Preparing for liftoff: Rocketry team constructs new rocket in preparation for annual competition

The Liberty University Rocketry team shoots for the stars as team members build rockets from scratch and compete in worldwide competitions.   

The team is preparing to compete against teams worldwide in the annual Spaceport America Cup in New Mexico June 17-22. The competition is altitude based, meaning each team shoots the rockets up to 10,000 feet, or about 1,000 stories high. Competition is tight; with competitors facing 125 teams at a time, the difference between first and last place is often a matter of 40 feet or less.

Liberty’s team has made two rockets so far: The Genesis and its newest creation, Way Maker. The Genesis competed in last year’s Spaceport America Cup, securing Liberty 39th out of 158 places and placing the team in the top 25% globally. These rockets are 123 inches tall and weigh roughly 40 pounds.

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“Currently, we’re the biggest and most successful engineering team (at Liberty),” Kye Gonino, junior and chief engineer for the rocketry team, said. “If you’re an engineering major and want a way to apply what you’re learning, I definitely encourage you to join, especially if you’re interested in aerospace.”

Gonino has worked in the Liberty Rocketry team for two years. After participating in last year’s Spaceport America Cup and serving as the recovery team lead, Gonino was elected chief engineer. 

The team is hard at work, focusing on finishing the final touches on Way Maker, which will be taking flight at the Spaceport America Cup in June. 

“We’re working on a new retrieval system and experimenting with a halo to keep it from overheating,” Gonino said. “The competition is really close; even weather conditions, temperature, pressure, all of that can affect your altitude.”

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The team has 44 members. Due to the team’s large size, it is split into four subsections: propulsion, aerodynamics, payload and recovery. The team establishes a strong sense of camaraderie between its members and aims to live up to its description: “creating a legacy of passionate and innovative Christian engineers pushing the bounds of collegiate rocketry for God’s glory.”

Just like an athlete works hard at the gym for results on the field, the Liberty Rocketry team motivates engineering students to study hard.

“It’s fun; it reinforces the skills I’ve learned in class, and it encourages me to learn better,” Gonino said. “It gives me motivation to do better when I know I’ll have to use what I learn (for) rocketry.”

Engineers interested in joining the team should email Gonino at The application process occurs at the beginning of each fall semester. For more information about the team as it approaches the competition, follow it on Instagram and YouTube at Liberty Rocketry.

Richards is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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