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Rocket man David puts local firm into stratosphere


A WARRINGTON-based engineering student travelled to America to take part in an international rocket-building competition.
David Harris is a senior client services advisor at professional services firm Optionis – but is also studying for a Masters in engineering at the Open University.
The 35-year-old flew to Spaceport in New Mexico – home to world-renowned space brands such as Virgin Galactic – after working with a team of engineering students to build a 14-foot rocket.
David was part of a 20-strong team of students from all over the UK involved in creating the rocket. Once the build was complete, four of the group, including David, travelled to America to launch it as part of the Spaceport America Cup, competing against more than 6,000 students from all over the world.
From the launch pad, the rocket took off and hit top speeds of around 750 mph and reached a height of 20,800 feet in the air before falling safely back down to earth.
David said: “It’s been an unbelievable experience taking part in this competition and from start to finish, I’ve enjoyed every second of the project.
“We hit a bit of a snag in the development phase because nowhere in the UK would actually allow us to launch a rocket of this size, meaning the first time it was launched was in New Mexico!
“We were all delighted with the height we achieved and very proud to have finished so well in the competition. Our team was representing the UK too as one of only three British teams.
“Optionis have been really supportive of the project, giving funding and allowing me time off to push on with the design which has been a massive help. The Open University have been fantastic too, providing us with a workshop, help with raising finance and administrative support.
“The whole thing has been a wonderful learning experience and I’ve made memories that will stay with me for years to come.”
David and his team crowdfunded a lot of the money needed to finance the build of the rocket and secured sponsorship from three commercial partners, including Optionis.
It was not the first time David had been involved in engineering work for space exploration, having also helped to build a prototype Mars Rover earlier this year.
The Rover was designed to replicate tasks required for Mars missions, with functions such as autonomous navigation, climbing tricky terrain and drilling to obtain and analyse soil samples.
David and his team will be attending a competition later this year in Poland to show off the Rover as he continues to pursue his dream of becoming a Research Engineer.
Ifti Ahmed, chief operating officer at Optionis, said: “David is a very motivated and highly skilled member of our team and we’re really proud of what he’s managed to achieve with the rocket build,”


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