Hamish Self is the child of two surgeons, but his heart has always belonged to space. He remembers watching the same video about the making of the space shuttle over and over again. “I thought that was the coolest thing ever,” he says.
Now studying aerospace engineering and mathematics at Monash University, Hamish is well on his way to a space career. He builds and launches rockets with the Monash High Powered Rocketry (Monash HPR) team. He also helped organise the Australian Youth Aerospace Association (AYAA)’s first Astra program.
He also got to spend a semester abroad at Purdue University in Indiana, USA. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, so people think it’s the opposite of where you’d want to go,” Hamish says. “But it's a mecca for aerospace engineering.”
There’s a good reason for that – Purdue is also known ‘the cradle of astronauts’. Since the 1950s, 26 Purdue graduates have gone on to become astronauts, including Neil Armstrong. While he was there, Hamish was part of the Purdue Space Program’s liquid rocketry team. “It’s incredible that students get to build that kind of thing,” he says.
Back in Melbourne, Hamish is Monash HPR’s safety officer as well as helping out the propulsion team. Hamish first got involved with Monash HPR in 2018, not long after the program started. His first role on the team was developing simulation software that could predict their rocket’s performance.
And his hard work paid off. Monash HPR entered their project, the rocket Hyperion, in the inaugural Australian Universities Rocket Competition (AURC) in 2019. Hyperion’s final altitude was within 0.1% of the software’s predictions. The team also came second place in the 30,000 foot category and fourth place in the 10,000 foot category.
Watching the rocket actually launch after months of fine-tuning is a thrill, says Hamish. “It’s really exciting, mixed with the tension of knowing it could go wrong! There’s nothing like it. It’s right in front of you, and then it’s in the clouds before you can look up to chase it.”
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 AURC was held online. Projects were judged based on their engineering methodology, manufacturing, rocket design and simulations. Monash HPR placed third in both the 10,000 foot and 30,000 foots categories. The team also took first place in the SHOAL Award for Modelling and Simulation.
Every student rocketeer’s dream is to compete internationally in the Spaceport America Cup. The event was cancelled in 2020, but a virtual competition took place in 2021 with 75 teams competing. Monash HPR scored again, coming second in one of the three 10,000 foot categories.
While Hamish waits for the opportunity to attend Spaceport in person, another project is keeping him busy. In 2020, AYAA launched the first Astra program. Similar to the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program, Astra teams work together to solve a hypothetical space industry scenario.
“It’s like Model UN, but for space,” Hamish says. Teams met online over several months to work on their projects. Hamish was a team coordinator. “It was a really great experience. It was really cool to meet lots of motivated, interesting, diverse people who are all really passionate about space.”
Australia’s space industry has grown so much in the time Hamish has been studying. At this point, he’s not quite sure what he hopes to do after graduation. In the meantime, he’s taking inspiration from astronaut Chris Hadfield and following opportunities as they come.
“I’m just slowly moving in the right direction and hoping that I eventually get somewhere that's fun and that's exciting!”
- Hamish enrolled in the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)/Bachelor of Science double degree at Monash University in 2017. His majors are aerospace engineering and applied mathematics.
- He joined the Monash High Powered Rocketry team not long after it started in 2018. His first role on the team was helping develop Saturn, software that could simulate their rocket’s trajectory.
- In 2019, Hamish spent a semester abroad at Purdue University, USA. During his time there he was part of the Purdue Space Program’s liquid-fuel rocket team.
- Hamish discovered the Australian Youth Aerospace Association through participating in their first Australian Universities Rocket Competition. He decided to get involved, first as the organisation’s Victorian representative. Then, in 2020, he helped the first Astra program.
- Over the summer of 2019-2020, Hamish completed an internship at Myriota, working on their satellite program.
- He is now the safety officer for Monash HPR.