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Malaysia’s first student rocket team on tenterhooks ahead of blast-off at international contest

From Penang to the US, the Wau Rocketry team members have given the competition their all.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Wau Rocketry team members pose for a shot at the White Sand National Monument after their arrival in the US.
Wau Rocketry team members pose for a shot at the White Sand National Monument after their arrival in the US.

Malaysia’s first ever university rocket team is on tenterhooks ahead of the Spaceport America Cup in the US which will see its project put to the test in front of an international audience this week.

Team leader A Vanmitha said that Wau Rocketry, of Universiti Sains Malaysia, was now in the final stages of creating its rocket, “Hebat”.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, she said her team members had also met with the jury who will examine the rockets on the day of the launch on June 23.

“Today and yesterday, we did the rocket installations and full integration tests, as well as the electronic tests,” she said.

Team members pose with their Hebat rockets at the Universiti Sains Malaysia lab.

“We have also registered and been briefed.”

On launch day itself, the jury will visit the contestants’ booths at random, asking questions about their rockets and examining the components piece by piece.

The 12-member Wau Rocketry team has been in the US since June 16. It is one of 66 teams fighting it out for first place at the Spaceport America Cup, the world’s largest student rocket competition.

Vanmitha said her team members had mixed emotions ahead of the event as they were the first group from Malaysia to participate in the contest.

“They have all given their best,” she said. “When the jury members came to examine our rocket, we were able to answer all of their questions. This gave me confidence.”

Recalling the trip to the US from their headquarters in Penang, Vanmitha said the minute they landed, they had hurried off to buy what they needed for their rocket.

“During the jury examination, we were asked to change the battery orientation. So we did, and now we need to meet with them again for the flight safety review.

“Only after that will we receive the flight card for take-off at the launch pad.”

There will be two categories at the competition: the 10,000-foot launch and the 30,000-foot launch.

These categories are further divided into “commercial off the shelf” or COTS, and “student research and development” (SAD).

Wau Rocketry will be contesting the 10,000-foot COTS event.

Their rocket, “Hebat”, is 2.87m long and weighs 22.67kg.

Using solid propellant, it will carry a nanosatellite created by USM that will take environmental data.

Today, the team will have to bring the avionics for assessment and participate in a conference.

“The launch phase will depend on how quickly we can assemble the rocket,” Vanmitha said.

“If we can get it done quickly and it passes the security checks, then we can continue to the launch.”