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USF Students to Compete in NASA Rocket Tournament

USF | USF SOAR | Rocket

The winners could receive up to $50,000 and have their work used in Mars explorations.

TAMPA – A group of University of South Florida undergraduate students have earned a unique chance to test their skills in front of some of the world’s top minds this week.

Using a high-powered rocket they’ve designed and built, the USF students will compete at the NASA University Student Launch Initiative competition Tuesday (April 12) through Sunday (April 17) in Huntsville, AL.

The 13 students, part of the Society of Aeronautics and Rocketry (SOAR) student organization, will compete with more than 50 other teams from across the country. The top three winners of the Student Launch will be awarded up to $50,000 in prize money, and the winning design could be used in future exploration missions on Mars, depending on the level of innovation.

The Student Launch competition is based upon a NASA mission rather than only textbook knowledge, and calls for competing teams to address research needs of the Space Launch System. The challenge is supported by the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and U.S. aerospace industry.

SOAR has spent the past eight months committed to this project, having submitted their proposal in August. Since then, they have had the responsibility of designing, constructing, testing, launching and successfully recovering the reusable rocket. Named the Bullistic II, it stands upright at 11 feet 8 inches and is constructed from G-12 fiberglass.

“In addition to the rocket our team has been developing an autonomous robotic system to load a payload into our rocket and prepare it for launch,” SOAR President Nick Conde said.

While SOAR is not permitted to launch the rocket on USF’s campus, they use a local site to test this robotic arm and rail system, which positions the rocket from horizontal to vertical in preparation for takeoff. Once a month, SOAR visits Barn Ranch in Polk County in order to fully test the rocket’s launching and recovering abilities.

SOAR formed in 2013, and students competing at NASA represent a mix of academic disciplines, including physics, engineering and mathematics. They meet every Wednesday on campus at 5 p.m. in order to continue their tests and designs.

For information about USF, go to For information about SOAR, go to For information about the NASA Student Launch Iniative, go to

Photograph of USF SOAR with Bullistic II courtesy of USF SOAR.

USF | USF SOAR | NASA | Rocket Competition | Bulllistic II | TB Reporter

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