MathU STEM Project

Our Main Goal

The MathU STEM projects aims to help shape the next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts by allowing kids to build and launch their very own model rockets. At the same time, we want to give them the right tools if they choose to pursue a career in either science or engineering.

The idea is to develop model rocketry components, aimed at closely matching the pace of advancement in the space-launch industry. Learning by experimentation is the most effective way to gain a deep understanding of new concepts, which is why providing hands-on experience with advanced rocketry components is important for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and astronauts.

Our Main Components

The SIGNAL R2

This is Signal. A rocketry flight computer for thrust vectoring, controlling parachutes, data logging, and in-flight emergency aborts. Safer, more realistic flights—no fins required. 

Model rockets have fins and launch quickly; real space launch vehicles don’t. With thrust vectoring, your rockets can slowly ascend and build speed, instead of leaving your sight in seconds. Signal R2, a thrust vectoring kit, is here to bridge that gap, enabling model rockets that look, and work like the real thing.

The Computer

The Signal flight computer runs a high speed control loop, prioritizing separate functions depending on the progress of the flight. Thrust vectoring draws considerable current from the power source; once burnout is detected, Signal centers and locks the vectoring mount. Focus is then set on detecting apogee and triggering pyro events. A power source of at least 8V must be used – 9v alkaline or 11.1v LiPos are recommended. 

The Software

The flight software tracks vehicle flight dynamics while the rocket is powered on. Signal looks for cues to shift system states at liftoff, burnout, apogee, and landing. Especially regarding liftoff, this makes Signal’s operation simple. Once the settings file is configured for flight, all that is required of the user is turning on the flight computer; Signal automatically enters the pad-idle mode. In pad-idle mode, Signal can detect launch in under 10ms. Once detected, thrust vectoring is activated, in-flight abort is armed, and high-frequency data logging begins.

THE TVC Mount

Developed over three years of iterative design, the thrust vector control motor mount is made from 3D printed PLA material. The mount uses two 9g servos, geared down for higher accuracy. The assembly can gimbal a motor ±5 degrees on each axis, X and Y. Though up to 40N of force will work with the mount, it works best with lower impulse motors, especially those with long burn times.

Signal R2 Computer

The DATA

In-flight data logging takes place at 40Hz. Vectoring output, vehicle orientation, altitude, velocity, acceleration, and several other data points are recorded using a custom protocol to a high-speed flash chip. Upon landing detection, Signal creates a new CSV file on the micro SD card, dumping flight data into it. Once the data is verified to match, the flash chip is cleared and Signal is ready to fly again.

A 1GB Micro SD card can store hundreds of flights before it must be cleared. Flight settings are programable via a settings file on the removable Micro SD card, where in-flight data is also stored. 

TVC (Thrust Vector Control)

TVC (Thrust Vector Control)

Developed over 3 years of iterative design with over 40 successful flights, this thrust vector control(TVC) hardware is used in nearly every space model rocket.

Overview

The major parts of the motor mount are 3D printed using PLA, which stands for polylactic acid. The structure and mechanics are built for 74mm thin-wall airframes and can withstand up to 40 Newtons of force, though it functions best with 5-20 Newtons of constant force. The mount can actuate ±5° with a full range max bandwidth of 13Hz, and nominal bandwidth of 25Hz. These parts were designed around low-cost and widely available components. Keeping repair costs low helps minimize the resources it takes to rebuild after any rapid unscheduled disassemblies.

Recommended Rocket Motors

  • Estes F15 or E9*

  • Apogee F10 or E6*

  • Aerotech G8 or G11

The ideal motors for this TVC mount have a long burn time, an average thrust of 5-20 Newtons, and a flat thrust curve. This means the force produced over time should remain fairly constant. The motor sleeve can fit rocket motors with a diameter of up to 29mm.

*These motors may require the removal of the built-in ejection charge

TVC actuation in the Falcon Heavy Model’s upper stage

Roll control with side booster TVC on the Falcon Heavy Model

Disclaimer: The above content is not owned by MathU Teaching Emporium, but is only used for display purposes.