Sunday, May 31, 2009

Google loves this blog!

For some reason...

High Power
High Power Rocket
High Power Rocketry
Sprint ABM

This page only gets at most 50 hits a day, yet it ranks at times above, and others only one below the TRA web page. If only the quality of posts was consistent enough to justify this ranking.

Friday, May 29, 2009

2009: The year of the motor!

A huge set of new motors is on the way down the pipeline at the very moment. Most of them come from Cesaroni, but Aerotech also just announced three end burner motors (one with an extra grain of white lightning propellant to get things started quickly, for boost power.) What we seldom appreciate while using motors, or I seldom do anyway, is just how much RnD goes into any given motor. Then there is extensive testing before final certification. Here are some videos from tests of various new CES motors:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Aerospace web FAQ

" is a non-profit site operated by engineers and scientists in the aerospace field. The goal of this site is to provide educational information on a variety of subjects ranging from aviation to space travel to aerospace technology. Our primary areas of expertise include aerodynamics, propulsion systems, vehicle design, engineering career information, and aerospace history. Learn more about these and other topics by visiting the following sections of our site."

Below is a link to a ton of aerospace and science questions that are great to read. Included among these is a discussion of 9-11 conspiracy theories, which obviously results in a pretty solid shutdown of the claims that some people make.

FAQ Archive

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Joint Statement from NAR-TRA

Joint Statement on the BATFE Litigation

May 18, 2009

Since the U. S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms & Explosives has not appealed the decision of the Federal District Court of March 16, 2009, which ordered the agency to vacate their classification of APCP as an explosive, and the period for their ability to do so has expired as of May 16, 2009, on advice of counsel, we believe that the judgment is considered final although we have not received confirmation from BATFE.  Accordingly, members may operate under the understanding that APCP rocket motors are no longer regulated as an explosive material by BATFE, and no longer require the permits formerly required by the agency to buy, sell, or possess such motors.

Members possessing a LEUP are advised that they should evaluate their individual situation based upon whether they possess (or plan to possess) and store materials that are still considered regulated by BATFE. While APCP rocket motors are now no longer regulated under the requirements of the "Orange Book" and are not subject to requiring a LEUP, other materials may be subject to these requirements.

Members are also reminded that both TRA and NAR safety codes stipulate what motors they may possess, depending on their level of flyer certification. These rules still apply to our members. We likewise strongly encourage vendors of hobby rocket motors to continue to work cooperatively with the rocketry community to only sell rocket motors to customers who possess flyer certifications commensurate with the motors they wish to purchase. Ensuring we maintain our strong level of self-regulation will be an essential element in our ability to retain this freedom from overregulation by outside agencies.

Members should immediately contact the leadership of TRA or NAR should they encounter situations where any BATFE personnel conduct themselves in a manner inconsistent with the final judgment of the Federal District Court.

Ken Good

TRA President


Trip Barber

NAR President

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ares 1

To my mind, this rocket is a great replacement for the shuttle because it will be far cheaper and safer.  It is a no brainer to chose large solid motors for a first stage of any rocket system.  They don't get the high ISPs, and the per pound cost of propellant is quite high as well when compared to Kerosene or hydrogen, but the real savings come in simplicity.  RnD, ground support, and complex engines cover most of the expense of any rocket system.  Monolithic motors of any size can be produced at fairly low costs, and reused all the same.  One great goal would be submarine hull style solid motors representing a first stage for a 1 million lbs to orbit rocket.  The Sea Dragon would probably have worked well with such a first stage. A few of the rockets planned to replace the Saturn V (never produced due to a shift in funding and policy, as well as the Shuttle taking up a ton of resources) had solids as first stage motors.

But to put things simply, other than being a generally better design in every way, this rocket gets something right that the Shuttle got horribly wrong: You don't mix men and payload.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Can you indentify this rocket?

Source: White Sands Missile Range Museum

Can you help identify this rocket? It is an Air Force rocket that was flown as the White Sands Missile Range. To date, I have not been able to find out what it is. And I do not think that anyone else knows. If you can help, please place a comment. Even wild speculation and guesses would be OK, because it is so quiet and somewhat boring around here!

