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Turlock native among group vying to send rocket to space
Edwin Betady (center) works on a liquid-fueled rocket test stand at Cal Poly Pomona. - photo by Contributed

Edwin Betady has only been attending Cal Poly Pomona for two years, but already the Turlock native is making history.

Betady is part of a group with a goal of being the first university to launch a rocket into space as part of the FAR-MARS Society Launch Contest — a competition involving Cal Poly Pomona and 10 other universities vying to eventually achieve an altitude of 330,000 feet.

Along with 70 other student members from two colleges and several departments, Betady has spent the last 15 months designing and building a rocket. Such a task typically takes several years in the aerospace industry, as building a liquid fuel rocket involves designing and constructing the mobile rocket engine test stand, the engine and the rocket vehicle.

The entire project is extremely complex, Betady said, and features a rocket fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid methane. The FAR-MARS contest aims to educate students about these rockets, and the potential to utilize methane found in abundance on the Red Planet.

It would mean a lot. It represents what students are capable of. We have the ability to replicate what’s going on in the industry no matter what our major is. The opportunities are there…it just takes time and effort.
Edwin Betady

“Mars has a sufficient amount of methane within its atmosphere, and they eventually want to utilize it to make propellants and build rockets on the surface of Mars,” Betady said. “The whole goal of this endeavor is to introduce students to that and make them aware of the whole process.”

It was Betady’s love for all things STEM that inspired him to first attend Merced College, where he majored in aerospace engineering. During that time, he also landed a place in a NASA semester-long program where he had the chance to learn from NASA engineers and develop a 3D rover complete with a mission to Mars.

From there, Betady began his journey at Cal Poly Pomona on a prestigious note in the fall of 2016 as a recipient of the Science Mathematics and Research for Transformation, or SMART, Scholarship, awarded by the Department of Defense to America’s brightest future scientists.

The rocket project has prepared him for the DoD civil service role he anticipates pursuing upon graduating in 2019, which will see Betady working in the Space and Missiles Center at the Los Angeles Air Force Base.

“It directly ties into the area that I’ll work in, benefiting me in terms of propulsion and study work and also the entire engineering process,” he said. “Going from design to actually developing something is a rigorous process and sounds simple, but it’s actually an in-depth process.”

As part of Cal Poly Pomona’s Liquid Rocket Program, Betady serves on the Mobile Rocket Engine Test Stand team, which is responsible for developing the rocket’s test stand. Thanks to propellant feed and data acquisition systems, the test stand is able to provide critical information necessary to characterize the performance of the rocket.

The other two teams are responsible for developing the rocket’s structure and its engine — the latter of which is designed and developed completely from scratch at the university.

“We’ve been working on it for two years, from its conceptual design to manufacturing it now,” Betady said.

The rocket is aptly named “Bronco I,” and so far, there has been one flight test of the rocket’s upper fuselage assembly paired with a test vehicle. To successfully build a rocket that is able to launch into space is the end goal, and Betady would feel honored to be part of the Cal Poly Pomona team that could be the first to do it.

“It would mean a lot. It represents what students are capable of,” he said. “We have the ability to replicate what’s going on in the industry no matter what our major is. The opportunities are there…it just takes time and effort.”