The story of Delft Aerospace Rocket Engineering starts in 2001, when a group of six enthusiastic students from the Vliegtuigbouwkundige studievereniging (VSV) ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’ (the study society of the Aerospace Engineering) formed a committee dedicated to furthering the practical aspects of rocket engineering. Thus “THE DARE” was founded and at the same time became part of NERO, the Dutch Federation for Rocket Research. This was to acquire an entry level of rocketry knowledge and to collaborate on safety during the annual launch day that was held at ASK ‘t Harde, a military range near Amersfoort. The committee is said to have been started after the founders of the society attended a presentation by a NERO member that got them inspired for amateur rocketry.
In the following years the group remained rather small. However, in 2005 it was decided that DARE and the model airplane committee, EmoCie, should be brought together in a foundation separate from the VSV: Stichting Universalis. Both committees worked together for some time in a small workshop in the basement of the building at the Rotterdamseweg 145 in Delft.
The first large achievement was the development of the DX-1, short for Delft eXperimental one, the first KNO3 -Sorbitol motor developed as a robust and therefore reusable basis for DARE’s rockets. The successor of this rocket motor is still in use and forms the backbone of most our launch campaigns.
When DARE started providing rockets for the annual Cansat competition in 2006 using this DX-1, DARE was encouraged to become more professional and streamlined. With help from prof. Chris Verhoeven, a workshop in the basement of the Electrical Engineering faculty (EWI) was arranged. Simultaneously, the research to more complex engines started, including larger Solid engines and Liquid Nitrous Oxide – Ethane engines.
The Small Rocket Project (SRP) was started and is still held every year for new members that join DARE along with starting their BSc. studies at TU Delft. Over the course of several moths all new members are educated in basic knowledge of rocketry and design, build and launch a small rocket that has to safely transport a raw chicken egg to 1 km altitude and back.
Going further up: Stratos I
In 2007 a number of DARE members decided that it was needed to show what DARE as an organization was capable of. The knowledge was there to start the Stratos project with the goal of breaking the European altitude record for amateur rocketry. This led to the launch of Stratos I in 2009 from Esrange, Sweden. The two-stage KNO3-sorbitol reached 12.3 km altitude, setting the European altitude record for student rocketry.
Also, thanks to this event, DARE shortly after this got the official status of a TU Delft Dreamteam and got a new workshop in the Dreamhall, located at Stevinweg 1. In the meantime EmoCie, the counterpart of DARE in Stichting Universalis, became less and less active and it was decided that DARE should become a society of its own. This was realized on the 16th of April 2010.
Soon after, the next Stratos project was started. It was decided to go for a single-stage Hybrid rocket, aiming for 50 km altitude. Extensive theoretical research was done on Hybrid engines, followed with a test campaign of small scale engines. Afterwards, the project fully kicked off.
Many experimental subsystems were developed, including a 180 kNs engine, the DHX-200 Aurora, a two-stage parachute system for supersonic recovery, a flight computer to control the rocket, and a telemetry system to send all data down to earth. After all these subsystems had come together to create the Stratos II rocket, a launch campaign was organized in cooperation with the Spanish space agency INTA in 2014. Unfortunately, this attempt resulted in a misfire, and the rocket was not launched.
Back home, the bottlenecks were addressed, and critical subsystems redesigned. The improved rocket, renamed to Stratos II+, was launched on the 16th of October 2015, again from INTA. It reached 21.5 km altitude, breaking the European altitude record for student rocketry. The upper part of the rocket was safely recovered, including all payloads and acquired flight data. Many interesting lessons were learned from the data analysis, which are being implemented in all future missions. Read more about the Stratos II campaign here.
Currently, two large projects are active within DARE, being the Aether project and Stratos III. Aether is meant as a technological demonstrator for new technologies within DARE, such as active stabilization and supersonic recovery. Stratos III is again aiming for the student altitude record, which has been broken by HyEnD in 2016. More information on both projects can be found on their respective webpages.
Simultaneously, initial research is done towards Liquid propulsion and thrust vectoring, to be implemented in future missions.
And so, DARE has grown from a small group of enthusiasts to a large and active society of more than 100 members. Students from over 20 nationalities here gain experience with the practical side of rocketry, and develop ever more advanced technologies, used to eventually reach the final goal – space.