EPFL students plan first flight of their rocket in 2024

19 June 2024 13:13

Swissmem SSIGGreater Geneva Bern

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Fribourg - Five students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have developed and built all the components of a rocket that can hover vertically in the air and safely land. It will take off for the first time this summer, and tests are currently in progress.

A group of five Fribourg-based EPFL students are aiming to build the first Swiss rocket that can fly into space, as well as meet other criteria. The students’ aim is that their Colibri rocket, which is modeled on SpaceX, should also be able to hover vertically in the air, fly back to Earth and land safely. The first vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) flight of this hopper rocket, which is the first in the world to be built by students, is set to take place this summer.

Colibri measures 2.5 meters tall and weighs 100 kilograms. It has the same propulsion system as larger rockets, albeit on a smaller scale. The EPFL rocket can also carry a 3-kilogram payload and offers a lot of testing possibilities.

The group of students set up the Gruyère Space Program (GSP) three years ago to work on the project. They have dedicated thousands of hours to developing all the components themselves. According to a report by SRF (Swiss Radio and Television), around 15 more students are working with them on the project. The report says that companies and individuals based in the region and aerospace companies have invested around 200,000 Swiss francs in the project to date.

Many tests and further developments are required before the rocket can one day fly to space. The propulsion and control systems are currently being tested in a gravel quarry near Grandvillard in the Swiss canton of Fribourg. “It’s a bit like balancing a pencil on one finger,” says the President of GSP, Jérémy Marciacq, “but it’s a 100-kilogram fuel-propelled rocket that could explode.” The first test was successful.

On its first flight this summer, Colibri is set to fly up to an altitude of 10 meters. It will initially remain tethered to a cable attached to a crane, before flying to progressively higher altitudes. ce/mm

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