Jack Davies and Matthew Furkert with their rocket, ‘Into the Blue’. PHOTOS/UNIVERSITY OF CANTERBURY

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

A former Rathkeale College pupil is reaching new heights, after entering his rocket into the first Australian rocket competition.

Designed and built by students from the University of Canterbury Aerospace Club, ‘Into the Blue’ can reach an altitude of more than nine kilometres.

Former Rathkeale College pupil Matthew Furkert, 20, is in his third year at Canterbury, studying a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with Honours.

‘Into the Blue’ blasts off at a test launch.

Furkert said he got interested in rockets at a young age, but it wasn’t until university that he became more involved.

He’d made “little rockets” in high school and joined the student-led university Aerospace Club when it started in October 2017.

“I didn’t really know what I could do with engineering,” he said. “There wasn’t an aerospace programme for undergrad students.”

He’s now the club president.

Supported by the mechanical engineering faculty, the club has around 200 members with eight senior members leading the rocket build, including a project manager, and leaders for software, mechatronics [mechanical electronics], rocket production, and composites development.

The group finished building the rocket in July last year and has been testing it in preparation for the first Australasian Universities Rocket Competition to be held in Queensland in April.

It features cutting-edge technology like an active air-braking system and real-time data transmission, allowing the students to control the angle of the brakes and rate of ascent.

Building rockets from scratch is an expensive hobby, though.

The group has spent about $6000 on the project – $1000 to build the rocket, $1000 on brakes, and $4000 on test flights.

Furkert said the group had taken a “more technical” approach to get the higher altitude – the goal of the competition is to reach 9144 metres.

“The first test was all right. We were just testing the structural stability.”

A later launch attempt revealed an error in their code, preventing the rocket from reaching the desired height.

However, the rocket was cleared at their most recent test launch, reaching well over the requirement at 9500m.

The club is looking at developing high altitude rockets and Furkert is keen to continue with rockets, looking to one day work in the aerospace industry.

“It’s been really cool,” he said.

Five of the club members will head to Australia for the competition and the group is looking for sponsorship. More information about the project can be found on their website: ucaerospace.com