How to Join Rockets

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Part of the Rockets series
Project Daedalus
Dr. Hai Wang (Team Advisor) Thomas White (Co-Lead) William Koski (Co-Lead)
Launch Certifications
Level 1 Level 2 • Level 3
CFD WorkflowSo You Want To...Avionics
Cardinal II lifting off the pad on a J class motor.


High Power Rocketry

A high powered rocket is defined as a rocket that weighs more than 1500 grams and contains a motor or motors containing more than 125 grams of propellant and/or rated at more than 160 Newton-seconds of total impulse. There are different classifications for motors and different levels of certification required to use these motors. These rockets fall in the Class 2 Rocketry category as long as their total impulse remains below 41,000 Ns. Class 3 rockets require motors that cannot be bought commercially (and are classified as ITAR defense articles).

Class Rating Total Impulse (N-s)

Class 1 (Model Rocketry)

No certifications required

A 1.26-2.5
B 2.51-5.00
C 5.01-10.0
D 10.01-20.0
E 20.01-40.0
F 40.01-80.0
G 80.01-160

Class 2 (High Power Rocketry)


H 160.01-320
I 320-640


J 640-1,280
K 1,280-2,560


L 2,560-5,120
M 5,120-10,200
N 10,200-20,500
O 20,500-41,000

Level 1: H, I

There is no test required to acquire a Level 1 certification. Just a successful flight and recovery using an L1-class motor is required.

Level 2: J, K, L

The holder of an L1 certification (not necessarily from the organization they are attempting to obtain L2 certification from) must pass an examination on the subject of advanced rocketry concepts and have a successful flight and recovery using an L2-class motor.

Level 3: M, N, O and beyond

There are many requirements for an L3 flight. Check the NAR and TRA websites for further information.

Project Daedalus

Daedalus teaches the major design principles of high power rocketry with hands-on experience. Teams design and launch novel rocket concepts iteratively, starting with L1, L2 and finally ending with an L3 rocket that successfully flies the thoroughly tested design. The technology coming out of this project will benefit the Rockets Team’s flagship rocketry project.

Daedalus is the overarching rockets project for the 2015-2016 year that is divided into 4 subteams as described below.


The purpose of Pegasus is to demonstrate the feasibility of using a parafoil recovery system to create a controlled, directed recovery for a high-powered rocket from over 10,000 ft.


The purpose of Prometheus is to demonstrate roll control of a payload descent using PID-controlled fins.


Talos is the launch vehicle for Kythera, SSI’s first generation flight computer system which will feature a Raspberry Pi that reads data from sensors and communicates that data to Teensys (Arduino-based microcontroller) in addition to using radios to provide real time GPS, orientation, and video data.


The purpose of Charybdis is to demonstrate passive ascent stabilization using canted fins.



The Rockets Team has general meetings every week; during Spring Quarter of 2015-2016, these meetings are held on Thursdays from 8-9pm in Durand 450. They cover all relevant project updates (i.e. Daedalus team updates and launch logistics) and function as worksessions where all of the Rockets Team members are in the same place at once.

Each project under the Rockets Team umbrella needs to have at least one work session/meeting a week in conjunction with the team-wide meetings.

If you cannot make a project meeting, let your project lead know ahead of time.

Previous Knowledge

We don’t expect you to know very much about rocketry. If you do, great! But if you don’t, we will spend the time teaching you the fundamentals and give you the opportunities and resources to learn as much about rocketry as you’d like. Working on a project is the best way to exercise and synthesize with the knowledge you gain from working with theory.

Rocketry is a multi-disciplined topic. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of useful disciplines:

  • Heat Transfer

  • Thermodynamics

  • Fluid Mechanics (incompressible and compressible flow)

  • Physics

  • Material Sciences

  • Statics and Dynamics

  • Controls

  • Circuits

  • Amatuer Radio

  • Manufacturing

Introductions to many of these are available on So You Want To...

