Research in Engineering and Aviation

Perseus Launch Vehicle: Student Designed Aerospace Engineering Senior Capstone Project


Author(s): S. Jayaram, P. Knudtson, D. Zidar, N. Freed

“Perseus Launch Vehicle: Student Designed Aerospace Engineering Senior Capstone Project”, 2009 ASEE Conference and Exhibit, Austin TX.


At the beginning of the Fall 2008/2009 school year, a group of four senior aerospace engineering students at Parks College, Saint Louis University founded the Earthrise Group. The purpose of this group was to participate in communal research projects, the first of which was the Perseus Launch Vehicle senior capstone project. The mission called for a rocket launch vehicle that was capable of placing a picosatellite or nanosatellite payload of mass no greater than fifteen kilograms into a circular earth orbit no greater than one thousand kilometers. A systems engineering approach ensured that the customers’ constraints of economical pricing, the ability to tailor to the customer’s particular needs, rapid response time, and long-term storage were met. The result was a two stage to orbit, hybrid-powered expendable launch vehicle which utilized commercial off the shelf components where possible. The team size was kept at a minimum to allow for focus and a free flow of ideas. Communal research and frequent idea meetings were a hallmark of the group organization, providing a holistic systems design on the part of each engineer. Specialization was a gradual process resulting in member dedication to fields that interested them. The educational construction of the senior capstone course brought the students a greater understanding of the unique challenges posed by a rocket system and the relative lack of coursework dedicated to these challenges. Group members were allowed a large amount of independence in their efforts, which proved both a blessing and challenge. Space technology education at the college was expanded by attempting a space systems design project, requesting additional space orientated classes, and encouraging the participation of underclassmen in space systems design. In the future, it is hoped that the efforts of the Earthrise Group, through the Perseus Project, will encourage future students to participate in the design of a rocket launch vehicle as a senior capstone project at Parks College.