September 2019 

Purdue Orbital President’s Club Newsletter

Purdue Orbital began in the autumn of 2015 as the IEEE Purdue Rocket Team, commencing Orbital’s first project and goal, Project CYGNET.  This project involves launching a rocket to orbit from a platform aboard a high-altitude balloon. Orbital took off by testing the fundamental components necessary to construct rockets and balloons at different locations both on and off campus. After two years of learning about rockets and balloons, our team was ready to test the rockoon (rocket-balloon) concept for the first time. The upcoming Hapsis I mission on December 15, 2019, aims to continue Orbital’s progress with yet another giant leap. 

Project CYGNET is poised to deliver a low-cost, reusable orbital insertion system to greatly increase the accessibility of Low Earth Orbit by the public. Endeavors since Orbital’s founding in 2015 have placed the team several steps closer to achieving this goal.  The overarching goals encapsulated by the project include: 

  1. Testing the technical feasibility of a rockoon, a system based around a High Altitude Balloon lifting a payload-delivery rocket that would launch at an elevated altitude.

  2. Enabling system recovery for future development and collecting data used for future flights.

  3. Effectively launching an orbital rocket in affiliation with Project CYGNET in order to efficiently deliver a payload (CubeSat).

This year, Orbital is thrilled to announce a dualistic approach to development. Teams have been expanded in order to simultaneously pursue multiple goals, allowing for a seamless transition between the Hapsis missions and orbital rocket design. The Hapsis flights are a series of small-scale launches to prove and refine the rockoon concept. Once Hapsis I is complete, Orbital will be able to evaluate the results of the mission and refine subsystems for the Hapsis II launch. Simultaneously, Orbital is working towards designing the orbital payload delivery rocket. This research is being led by our Research and Development Directorate, organized into four subcategories: Mission Design, Propulsion, Special Projects, and GNC (Guidance, Navigation, and Controls).  

We have concluded that a hydrogen peroxide and paraffin wax combination is the best propellant for our purposes. The subteams will be testing these materials on-site at Purdue’s Zucrow Labs- the United States’ largest propulsion lab. Additionally, we are studying staging techniques to deploy our multi-stage rocket and dispose of the individual stage components.  These methods allow us to reach orbit by dropping unnecessary weight once each individual phase of the rocket’s fuel is exhausted.

Orbital has continually expanded our community and industry outreach programs, furthering our community involvement operations. Most recently, Purdue Research Foundation (PRF) partnered with Orbital in coordination with Scott Henderson, Purdue Research Foundation’s chief entrepreneurial officer who specializes in connecting various entrepreneurial organizations such as Purdue Orbital. We are very excited to develop this partnership and utilize the opportunity to share information about Orbital not only with members of the Purdue community, but with the rest of the world. Purdue Orbital will be developing outreach events and marketing campaigns in affiliation with Purdue Research Foundation and will inform the President’s Club of changes via future monthly newsletters.

During the summer of 2019, Orbital participated in events on campus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Specifically, we displayed our test rocket and explained organizational objectives to visitors and viewed similar projects in order to expand interdisciplinary relations. The opportunity to inspire the next generation of students entering the field of aerospace development was a most wonderful and gratifying experience.

Recently, Orbital has been invited to participate in Purdue’s Astronaut Reunion event taking place from October 10 through October 13, 2019. The Enterprise team and several of our engineering teams will be present at the event. We will be connecting with astronauts to hear their stories and seek insights about the upcoming decades of spaceflight. Additionally, we plan on connecting with the public and other aerospace-minded individuals to build community relations and raise awareness of our mission. Our President has been selected to be the student emcee at the astronaut reunion luncheon including over a dozen living Purdue astronauts, NASA flight directors, Purdue leadership, and roughly 600 other distinguished guests. 

         Looking into the near future, Orbital’s objectives include the launch of the Hapsis I rockoon system into suborbital flight, development of Hapsis II in order to plan for orbital flight, and development of orbital rocket systems. These are ambitious goals that Orbital is poised to accomplish on a rapid timeline. The teams are currently finalizing the Hapsis I launch and will continue to refine the rockoon system in preparation for Hapsis II. The teams devoted to the orbital rocket will maintain their current objectives, with both teams converging to our orbital rocket launch in a few years. Additionally, the enterprise subteam will continue to network with Purdue faculty, organizations, and donors to seek additional funding for future projects. Our partnership with Purdue Research Foundation is particularly powerful in this setting as the startup simulator model directly aligns with our organizational structure. These coordinated goals generate a grassroots networking process, expanding the scope of discussion surrounding Orbital’s goals in the aerospace arena.

         Finally, we would like to thank all of you for your support. Orbital is a student-run organization, but relies on professionals to accomplish our goals. We hope that our correspondence continues both in the form of these newsletters and with future collaboration.


Purdue Orbital

Purdue Orbital’s first meeting.  135 active members.

Purdue Orbital’s first meeting.

135 active members.