Here is a link suggested by Dick, showing that the scale experts are also wondering about this.

"The picture at right is an unidentified prototype flown from White Sands Missile Range. It vaguely resembles General Electric's Hermes A-3B from 1954. If you know the identity of this rocket, please post to the group or contact the moderator directly."

Sunday, May 10, 2009


This is, above all others, the sister rocket to my personal favorite; Project Farside. But in NOTS EV-1 launches, the complex but rather small rocket (again very similar) is lofted to modest altitude and velocity by a jet aircraft, rather than the very high altitude but negligible speed of a Farside launch. And obviously, the target for Farside was to attain high altitude but NOT orbit, altitudes of up to 4000 miles if possible, and for EV-1 the target was to orbit a very small satellite. But all the same, this project excites my personal interest in early rocketry and certain attempts that seem the most daring, and the least likely to succeed. This project has been classified for a long time, and it is likely that some information is still missing (perhaps forever). However one of the new rocketry books as seen in a previous post does discuss this project in decent detail; The First Space Race: Launching the World's First Satellites

"Project Pilot was the first attempt to create a air launched satellite launch vehicle. The vehicle was better known by its nickname 'NOTSNIK', a combination of NOTS and Sputnik. The NOTS-EV1 was also the first all solid orbital vehicle. It was launched by a Douglas F-4D1 Skyray airplane. After separation from the aircraft, the first pair of HOTROC motors, derived from the SUBROC anti submarine missile, were ignited. Five seconds later, the second pair was ignited. After jettisoning the first stage, the X-241 and NOTS Extruded motors put the payload into a transfer orbit, which was circularised half a orbit later by the fourth stage, which was mounted backwards in fron tof the payload. As the vehicle was designed for maximum simplicity it featured no moving parts.

4 ground launched tests were made with only one pair of live HOTROCS. The first 2 failed due to exploding motors, the other two due to structural failure.

All launches apparently failed, most due to structural failures. Some rumours exist, that the payloads of the first and third orbital launch attempt reached orbit, but this remains very doubtful as an engineer involved in the project recalls, that there were some signals picked up by ground stations, but those were most probably not from the satellite."

-From Gunther's Space Page

"Approved in early 1958, the project proceeded rapidly by relying on existing rocket motors and other components readily available. The NOTSNIK vehicle was carried aboard a Douglas F4D-1 Skyray fighter to a high altitude where its rocket motors were fired for the trip into orbit. The rocket was designed to be released while the F4D-1 was traveling at a speed of more than 450 mph (725 km/h) and in a 50° climb to a launch altitude of 41,000 ft (12,500 m). Upon release, the first of five rocket stages was ignited. Both the first and second stages included two HOTROC solid rocket motors derived from the booster used on the SUBROC anti-submarine rocket-boosted torpedo. The first stage rockets ignited three seconds after release from the parent aircraft and remained operational for just five seconds. Following a twelve second coast phase, the second stage pair of HOTROC motors ignited for another five second burn.

By the time the second stage exhausted, NOTSNIK had achieved an altitude of about 50 miles (80 km). The structure containing both the first and second stages was then jettisoned as the third stage ignited. Consisting of an ABL X-241 solid rocket, this stage burned for 36 seconds before the fourth stage motor ignited for a 5.7 second long burn. By now, the vehicle had reached a very low and extremely eccentric transfer orbit. The orbit was stabilized into a more circular orbit by the fifth and final stage consisting of a NOTS 3-inch Spherical rocket motor.

