office, the latest defense budget alone increased funding by 20%.
“Launching and recovering a rocket requires multidisciplinary collaboration,” said Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering (CME) Instructor Capt. Jacob Reddington.
The cross-disciplinary SPEAR-HRT consists of four Mechanical Engineering cadets, an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) cadet and advisors from various departments.
“CME cadets design and build it according to customer requirements; EECS cadets make it smart enough to track and faculty and industry partners coordinate a cooldown,” Reddington said.
“SPEAR has provided this team with the opportunity to work with people and organizations that have unexpectedly high expectations for a bunch of undergraduate students, and I believe we all became better leaders as a result,” said Class of 2022 Cadet Easton Bolin. “As the project manager, I got to lead a handful of extremely competent cadets and mechanical engineers, coordinate with other government agencies, private contractors and constantly make decisions that could make or break our mission.”
West Point's 23rd annual Projects Day will showcase more than 400 research projects by over 1,000 cadets! We welcome and celebrate the over 80 external partners and West Point faculty who contributed to these cadet-led projects. Follow along by signing up for the Projects Day App and learn more about the Academics at West Point.
About West Point
The U. S. Military Academy at West Point is a four-year, co-educational, federal, liberal arts college located 50 miles north of New York City. It was founded in 1802 as America's first college of engineering and continues today as the world’s premier leader-development institution, consistently ranked among top colleges in the country. Its mission remains constant—to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the U. S. Army. For more information about the academy, go to www.westpoint.edu.