The Australian Youth Aerospace Association has recognised University of Sydney Rocketry Team director Alison Lockley as one of 2022’s Young Australian Space Leaders.
Lockley, who is in her final year studying a double degree of bachelor of engineering and science, was recently awarded a scholarship which will allow her to attend the International Astronautical Congress and the Space Generation Congress events in Paris this September.
But it hasn’t been all smooth flying for the young student.
“One thing that often surprises people is that I dropped out of high school when I was 15,” she told create. “It was a tumultuous period of my life, and I wound up working as a chef.”
Lockley eventually was able to attend University of the Sunshine Coast and earned a GPA of 7 — equivalent of a high distinction — which allowed her to transfer to the University of Sydney.
There, she leads the USYD Rocketry Team, which was announced as the overall winner of the Spaceport America Cup intercollegiate rocketry competition, having competed in the 30,000 feet commercial off-the-shelf launch and payload categories.
“The off-the-shelf category means we bought a solid rocket motor instead of making it ourselves and the goal was to launch to as close to 30,000 feet as possible — not higher or lower,” Lockley explained.
The space dynamics laboratory payload challenge is awarded for technical excellence and engineering for payload.
“We entered that competition flying our in-house developed payload Callistemon, which is a target localisation payload. It uses computer vision for the dynamic targeting of space junk in a dynamic environment,” Lockley said.
Their two wins means that the team also won the overall competition.
“There’s a lot that goes into the competition — it’s not just how you launch, it’s also engineering reports, design, modelling, and simulation, flight trajectory analysis,” she said.
“For the payload challenge, I believe part of the reason that we won was not just the idea, but how it was implemented. We could actually demonstrate that the design worked and that it was novel research,” she said.
One giant leap
Lockley recently received an Impact Award from the Australian Youth Aerospace Association for resilience and creating an impact in the Australian space industry — which will see her fly to Paris for conferences to further her career.
“There are two events coming up: the Space Generation Congress, which is about bringing young people together for networking and to discuss some key issues in the space industry,” she said.
“After that, there’s the International Astronautical Congress, which is the biggest space event in the world. It showcases all the new information and research that’s coming up in the space industry and there are lots of presentations and opportunities for networking.”
Lockley is also undertaking an internship with the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG).
“I can’t talk about the classified stuff we do, but the work is really interesting and engaging, and working in the defence environment is extremely rewarding,” she said.
“It’s part of the STEM cadetship program aimed at high achieving students, bringing us into research, different sectors of defence.
“As part of that program, I have the opportunity to work in the Disruptive Hypersonics Technologies Group as a research scientist. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by so many bright and talented engineers and research scientists.”
While she’s enjoying her work, Lockley is still keen on furthering her studies at university.
“I start my undergraduate thesis next year,” she said. “I’m crazy about rockets, and I can’t think of anything better than spending my life working on researching them.
“My current plan is to keep working for the DSTG in hypersonics research but when I graduate, I may consider the possibility of a PhD in rocket propulsion for Australia’s sovereign space capabilities.”
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