This combination of rocket stages boosted by an aircraft launch platform had the capability to place a very small payload of just 2.3 lb (1.05 kg) into an orbit of 1,400 miles (2,250 km) altitude. The payload reportedly included a small infrared camera, designed to take images of the ground or collect weather data, and a transmitter to return signals to Earth. Since this payload could potentially be used as a reconnaissance system, the entire project was classified top secret and remained unknown to the public for many years."
- From

"Stage 0: 1 x F-6A. Gross Mass: 10,474 kg (23,091 lb). Empty Mass: 6,869 kg (15,143 lb). Motor: 1 x J57-8. Thrust (vac): 71.137 kN (15,992 lbf). Isp: 2,770 sec. Burn time: 3,600 sec. Length: 13.93 m (45.70 ft). Diameter: 4.05 m (13.28 ft). Propellants: Air/Kerosene.
Stage 1: 2 x Project Pilot-1. Gross Mass: 100 kg (220 lb). Empty Mass: 27 kg (59 lb). Motor: 1 x HOTROC. Thrust (vac): 63.200 kN (14,208 lbf). Burn time: 4.90 sec. Length: 1.80 m (5.90 ft). Diameter: 0.30 m (0.98 ft). Propellants: Solid.
Stage 2: 2 x Project Pilot-1. Gross Mass: 100 kg (220 lb). Empty Mass: 27 kg (59 lb). Motor: 1 x HOTROC. Thrust (vac): 63.200 kN (14,208 lbf). Burn time: 4.90 sec. Length: 1.80 m (5.90 ft). Diameter: 0.30 m (0.98 ft). Propellants: Solid.
Stage 3: 1 x Project Pilot 1-3. Gross Mass: 200 kg (440 lb). Empty Mass: 25 kg (55 lb). Motor: 1 x X-241. Thrust (vac): 12.100 kN (2,720 lbf). Burn time: 36 sec. Length: 1.50 m (4.90 ft). Diameter: 0.46 m (1.50 ft). Propellants: Solid.
Stage 4: 1 x Project Pilot 1-4. Gross Mass: 10 kg (22 lb). Empty Mass: 3.00 kg (6.60 lb). Motor: 1 x NOTS 8. Thrust (vac): 5.100 kN (1,147 lbf). Burn time: 5.70 sec. Length: 0.50 m (1.64 ft). Diameter: 0.20 m (0.65 ft). Propellants: Solid.
Stage 5: 1 x Project Pilot 1-5. Empty Mass: 1.00 kg (2.20 lb). Motor: 1 x NOTS 3SM. Thrust (vac): 700 N (150 lbf). Burn time: 1.00 sec. Length: 0.10 m (0.32 ft). Diameter: 0.0800 m (0.2620 ft). Propellants: Solid.

Project Pilot Chronology

1958 July 4 - China Lake G-2. Project Pilot-1 FAILURE: Failure. Test mission Agency: USN. Apogee: 0 km ( mi).
1958 July 18 - China Lake G-2. Project Pilot-1 FAILURE: Failure. Test mission Agency: USN. Apogee: 0 km ( mi).
1958 July 25 - Santa Barbara Channel DZ -. Project Pilot 1 FAILURE: Radio contact lost; possibly reached orbit. Pilot 1 Spacecraft: Pilot. Agency: USN. Apogee: 12 km (7 mi).
1958 August 12 - Santa Barbara Channel DZ -. Project Pilot 2 FAILURE: Vehicle exploded at ignition. Pilot 2 Spacecraft: Pilot. Agency: USN. Apogee: 12 km (7 mi).
1958 August 16 - China Lake G-2. Project Pilot-1 FAILURE: Failure. Test mission Agency: USN. Apogee: 0 km ( mi).
1958 August 17 - China Lake G-2. Project Pilot-1 FAILURE: Failure. Test mission Agency: USN. Apogee: 0 km ( mi).
1958 August 22 - Santa Barbara Channel DZ -. Project Pilot 3 FAILURE: Radio contact lost; possibly reached orbit. Pilot 3 Spacecraft: Pilot. Agency: USN. Apogee: 0 km ( mi).
1958 August 25 - Santa Barbara Channel DZ -. Project Pilot 4 FAILURE: Vehicle exploded after 0.75sec. Pilot 4 Spacecraft: Pilot. Agency: USN. Apogee: 12 km (7 mi).
1958 August 26 - Santa Barbara Channel DZ -. Project Pilot 5 FAILURE: Stage failed to ignite, vehicle fell into Pacific. Pilot 5 Spacecraft: Pilot. Agency: USN. Apogee: 12 km (7 mi).
1958 August 28 - Santa Barbara Channel DZ -. Project Pilot 6 FAILURE: One first stage motor failed to ignite, causing structural failure. Pilot 6 Spacecraft: Pilot. Agency: USN. Apogee: 12 km (7 mi)."

- From Encyclopedia Astronautica

It is fascinating to see that many of these launches were at China Lake, your typical ultra secret desert test range, but also at the Santa Barbara Channel "Drop Zone" which is a rocket range.  A fellow researcher with whom I have worked remembered his post doc. work in the area, and how from time to time rocket launches would zoom past downrange.

Why did EV-1 and Farside have such poor sucsess rates?  Well first of all, most rockets fail early on in development, unless heroic efforts are put into testing programs before flight.  Solid rocket motors generally work just fine... but when combined in 4 or 5 or 6 stage rockets, Farside having 10 motors total for example, all bets are off.  Given time, there is no reason to think that these projects could not have worked out.  They were very complex, and that complexity may have made them unsuitable for future use.  Frankly they both have limited capabilities; each could only orbit or loft 2 - 5 lbs at a time.  Compare this to other rockets in the works at the time: The Redstone, The Thor, Project Vanguard, and the incredible Atlas.  Each would prove far more capable in time, offering one or several orders of magnitude improvement.

I would argue that these kinds of rockets that are complex, low cost, and all solid probably have more to offer for the modern amatuer community than for the professional community.

In any event, I just love the little J-700 5th stage motor for this project.  1 sec burn time, spherical.  Looks like an all stainless steel nozzle also.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Earth from Space

There is a great 24 hour portrait of the Earth from a Clarke orbit, but sadly it can't be embedded. This spacecraft, Echostar 11, is in orbit around the earth at sufficient altitude so that it makes one orbit in about 24 hours. For this reason, it remains over the same part of the earth at any given time.

A day in the life of the planet.

Launch of E-Star 11

Echostar 11:

NORAD ID: 33207
Perigee: 35,781.7 km 
Apogee: 35,805.9 km 
Inclination: 0.1° 
Period: 1,436.1 min 
Launch date: July 16, 2008
Source: United States (US) 
Comments: A powerful new broadcaster for the DISH Network satellite television system was successfully shot into space today aboard a multi-national Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket. The satellite will use an onboard engine to reach a circular geostationary orbit 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the equator where it can match Earth's rotation and seem parked over one spot of the globe. Its final destination will be the slot at 110 degrees West longitude to cover the United States.


Monday, May 4, 2009

5 New rocketry books

Here are 5 new books from Amazon;

Apollo 12: The NASA Mission Reports
This book book is one in a large series of books by Apogee that covers many NASA missions in great detail, usually with a CD rom included, at a great price. Most of these can be found on Amazon for a few dollars. Apollo 12 was the 2nd moon landing mission, spending just over a day on the Lunar surface.

Project Vanguard: The NASA History
This book discusses project Vanguard, one of the first programs to attempt (and probably the third to succeed) in placing a satellite into orbit.

How Apollo Flew to the Moon
Having been rather unhappy about recent Praxis books, despite all the hype, I nevertheless chose to buy two more from them because these books got such great reviews. Only time will tell if they are up to snuff, or just overpriced. This book is all about the practical details behind the Apollo Program, navigation for example. Pretty interesting stuff.

Praxis Manned Spaceflight Log 1961-2006
This book is a comprehensive log of all manned spaceflight (as the title suggests) from the first manned flights to 2006.

The First Space Race: Launching the World's First Satellites
The last of this set of books covers the background behind orbital flight theory, the historical context for early attempts, and all of the initial projects seeking to place objects in orbit. This includes Vanguard, the Russian attempt (obviously the first), the first American orbit: Explorer launched on a modified Redstone (Jupiter C), and a classified military project which will be discussed more in a later post.