The Gruyère rocket launches for its first takeoffs

The Gruyère rocket launches for its first takeoffs
The Gruyère rocket launches for its first takeoffs

Three, two, one… With a roar, Colibri’s engine ignites. For a few seconds, the metal plate which firmly holds the Gruyère rocket to the ground lights up, heated to nearly 1,000 degrees by the gas expelled from the machine. A propulsion capable of generating 100 kg of vertical force, just enough to get everything off the ground.

Silence returning to the Grisoni gravel pit near Estavannens, the five founding students of Gruyère Space Program (GSP) congratulate each other. “We are very happy with these first ignitions of the engine,” rejoices Julie Böhning, co-founder. This Saturday, they tested the vertical ignition of the rocket, 2.5 meters high and 100 kg heavy. The final step to validate the overall operation of the machine before the first takeoffs. “This allows us to start the next tests with confidence.”

See the ignition of Colibri’s engines:

Take-offs which will take place gradually, every weekend for the next few weeks. The rocket will initially remain attached to a crane, to ensure that it does not crash, and the flights will take place meter by meter and get longer and longer. The ultimate goal? A one-minute flight at a height of 100 meters before re-landing. The GSP team hopes to achieve this goal this fall.

The GSP is growing

It’s been almost five years since these EPFL students founded GSP and have been working on this program and their Colibri rocket. Inspired by SpaceX’s reusable rockets, they wanted to develop this technology which is not yet present in Europe, to show that even “a small group of students lost in Gruyère can do it”, quips Julie Böhning. All for a budget of 200,000 francs – which obviously does not count the thousands of hours of work by the team.

And this idea is successful. They are today supported by more than fifty regional and international companies, some of which are very focused on the space sector. More recently, it was the economic promotion of the canton of Friborg and the Fribourgissima association which supported GSP. “Even though we are still students, it’s great to feel supported by the canton and to participate in the development of this type of technology in the region.”

And besides, it is not only economic support that allows the project to develop. Around ten people have joined the team since last September, notably foreign students, English and French, who will come for an internship during the summer, to accompany the first Colibri flights.

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