One of SSC’s funded projects went towards a student group from the Aerospace Engineering Department called the Student Space Systems (SSS). In conversation with Howard Yang, the Technical President for SSS, we found out more about what their organization is all about and what their future plans are. Yang is now a senior at UIUC and has been involved with the organization ever since his freshman year. When asked about what attracted him towards joining SSS, he said, “I liked that it was a small and young organization. There was no predominant hierarchy when I joined; as long as anyone was passionate about what the organization did, they were given responsibility and autonomy.”

SSS was started in 2013 by a group of freshman that saw the lack of an organization dedicated to working on high power rockets. They wanted to build an atmosphere where engineers from various departments could bring together their knowledge and apply it to a real project. Something they want to provide to all of their members are the skills that they would require in actual engineering job positions. SSS has received a great deal from the various engineering departments at UIUC, particularly the Aerospace Engineering department. In the past, SSS has had three major rocket launches, with several other small ones on the side too. The latest of their launches reached a height of 38,000 ft., which was powered using a pre-made solid rocket engine. For their next generation of rockets SSS wishes to develop their own engine, which is where the SSC funding comes in. The SSS Liquid Rocket Engine Project is a student led effort to design, construct, and launch a more sustainable approach to suborbital space travel. The pilot test of their liquid rocket engine will use a waste-free 3D printed rocket combined with a clean burning, liquid methane engine. Funds provided by the SSC cover the cost for 3D printed manufacture of the test material, as well as other supplies and equipment required for testing and construction. Test launches will be carried out this semester and early next fall, followed by the actual launch thereafter.

With companies such as Blue Origin, Spacex and NASA making headlines, there has been increasing interest in rocketry. Even though the US has been pioneering this technology since the 1950’s, there is expansive potential for future engineers in this industry. One of the major challenges for the SSS is that knowledge in this space is very niche and often times it is proprietary or classified. SSS has departmental and student body support, but they wish to connect further with faculty that could potentially provide them with better insights. This project is a fantastic example of how sustainability can be integrated with technology to cater to the needs of human advancement. SSC is excited to see where this project goes and would extend our best wishes to the Student Space Systems.