© 2023 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Illinois State to host rocket landing competition

closeup of a model rocket
Emily Bollinger
A team from Illinois State University has produced a rocket that it will enter into a vertical rocket landing competition on Saturday at ISU.

Illinois State University will host a vertical rocket landing competition on Saturday morning at the school’s adventure center on Gregory Street.

ISU will field a team of participants in several areas of study to attempt landing a rocket dropped from several meters in the air as close to the target zone as possible, while the rocket is still standing upright.

One young an holding a model rocket and pointing at the wiring as another man holds a piece of it and two other people look on.
Emily Bollinger
In this 2022 file photo, from left to right: Tegan Bernard, Daniel Freburg, Lo Norsworthy and Brett Allen work on a model rocket in a classroom at Illinois State University.

Teams are expected to design most components of their model rockets and run simulations to test the viability of their approach. The teams aren’t provided with the onboard engines until the day of the competition for safety purposes.

Real rockets have begun attempting to land this way, called vertical takeoff, vertical landing or VTVL for short. As the rocket separates in the atmosphere, it uses cold gas to reorient itself and eventually land vertically back on Earth.

McDonnell Douglas launched the first VTVL rocket in the 1990s, but it was never intended to reach orbit. More recently, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has become the face of semi-reusable rockets.

The competition, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, will see teams from Illinois State, Bradley, Purdue, and the University of Illinois compete for the best landing.

The University of Illinois hosted last year's competition. ISU claimed the top prize for being closest to the target zone. ISU won another rocket landing competition in May.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Erik Dedo is a reporting and audio production intern at WGLT. He joined the station in 2022.
Related Content