Designed and manufactured over the course of the 2017-2018 NASA Student Launch season, "Zenith" measures up to be the 2nd tallest vehicle built by River City Rocketry. The rocket, coming in at 11' 7" and 50 lbs, and uses an Aerotech L2200 with a vivid Mojave green flame. The airframe of the vehicle was made in house by team members. The rocket carries the team designed VDS, an autonomous deployable Rover, and custom parachutes cut and sewn by the team.
The rocket had 4 test flights occurring in Talladega, AL, Elsberry MO, and Elizabethtown, KY.
Zenith made its final flight in Huntsville, AL during the NASA Student Launch competition in early April.
The vehicle's nosecone consists of a customized parabolic geometry, optimized for the vehicle's 0.7 Mach ascent. The nose cone was 3D printed out of Nylon 12 at University of Louisville's Rapid Prototyping Center.
Autonomous Rover Payload
The Rover payload payload mounts on a custom designed and manufactured Rover Bearing System (RBS) that allows the entire Rover to rotate inside the mainframe upon landing. This ensures that the Rover will deploy without orientation restrictions. Upon exiting the air frame, the Rover uses a Lidar sensor to map and navigate through any debris on the field. After driving 5 feet, the Rover stops and actuates its solar array tower, allowing 4 solar panels to rotate from their stowed configuration. In the spirit of the rover challenge, an HD camera takes a picture of the Rover in its surroundings for later review.
Payload Recovery Bay
Zenith features two custom built high drag, low volume toroidal main parachutes and two cruciform drogues. The panels are laser cut with precision and sewn together in house. The custom deployment bags feature rip-stop nylon lining and shroud line stow loops to ensure orderly and reliable deployment of the main parachutes.
Booster Recovery Bay
VDS Fin Slots
The Variable Drag System (VDS) is housed in the booster section of the rocket. Here, its two parts, the avionics and the drag blades, are connected through a bulk plate and stowed together in their own coupler. The avionics take live data throughout the flight to autonomously control the drag blades, which deploy through the slots after burnout, and retract back into the rocket upon apogee for a safe recovery. The avionics also send this live data to a ground station, where the status of the VDS can be monitored telemetrically.