New Club Shares Stratospheric Goals

HARP Group
(from left to right) Back Row: Alexis Thoeny, Edgar Aguilar, Angelo Petrolino, Patrick Lewis, Ryan Lee, Aidan Sojourner, Brandon Baeza, Alex Drossler, Michael Sandoval. Front Row: Michaela Boursier, Kristen Kallstrom, Andrea Huang, Denise Lainez, Leah Rivera, Jonathan Carpio, Edward Rodriguez. Not shown: Kevin Bao, Cristian Aguirre, Jenil Thakker, Taylor McCombs, Chantal Naugle, Fabrizio Vergine (Advisor).
Rocket Simulation
Software simulation on laptop showing shockwaves and aerodynamics

This year’s goal for the High-Altitude Rocketry Program (HARP): Launch a rocket from the Black Rock, Nevada desert between September 21st-23rd, and have it go 100,000 feet into the atmosphere.

For comparison, most airplanes reach a comfortable cruising altitude at around 38,000 feet. "When the rocket is that high, you’ll see the curve of the earth," says Alexis Thoeny (AE '19), chairman of the program. "Above will only be the black void of space." You can check out an inspirational video of what they are trying to do.

HARP just started this year. Now there are 22 SJSU members working with a College of Engineering grant and several partners: the Rocket Club and SEDS (spell) within campus, and Holt Tooling Machinery in Redwood City, ANSYS simulation software, and Kyu Shu University in Japan. HARP is still seeking industry sponsor for composites, electronics, and the like.
Simulation Mesh
Software Sim showing Mesh

Thoeny is uniquely prepared to lead this inaugural mission. "I’ve been in the rocket hobby field for a long time, with many similar projects," he says. "I know how they failed, and I plan to apply what I learned from those failures to the rocket design process."

He added, "We’re planning to reach Mach 4, four times the speed of sound, faster than a bullet."

Alexis and Rocket
Alexis with similar vehicle, about ½ size of future rocket

The club’s advisor is Aerospace Engineering assistant professor, Fabrizio Vergine. He recommended that they attempt some limited, realistic options, but the team is going ahead with a two-stage model for their rocket.

Most members have ANSYS on their laptops so they can work on different aspects of the simulations themselves. The simulations shown here help the team gain a solid understanding of fluid mechanics and numerical modeling. SJSU engineering students have free access to the fluid and structural simulation software thanks to centrally installed licenses.*

This year’s mission goal is to top 100,000 feet. Next year, will the team work on a guided return? "We have another goal," says Thoeny, "which is to get members from other disciplines. We’ll soon seek electrical and mechanical engineers, and scientists who study microgravity." The team has launched a crowdfunding campaign and is seeking support.

*Contact for instructions. Student teams can be sponsored by ANSYS with software and specialized training. Click to apply.