Out of this world
“The experience of a lifetime” is how Will Reid from the Melbourne School of Engineering described his time managing a rocket experiment in Sweden for the past 18 months. The Mechatronics and Computer Science student’s handiwork will be launched 85km into the Earth’s atmosphere later this year.
Will has recently returned to Melbourne from Stockholm, where he was based at the Royal Institute of Technology. During that time he worked as project manager on the RAIN experiment (which stands for Rocket Deployed Atmospheric probes conducting Independent measurements in Northern Sweden) which aims to collect aerosol dust particles from the Earth’s middle atmosphere in order to create a detailed profile of aerosols in this region.
The experiment, to take place in October, will involve the launch of two atmospheric probes that will be ejected from the sides of a REXUS sounding rocket (Rocket Experiment for Upcoming Students).
The probes will then collect aerosol particles as they fall back to Earth over a height range from 80 to 17 km.
Mr Reid says each probe was equipped with a rotating plate in its base.
“On this plate is a variety of different collection samples that will be exposed to the passing atmosphere via an exposure window.
“As the probe falls, particles will collide with the exposed collection sample. At 17 km the plate will stop rotating and the samples will be sealed.”
Mr Reid says the team will then recover each probe and analyse the collected particles at a lab at Stockholm University.
The rocket was originally scheduled to launch in March, but this was postponed so that further investigations into the rocket’s recovery system could be conducted.
As project manager for RAIN, Will managed a team of 18 engineering students.
“All of us were dealing with complicated engineering tasks, and planning and managing these tasks for such a large team was the most challenging aspect,” he says.
“As with anything difficult though, it was very rewarding and I learned a great deal about conducting an engineering team project; the practical sort of exercise not always experienced.”
Back in 2010 Mr Reid was three and a half years into his studies at Melbourne and keen to experience something a little different, so he looked into exchange opportunities.
“I had never been to Sweden and had heard really positive reports about the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, so I decided to give it a shot.”
He says the exchange experience was marvellous and he would recommend it to other students.
“It was hard work but it was a life-changing experience worth working for.
“I gained invaluable experience by taking part in a space engineering project. I met some great friends from all over the world, and I had a lot of fun.”
After graduation Mr Reid hopes to pursue a postgraduate degree in space engineering.
He says it has always been his dream to work in the space industry, and he intends to return to Sweden to witness the launch of his project in October.
“I’m sure it will feel ‘out of this world’ and deeply rewarding after a year and a half of work to see my experiment propelled into space.”