Firing a water rocket to 1km? Piece of cake

Well, not exactly...

Our report yesterday that a water rocket formed from "2 x 2l fizzy drink bottles" may have ripped past an Airbus A321 departing Birmingham airport last year prompted some readers to mull the possibility of having a pop at the water rocket world altitude record.

The current "Class A" (single stage) record stands at 825m (a smidge over 2,700ft). The University of Cape Town's Industrial Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Research Group and its Ascension III vehicle claimed the title back in October 2015, breaking the previous record of 623m, set way back in 2007 by US Water Rockets.

Impressive stuff, and even more so when considering the tight official rules governing attempts to claim the Class A crown.

Working strictly within these parameters, the University of Cape Town's produced a "featherweight record-breaking rocket that is 2.68m tall yet weighs less than 1.5kg, including a flight computer, on-board camera, parachute and parachute deployment system".

The uni's news release continues: "The rocket produced 550kg of thrust – enough to lift a small car off the ground – and blasted off to 550km/h in under 0.5 seconds (at this speed, it could cross a rugby field in three-quarters of a second). In addition to computer-based modelling, the team made extensive and creative use of carbon fibre materials, due to their amazing strength."

Well, Reg readers reckon a shot at an altitude of 1,000m should be the next goal for water rocketeers, but that's easier said than done. The aforementioned rules aside, the University of Cape Town also had to tackle two failures on its road to the world record - the first down to a leaking carbon-fibre rocket vessel, and the second because the vehicle simply "failed to lift off".

Still, the 1km challenge is a provocative proposal. Professor Arnaud Malan, who led the record-breaking South African team, said last year: "The water rocket competition is very exciting, as it uses only water and air – very environmentally friendly – to reach incredible speeds.

"The competition is truly multidisciplinary in nature, and requires pushing the boundaries of state-of-the-art technology in areas ranging from mechanical design and lean manufacture to computer-based mathematical modelling. It is like the Olympics of water rocketry and pits us against the best and brightest in the world. Clearly, we are now the undisputed best of the best."

If you fancy disputing that, US Water Rockets has a few tutorials to get you started. Delightfully, the last is entitled "Tree Recovery" - a concept familiar to the Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team. ®

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