June 22, 2024

Gruyère Space Program: the first Swiss rocket to fly into space

The rocket must not only fly into space, but also be able to return and land safely again.

ZVG/Gruyere space programme

Students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have built their own rocket. Your goal: space. Current tests are promising.

The idea and inspiration came from the American space company SpaceX. Elon Musk’s company has developed the first rockets that can take off, stay vertical in the air, and land safely and without any damage.

A group of five students from Freiburg studying at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) recreated such a rocket.

To do this, they founded the “Gruyère Space Program” association and have been developing all the same components and command and control mechanisms over the past three years.

“We started with a blank piece of paper,” says Julie Boehing, co-founder of the Gruyere Space Program.

Students taking the test

During the test, students must solve problems that arise spontaneously.

SRF/Oliver Kemba

The result is a real rocket: two and a half meters high, weighing one hundred kilograms, with an engine that works in the same way as a large rocket, but on a smaller scale. Its name: Hummingbird – like a bird that can float in place in the air.

Space companies are pursuing the project

They have already put in several thousand hours of work and are assisted by about 15 students. Companies and individuals from the region as well as space companies invested a total of 200 thousand francs in the project. Space companies also helped with advice.

The students have a big goal. They want to build the first Swiss rocket that can not only fly into space, but also come back and land safely again. The Gruyère space program is the first step towards this. Various tests are currently underway.

Tests in a gravel pit

And in a gravel pit outside Grandvilleard in the Freiburg-Gruyère region, the drive will be tested from the ground up, just like the real start.

The hardest thing about propulsion and control is ensuring that the rocket remains stable when it is in the air. Algorithms are needed that precisely align the drive so that the rocket is vertical. It does so independently, without external control.

Fire during missile testing

The missile exploding during the test would be the worst case scenario. Fortunately, everything went well.

ZVG/Gruyere space programme

“It’s like trying to balance a pencil on your finger,” says Jeremy Marciak, the person in charge.

That’s just a 100-kilogram rocket with fuel that can explode. If something goes wrong, it could be dangerous.

The first flights are planned for the summer

For this purpose, Lionel Isoz developed the so-called “flight termination system”. A kind of safety net that is triggered if the rocket loses its balance.

After that, it will fall safely to the ground without exploding. However, Isuz hopes he will never have to use security software.

However, there is no need for a test drive in a gravel pit. Test passed. This will be repeated several times until the first flight takes place in the summer.

The rocket is expected to fly up to ten meters in the air in the summer, where it will initially be attached to a rope suspended on a crane, then step by step higher and higher.

One day, the team wants to fly to the stars: their goal is to build the first Swiss rocket that can fly into space and land safely on Earth.

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