Project Theia competed in the UKSEDS National Rocketry Championship 2022-2023.

In 2022 there were a record-number of 180 successful rocket launches to orbit. SpaceX contributed the greatest number (61) of these launches, averaging one Falcon rocket into orbit every six days (Witze, 2023). In this new age of a privatised space-race, serious concerns for the environmental impacts of an intensive launch schedule must be addressed.

Project Theia’s payload concept centred around an environmental mission to examine the effects of launch sites on the local atmosphere. By understanding the effects of launch sites on the local environment, cautionary procedures and techniques can be formulised and implemented to promote a sustainable and lucrative space industry.

To execute this mission, a syringe was designed to actuate at flight apogee (highest altitude) within a height window of 350-393m to collect a 15ml sample of air. A similar sample was also collected at ground level.

These air samples were analysed using GC-IRMS equipment in collaboration with the Atmospheric Chemistry Department. Greenhouse gas tests were conducted for 𝑁𝑂2and 𝑆𝐹6 (results from report shown below).

Overall, Project Theia has been successful in achieving its mission statement. The rocket was successful in collecting samples of air at the required apogee, and the gaschromatography analysis was able to be measure 𝑆𝐹6 and 𝑁20. The flight sequence was mostly successful, aside from the separation of the nosecone and, later, the electronics day. Unfortunately, due to the microSD damage, it is difficult to ascertain any evaluations of the flight path.

We are a team of 11 undergraduate engineering students from mechanical, electrical, and aerospace courses. As a group of first and second years, we found this project incredibly fascinating and a great learning experience!