Blasting Off To Space With LURA

SHY is incredibly proud to have partners in both academia and industry. We also aim to showcase what university students are doing in order to form their own bridge with the space sector. This spotlight article focuses on the Leeds University Rocketry Association (LURA), founded in early 2021 by students at the University of Leeds. 

What is LURA?

LURA officially launched in March 2021 after a successful proposal written to the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds, with recruitment to their Senior Leadership Team, forming a core team of 8 students. Their current recruiting drive has now taken LURA’s total up to 15 students. LURA differ from regular university student societies as they are not registered with the Leeds University Union, but instead operate more like a business. As a result, there is more formality and rigour in their selection procedure for students, ranging from undergraduate to doctorate, wishing to be a part of the team, including CV submissions and interview stages. 

While LURA have foundations in their engineering team, they too aim to bring students from various backgrounds and academic disciplines into the space sector which they all share a common interest in. They are further diversifying what the committee is responsible for, for example employing a graphic design team alongside those involved in the more scientific aspects. LURA seek to help to develop the necessary skills in team-working and the more corporate side of the sector, beneficial for the students prior to their entry into the working world. Given the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on university experiences, LURA offered an escape route for students, and a way of getting involved in an incredible set of projects.  

The aims of LURA

Engineering and building rockets only form a small part of the group’s mission. LURA seek to push Leeds into becoming a hub for rocketry and space engineering, providing limitless opportunities in the sector. With the space sector continuing to grow and transform, now is a crucial point in time. While there is the broader vision of hub development, LURA also have key short-term goals: 

  • To have an engineering team responsible for high-quality technology and innovation, working towards designing rocketry that can be launched within the UK – this team will host its own technical teams focusing on different systems such as propulsion and avionics 
  • To build a business and relations team, recruiting market media and obtaining sponsorships, and to also lead impactful outreach initiatives such as at schools, making rocket science more accessible 
  • To work to develop the necessary technology and infrastructure to launch and conduct student-built experiments, forming components of their degrees, research or external projects, on rockets 

The third objective is one that should indeed pique our interest, given it further merges academia with industrial practices. Results from experiments conducted on rockets can be obtained during descent in a similar fashion to dropsondes deployed for obtaining vertical profiles in the atmosphere, and can be applied to a range of research areas – infrared observation of wildfires, microbiology…the possibilities are endless. 

While LURA have only hosted internal social events thus far, there is the aim to build further as a society and to leave a legacy for future students and partners. On a year timescale, their goal is to have gone from a mere blueprint to competing in the prestigious Spaceport America Cup. This ever-growing competition brings together student rocketry teams from around the world, launching solid, liquid and hybrid rockets up to high altitudes. LURA also aim to run the first student rocketry conference, bringing in industrial links such as the UK and European Space Agencies to lead guest speeches and workshops. 

Spaceport America-The World's First Purpose-Built Commercial Spaceport

Final remarks

Many thanks to the Leeds undergraduates Theo Youds (Incoming 3rd Year Aerospace Engineering) and Holly Ullyott (Incoming 2nd Year Astrophysics) for taking their time to answer questions about LURA, and their experience in founding and running the group. 

LURA are always looking for more people to be involved, and to expand and collaborate with industry and other universities. If you wish to get in touch, links to their social media and points of contact can be found below: