Five engineering mechanics and astronautics seniors have earned third prize in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation annual Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition. The 2012–2013 competition asked teams to design a reusable launch vehicle with between 10,000- and 20,000-pound low-earth-orbit payload capability.
The UW-Madison group, Team Euclidean SpaceTec, designed the Zenith Orbiter and Condor Launch System. The system delivers its payload into low-earth orbit through the Condor, a fully autonomous returnable fixed-wing flight propulsion system that is connected through a mechanically retractable attachment module to the Zenith Orbiter. Controlled by an unmanned aerial vehicle, the Zenith Orbiter is similar to the original 1970s U.S. Space Shuttle and contains the “deliverable” object–for example, a satellite, equipment for the International Space Station, or passengers. Overall, the system is 98 percent reusable.
The team, which received a $500 award, included Reid Carlson, Matt Dhennin, Brent McCarthy, Alex Schwartz and Steve Wishau.