CanSat: Launchday preparation!

Next week, on the 31st of March, DARE will be organising the launch day for the Dutch CanSat competition of 2017. In this event, DARE will launch several so-called CanSats (can-sized “satellites”) built by teams of Dutch high school students to one kilometer altitude after which they will be deployed from the rocket and descend on their own parachutes, performing their own missions on the way down.

The rockets for the CanSat Competition 2016-2017: The CanSat Launcher V7.4

The idea of a CanSat competition has originated from the USA and Japan, where it was originally a competition between teams from several universities. The idea has since then been implemented in several different competitions worldwide, albeit in different formats. In 2006, the first Dutch CanSat competition was organised by the Delft University of Technology. DARE developed and operated the rockets for this competition. This competition had been organised every year up to 2014.

This year, however, a new Dutch CanSat competition has been organised by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) in cooperation with the Dutch branch of the European Space Education Resource Office (ESERO NL). The competition is handled by the NEMO Science Museum while DARE is again providing the rockets for the competition. On the 31st of March, the best 10 CanSats will be launched for the final round of this years’ competition.
To launch these 10 CanSats to one-kilometre altitude, DARE will bring these three rockets to the CanSat launch day. Each of these rockets can carry five CanSats to the required altitude, the third rocket is a backup in case any problems arise on the launch day. Final preparations for these rockets will occur at the start of next week with applying decals to the rockets and foam to fit the specific payload configuration. This will ensure that the CanSats will not move around inside the rocket during their ascent.

These are the racks in which the CanSats will be loaded. Each level can carry two CanSats next to each other, but for this launch day only the top rack will carry two CanSats, the rest will carry one. Any excess space is padded with soft foam.

The two modules that comprise the CanSat Launcher V7.4.

On the launch day, the procedures for the CanSat launches are as follows. To ensure that the timetable for the launches is kept, the motor modules of the rockets will be separated from the rockets. This feature of the rocket allows the launches to proceed very efficiently. While our pyrotechnicians then load our DX1-EE engine into the motor module, two teams will be preparing the two rockets for their launch. After the recovery systems of the rockets have been prepared, the CanSats will be loaded into the rocket by the high school teams about half an hour before the launch. The payload module will then be brought to the pyrotechnic area, where the full rocket is assembled and placed in the launch tower.

Finally, procedures are completed and the rocket will be launched. Approximately 12 seconds after liftoff, the rocket will have reached an altitude of one kilometer and the CanSats are deployed from the rocket. Shortly afterwards, the CanSat Launcher will deploy its own parachute. During this time, the high school teams will be collecting telemetry data from their CanSats on the way down.
Over the years we have gained a lot of experience with this system, and we are confident that our rockets will carry all CanSats to their deployment. We hope all the high school teams will be able to enjoy this launch day with their CanSats performing their mission correctly, just as I did when I participated in the Dutch CanSat competition before joining DARE!