ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Kong – King of the Skies, and its payload ‘Anne’, both named after the famous films, took off in the New Mexico desert this past July. While the rocket performed great, it was ‘Anne,’ the payload, that ultimately gave the RIT Launch Initiative team their first national win since the club began in 2014.

Grace Dertinger led the team that designed ‘Anne,’ which was outfitted with air brakes. Normally, air brakes are found on the rockets themselves, but to lower the risk for the rocket itself, they went a different direction to test their design.

“So instead of putting it in the rocket because it’s kind of risky to do that, we decided to put in our payload and just have our payload fall really fast and see what happens with how the air brakes perform,” said Dertinger.

In a normal situation, the air brakes would help to slow the rocket when it nears the desired altitude, both to help keep the payload safe as it exits the rocket and also to make sure it releases at the correct height.

“Basically, you put an air brake in your rocket so you can hit a more accurate altitude,” said Dertinger. “We want to make sure we’re hitting the desired altitude within a couple of feet and it’s really really difficult to do being able to make that and put in the payload and then next step be able to put in a rocket was just really good experience.”

For their design of ‘Anne,’ the team won the Space Launch Dynamics Payload Challenge Award, beating out over 150 other teams and their payloads. This was one of many competitions at the Intercollegiate Rocket and Engineering Challenge (IREC), which was held in Las Cruces, N.M., which the team has been participating in since 2018.

For the whole team, the win was big, and for Dertinger made more special by the fact that she gets to bring it home to Rochester, where she grew up.

“To be able to make something with a group of people you care about and a place that you care about and then go and then win. Was like icing on the cake,” said Dertinger.

The team is set to move into the highly anticipated Student Hall for Exploration and Development, or SHED building, this fall, where they hope to continue their work and explore new ideas with more students across the campus.