Pathfinder, a Leeds University Rocketry Association documentary

Leeds University Rocketry Association (LURA) has released its first-ever documentary, ‘The Pathfinder’.

LURA has released its first-ever documentary this month, ‘The Pathfinder’. Directed, filmed, and edited by Olivia Whittaker, this short film captures the chaotic final few weeks of LURA’s Aptos project, culminating in the spectacular launch of their Pathfinder rocket.

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LURA is the University of Leeds’ first-ever student rocketry team. With the mission of Preparing The Mars Generation, the team focuses on providing students with real-world, hands-on experience designing, building, and flying rockets. This year, they are focusing on beating the UK student altitude record from UK soil and representing the University at the National Propulsion Competition with the team’s first liquid rocket engine.

The documentary focuses on Project Aptos, which ran as a Masters project in the School of Mechanical Engineering, supervised by Dr Jongrae Kim. Over six months, five final-year Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering students, Theo, Ben, Joe, Jordan and Liam, took on the challenge of designing and building an entire rocket and an active control system to help it fly more vertically.

Flying vertically means flying higher. This is especially important for LURA in their current pursuit of the UK student altitude record. After performing an aerodynamic analysis on LURA’s current G1 C rocket, they realised it wouldn’t be suitable for this project and had to create a new rocket, Pathfinder. It was designed, manufactured, assembled and tested by the team. This project paves the way for the next generation of students to continue to improve on the design so that it can be used on the team’s future rockets.

The documentary allows you to immerse yourself in their journey, through all the trials the team endured, from equipment failure, down to nail-biting minutes before launch on the beautiful backdrop of Fairlie Moor, Scotland. Through to the joys, and playful moments of teamwork, as the parachute deployed and the Pathfinder rocket returned safely to the earth.

‘The Pathfinder really is a story of teamwork in the face of adversity’ says LURA founder, Theo Youds. ‘We took on an incredibly difficult challenge and I’m so pleased with how much we achieved in such a short amount of time. Olivia has done such an amazing job to capture everything that happened in those final few weeks and this video really showcases the great work that the students at the University of Leeds are doing.’

The Pathfinder rocket, taken from a drone, flying up in to the air, in the background is the Scottish mooreside.


The Aptos team would like to thank the academics and technicians from the School of Mechanical Engineering that supported the project, as well as the UK Rocketry Association for providing mentoring and John Bonsor for his continual support of all of LURA’s launches.

You can find out more about the team and Project Aptos here: