Madison, WI- A soaring new STEM organization called the Wisconsin Rocket Society is setting out to inspire people of all ages by making rocketry accessible. “Space can be a bit elitist and we didn’t want that,” comments Nicholas Shepherd, rocketry aficionado and founder of the Wisconsin Rocket Society. “We wanted to make sure that everyone had something to participate in,” he adds. Shepherd says he was inspired to create a rocket society that works on researching projects that are important to the space industry after he first witnessed a rocket launch when he was 12 years old.
Originally based in Madison, the Wisconsin Rocket Society wants to work towards bringing anyone from beginners to seasoned rocketers to join and contribute to the space industry by working on a project called “The Linear Aerospike project.” The project consists of building a new engine to serve as an alternative to conventional oil engines. The new engine will offer an increase of at least 12% in thrust in addition to being safer and more fuel efficient. It will also reduce launch costs that will help small scale launchers blast off. Tests on a 3D printed model of the linear aerospike have already begun.
Aside from this project, members will also have the opportunity to participate in subsequent projects which include building and launching a 70 ft stratospheric rocket called Badger One.
Badger One is Wisconsin Rocket Society’s very own brainchild and will be drone-based, with the ability to recover itself after launch. A smaller version of the rocket that is 20 ft long is set to be launched in late 2019 or early 2020. From there, another Badger One model that is 55 ft will be constructed before the final 70 ft model is assembled. The linear aerospike engine built in the first project will be used to launch Badger One.
If this all seems a bit out of reach, Shepherd says to not worry! The organization encourages people of all different skill levels to get involved. Members learn a variety of skills including the physics involved in launching rockets, circuitry used when building avionics, and team building. Members also get access to learning sessions, can participate in launch events, and sign up to be a part of “The Linear Aerospike project” and “Badger One.”
Currently, the organization consists of 18 members split between two chapters located in Milwaukee and Madison, WI, respectively. Much of the organizations’ support comes from local institutions, such as Sector 67, Madison College, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Though currently funded largely through Shepherd’s own pocket and paid memberships, the organization is also accepting donations from a crowdsourced funding site called Indiegogo and applying for grants from The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA. “If there is one thing we want people to come away with it is that rocketry can be easy to learn and hard to master. Rocketry can seem complex, but it’s not ‘rocket science’.”