TREL — an interdisciplinary research lab that prepares students for a new era of human spaceflight through hands-on projects in rocketry and aerospace — is on a mission to launch a 28-foot-liquid bipropellant rocket into space by the end of 2021.
Supported by NI’s testing hardware, simulation systems, and guidance rooted in bold, ambitious engineering, TREL is preparing to launch the most powerful collegiate rocket ever built.
Named Halcyon, TREL’s rocket has been entered into the Base11 Space Challenge — an international competition that tasks student-led teams to design, build and launch a liquid-propelled, single-stage rocket to an altitude of 100 kilometers. This is the official boundary between earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
A successful mission would place Halcyon 30 times farther than the previous collegiate altitude record for a liquid bipropellant rocket and win the TREL team a $1 million grand prize.
As Halcyon’s launch date approaches, the TREL team is shifting its focus from component design and manufacturing to system integration and testing. To support TREL’s testing efforts, NI will provide over $150,000 of modular data-acquisition equipment and software to help the team collect comprehensive data about Halcyon’s systems through a series of tests.
“We are incredibly proud to support TREL and their endeavors,” noted Nick Butler, chief marketing lead for the Aerospace, Defense, and Government Business Unit at NI. “These students and researchers epitomize what it means to Engineer Ambitiously, and their applications represent a great example of the ongoing convergence of design, test, and integration where digital technologies are used to accelerate productivity, innovation, and discovery.”
TREL’s upcoming hot-fire test, the first in a series of tests enabled by NI, is a full-scale burn of the TXE-1 engine that will generate over 2,500 pounds of thrust. This test will collect crucial rocket engine metrics like thrust, efficiency, and temperature that will be used to optimize the lighter TXE-2 “Havoc” Engine, which will launch Halcyon into space later this year.
Another vital milestone for the lab is the hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) test, a virtual re-creation, and simulation of the entire rocket in flight, and a step towards the digital transformation of design and test. NI has created a custom testing rack that will create digital twins of each rocket component, which can be integrated to create a full-scale simulation of Halcyon in flight.
With NI’s support, the TREL team will push the boundaries of collegiate rocketry and accelerate their own personal development.
“Working with NI to test Halcyon has been a privilege. The experience is invaluable, as this level of dynamic testing is generally outside the scope of university classwork but ubiquitous in the industry. With our new ability to test Halcyon in a wide range of mission scenarios, come launch day, we’ll be prepared for anything,” said Stefan deBruyn, a senior avionics software engineer with TREL.
NI’s work with TREL is representative of its passion to develop the next wave of testing equipment and testing engineers. NI is supporting innovation at education institutions across the country through skills development training, makerspaces, and engineering projects.
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