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They compete in rocket launching

group picture, KTH students with rocket
KTH students dream of a career in the space industry, engineering or defence. Image: ÆSIR.
Published Mar 13, 2024

The ÆSIR student organisation at KTH builds rockets in their spare time. As the first Swedish team ever, they recently participated in a European rocket launch competition. With their self-designed Signý, they set a new height record of an impressive 3 384 metres.

Mr Space on rocket development

portrait photo Sven Grahn
Sven Grahn. Photo: Private

Sven Grahn graduated in 1969 with an MSc in Engineering Physics from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and is now a senior space researcher at the university. In 1957, he was 11 years old and standing at the petrol station on Norr Mälarstrand in Stockholm. Looking up at the sky, he could see the final stage of the rocket that launched Sputnik-1 (the first satellite to orbit the Earth, the start of the space race) shining in the sky. Could he imagine then and there that more than 60 years later KTH students would build their own rockets and compete in launching them?

"Of course I could imagine it. I myself was in a rocket club and built small rockets during the first years of high school. Simpler things than ÆSIR's rockets of course, but educational in the same way as ÆSIR. You solve real technical problems," says Sven Grahn.

The KTH students in ÆSIR aim to become rocket scientists. When asked where they would like to work in the future, the answers include ESA, SSC, SpaceX, NASA and FMV.

"We dream of a career in the space industry, engineering or defence. Working in the association provides an excellent head start in the pursuit of this career path. Some members also have rocket building as a hobby, and want to get involved alongside their studies to gain experience, learn and create memories," says Amanda Bergström.

Three rockets launched

She is one of 45 members of ÆSIR and studies computer science. Amanda Bergström says that the students who are members of the association come from a wide variety of educational programmes at KTH. These include engineering physics, aerospace, electrical, computer and mechanical engineering.

ÆSIR is KTH's student association for rocketry. Members design, manufacture and launch rockets of different sizes and types. The association was founded in 2016 and since then three rockets have been launched, with the record height being Signý's recently achieved 3,384 metres. This record just during EuRoC '23 where the moments competed in the Solid COTS 3 km category.

Great feeling

According to Amanda Bergström, the most exciting moments in ÆSIR's eight-year history have been the rocket launches themselves. Many months and sometimes years of hard work designing, manufacturing and preparing a rocket have been rewarded by seeing how the rockets perform in real life. 

"It is a cool feeling to see something you have put your soul into perform well, and not least, rocket launches are adrenaline-boosting and cool to experience live. In addition, it is useful and interesting to apply the theory we learn, and to get in touch with companies in the sector through sponsorships and collaborations," says Amanda Bergström.

rocket taking of
KTH students' self-designed rocket Signý takes off to a record height. Image: ÆSIR

In the future, will ÆSIR build VTVL rockets (see fact box) like SpaceX's Falcon 9 and its first stage? That is, reusable rockets? Amanda Bergström is in favour, as are the other members of the association.

"We gather useful experience and offer engineering students hands-on experience in designing, building and launching rockets. Building rockets with active control is complicated, now we are designing air brakes on our Freyja rocket. We haven't done that before," says Amanda Bergström.

The best engineers of the future

The space race is back on and the private company Intuitive Machines recently landed on the moon. Association members believe it is important for Sweden to invest in research, technology and innovation in the space sector. "There is still a lot to be discovered and answered about how the universe, the Earth and how humans work. 

"We hope to give engineering students the opportunity to gain early practical experience and work independently on the technical challenges of space and rocketry. This helps ensure that students have a good chance of becoming some of the best engineers of the future," says Amanda Bergström.

What does the future look like for ÆSIR?

"Bright. Space technology and the demand for innovative solutions are highly topical. KTH has a history of dedicated and ambitious students with sharp skills in engineering, maths and physics," says Amanda Bergström.

Text: Peter Asplund

ÆSIR in brief

  • ÆSIR stands for Association for Engineering Students in Rocketry and was founded in 2016 at KTH.
  • Participating in rocket launch competitions requires a lot of planning, structure and high ambitions from the team members. ÆSIR has so far participated in one international competition, the European Rocketry Challenge 2023 (EuRoC) and aims to participate in EuRoC '24.
  • ÆSIR is the first Swedish student organisation to ever participate in the European Rocketry Challenge 2023 (EuRoC) competition.
  • ÆSIR is currently building three rockets: Freyja, Mjollnir and Eitr.
  • VTVL in VTVL rocket stands for "Vertical Takeoff, Vertical Landing".
Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Mar 13, 2024