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USYD wins New Mexico rocket-making competition

USYD wins New Mexico rocket-making competition

Students from the University of Sydney have won a prestigious rocket-making competition held in New Mexico.

The 19-person team was announced as the overall winner of the Spaceport America Cup intercollegiate competition early on Sunday morning, after securing first place in three categories.

It came following a three-week delay in the announcement of the results caused by a data recovery error.

Their rocket, Bluewren, was constructed using a custom-designed and manufactured carbon fibre airframe with the use of a commercial solid propellant allowing it to achieve speeds 1.7 times the speed of sound.


Judges from the competition praised the payload Callistemon for its innovative design as a solution to capturing space junk, which is becoming a growing problem in the space industry.

Their success came off the back of the successful launch of Bluewren to a height of nearly 30,000 feet.

Callistemon is not just a technical demonstration, but the culmination of novel research conducted by our payload team into the use of computer vision for the dynamic targeting of space debris,” said Bhavesh Balaji, payload director of the USYD team.

The University of Sydney Rocketry Team is the oldest student-led rocketry team in Australia. It was created for aerospace and science students who want to showcase their skills in designing and manufacturing rockets and other space technologies in a real-world setting.


The USYD team competed against 97 other student teams from countries across the world, including prestigious institutions such as the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and ETH Zurich.

The team had previously competed in and won the 10,000 feet launch category in the 2019 Cup while coming in as runners-up in the 2021 virtual competition.

Speaking about their win, executive director of the Rocketry Team, Alison Lockley, said: “This has been the most incredible and rewarding experience and I could not be prouder. We have overcome some significant challenges to get here and it speaks to the tenacity and dedication of every person on my team that we have been able to achieve this.” 

The team’s academic supervisor, Associate Professor Matthew, pointed to the benefits gained by students from their success in the competition.

“The practical, hands-on experience of designing and building a competition rocket has augmented the students’ technical, project management, logistics and systems engineering skills. However, perhaps most importantly, they have learnt the value of both leadership and team-work – indispensable skills in the aerospace industry.”

The rocketry team spoke to Space Connect during the lead-up to the challenge and outlined the design process for their rocket and payload system.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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