In early August, a team of students from U of T Engineering launched Canada’s first-ever experimental hybrid rocket.
The successful flight of their vehicle — dubbed Defiance — earned them first place in the Advanced Flight category of Launch Canada, a new industry-partnered intercollegiate rocket competition. Taking place August 1 – 6, 2022 in Cochrane, Ont., the competition featured 10 student rocketry teams from across the country.
“When we found out that we had won, it was actually kind of a strange moment,” says Alireza Razavi (EngSci 2T0 + PEY, UTIAS MASc candidate), director of the Rocketry Division of the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT), which includes more than 50 undergraduate and graduate students from U of T Engineering, as well as from other faculties.
“For months, our team had been so completely and utterly focused on the launch itself. Once it happened, many of us didn’t really know what to feel. But it was really amazing to see the rocket finally fly off, a moment which had six years of effort from a whole lot of people behind it.”
The UTAT Rocketry Division has been working on Defiance since 2016. Initially, the design goal was to break the Canadian amateur rocketry altitude record, but several challenges arose that caused the team to change direction.
“Any rocket needs a test verified engine before it can be launched safely, and to test an engine, you need a suitable engine test facility,” says Razavi.
“We had a small facility at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, but this was not suitable for the scale of engine we wanted to build for Defiance. Creating a new test facility turned out to be much more complicated and expensive than we thought. On top of that, the original design of the rocket was very slender and long, which presented challenges in terms of structural integrity.”