Time Commitment

Rocketry is difficult to master, but worth the tedious design process. The more time you put in, the better your project will turn out as well as experience less schedule slip. L1 and L2 do not require more than 10 hours combined (since they come from kits). L3 projects require much more time since these are designed from scratch and need to go through our NASA-inspired design process.

The Process

Design Reviews

Note: For a much more specific documentation check out 'The Process: From PDR to PLAR'. The document provides specific guidelines and expectations for each stage of the process.

As specified in NASA’s engineering design life cycle, multiple design reviews are used to assess the feasibility and practicality of both attempting and accomplishing a particular project. This includes a Preliminary Design Review (PDR example) to assess mission goals, risks, and criteria and is followed by a Critical Design Review (CDR). By CDR, a project is expected to have assessed specific hardware and software configurations for viability, addressed questions raised in the PDR, and considered manufacturing and production of their final product. Both stages include extensive criticism and evaluation by other SSI members and external entities.

The PDR demonstrates that the overall preliminary design meets all requirements with acceptable risk and within the cost and schedule constraints. It shows that the correct design options have been selected, interfaces have been identified, and verification methods have been described. Full baseline cost and schedules, as well as all risk assessment, management systems, and metrics, are presented.

The CDR demonstrates that the maturity of the design is appropriate to support proceeding to full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration, and test and that the technical effort is on track to complete the flight and ground system development and mission operations in order to meet overall performance requirements within the identified cost and schedule constraints. Progress against management plans, budget, and schedule, as well as risk assessment, are presented. The CDR is a review of the final design of the launch vehicle and payload system. All analyses should be complete and some critical testing should be complete.

The FRR examines tests, demonstrations, analyses, and audits that determine the overall system (all projects working together) readiness for a safe and successful flight/launch and for subsequent flight operations of the as-built rocket and payload system. It ensures that all flight and ground hardware, software, personnel, and procedures are operationally ready.

Immediately prior to launch, SSI will conduct a Launch Readiness Review (LRR). The LRR is performed on-site to verify procedural compliance and compliance with applicable safety codes. Furthermore, please note that launch-site safety officers will also be present to approve and assess your rockets.

After launch, SSI will conduct a Post-Launch Assessment Review (PLAR). The PLAR is an assessment of system in-flight performance. The PLAR will determine if mission success criteria were met, discuss any adverse events, enumerate lessons learned, and describe any recommended changes to the SSI Rockets program.


Rockets has a running budget in the Drive (Stanford Student Space Initiative > Teams > Rockets). Please add your purchases to the correct tab so we can have a running tally of what we’re spending.


Tripoli Rocketry Association (TRA) and National Association of Rocketry (NAR) are the two major organizations that organize launches, certify members, and maintain specific standards that govern high power rocketry.

In order to launch high power rockets, you are required to be a member of either organization (Tripoli Membership / NAR Membership)

The closest Tripoli launch site to Stanford is Tripoli Central CA (near Fresno) and the closest NAR launch site is LUNAR (somewhat near Stockton). TCC holds HPR launches (max height 16,800’) on the 3rd Saturday of each month. LUNAR holds HPR launches (max height of 15,000’) on the 1st Saturday of each month in addition to low power launches (max height of 1000’) on the 3rd Saturday of each month at Moffett Field.


Here is the launch procedure as lifted from the Operating Principles and Risk Management document.

Once the team arrives at the launch site, the rules and regulations of the governing body sponsoring the launch will take precedence. Although procedure is likely to vary from site to site, the launch procedure usually occurs in this order:

  1. Those attempting to fly a rocket approach the Range Safety Officer (RSO) and officers in charge of the launch, sign in (with their member numbers) and usually pay a launch fee. If the flyer is attempting to get a certification, they will fill out relevant forms to declare their intention (these and other useful documentation pertaining to both national rocketry associations are included in the Appendix).

  2. Depending on the skill level of the flyer, there are two variations of what may occur.

    1. In the non-certification flight case, the RSO will inspect the rocket and send the flyer to set up the rocket on the launch pad. This requires placing the rocket on the launch rails, placing the igniter in the motor, and checking the launch pad electronics for errors before returning to a safe distance from the launch pad.

    2. In the case of a certification, the RSO and someone above the flyer’s certification level will inspect the rocket and send the flyer (and another more experienced member) to set up the rocket for launch. The same setup process occurs as stated above.

  3. After the range has been cleared of spectators/flyers, the RSO announces each rocket and launches them one at a time (unless otherwise specified; an example of an exception is a drag race between two rockets).

  4. Once the range is cleared of rockets, flyers recover their rockets.

  5. If the flight is not a certification, the procedure ends here. Otherwise, the flyer shows his or her rocket to the RSO and has them sign off on the flyer’s paperwork if the flight is successful. The paperwork is then sent off to the headquarters of the organization and processed.

Rocket Naming Conventions

For mass certs:

SSI-R# will be the designation for general rocket launches (blanket certification launches).

Your rocket’s name can be whatever you would like it to be. Examples in the past are: Cardinal I, Flamos, Chris May, etc.

For Daedalus:

SSI-[Level][three letter code denoting name][Launch number] ex. SSI-L3TAL1. These will not affect the number of SSI-R launches. They will have separate counts. The launch number will be useful if the same rocket goes flying again (which should be plausible if you don't mash it).

If the rocket is Class 3, no Level number is required.

Rockets Leadership

The logistics required to run a fully operational Rockets team can be too much for just two co-leads to handle. The Rockets Leadership is a group of people who care about organizing the logistics behind launches and projects that the team is working on. If you show that you care and put in an exceptional amount of effort into your project, you can choose to be a part of this group.

Here is a document with all the roles on Rockets Leadership.


Other members are one of your best resources if you have any questions about rocketry. Other fantastic resources are laid out below.

Rockets Drive

There are tons of useful things in the Rockets folder!!!!! Here are descriptions of a few of those folders.


Go here first for finding useful data on L1 certification procedures! You should add as much to the wiki as possible.


This holds all the older Rockets plans/documents/etc. Usually these documents are not particularly useful (which is why they are in the archive).


This holds all the information for Daedalus, like team folders, L3 requirements, and PDRs & CDRs. Snoop around to see what they’ve done so far and steal information for your project (citing is always a good idea when you do take information).

Getting Nerdy: Textbooks and Manuals

This folder holds a collection of useful texts ranging from textbooks, manuals, NASA articles and technical reports. If you need to learn things, check out this document.

Launch Documentation

This holds all the launch documentation for upcoming launches and things like build slot signups, ride signups, rocket building instructions, required reading, pre-flight checklists, etc. Read through this folder and you’ll have a pretty damn good idea of launch logistics.

Rockets Operating Principles

This folder houses all of the operating principles, risk mitigation planning, and miscellaneous safety codes, documentation, and literally anything Stanford’s lawyers could possibly want from us. If you read the document you will have a very good understanding of how the team operates on an administrative level.

The Design Process

This folder houses all you need to know to design, fabricate and launch a rocket from a documentation standpoint. Read it.


Slack is the lifeblood of SSI. It is a messaging client that allows everyone within SSI to communicate. There are general channels (like #rockets), which allow us to push out general updates to everyone interested in the rockets team and direct messages in order to communicate with one person - although Slack has recently added a group messaging feature if you don’t want to make an entire channel for a 4 person chat - at a time. Notifications are pushed directly to your phone/computer/anything that has internet so that way we can infringe on all of your free time!

Join the SSI Slack here.

Mission Control

Mission Control can be considered the temple to SSI’s religion, the hub, nerve center, or kernel of all project activity. Located in Durand 390, Mission Control houses work sessions and project storage. Note: keycode access is required to the room. For specific questions, contact MC Hammer: Austin Pineault. Meetings or work sessions can also be conducted in the conference room, Durand 393 (often available), or Durand 450 (with prior reservation through AA Department Office on the second floor of Durand).