Monday, May 31, 2010

Little Monster Update

Readers may recall the following post section from below:

Little Monster Rocket does not have specific plans, and has not updated this web page in over a year. The FAQ is detailed, however, and contains some interesting discussion. One key question is: "Is the N prize possible?" The authors say yes, comments say "show us the math."

This N prize team has provided me with additional information, and suggested the following links for interested readers:

A detailed interview over at

And also two recent blog posts about the plans:
Blog post 1
Blog post 2

"First, a little about what we're not doing. We're not doing a balloon launch (rockoon), air launch, jet assisted booster, space plane, light gas gun, electromagnetic mass driver, space elevator, nuclear rocket, beamed power-craft, anti-gravity system, teleporter, or any of the more exotic launch concepts."

"Each of our three(3) stages employs a single engine, with two(2)-axis control (gimbaled) – nothing fancy; no clustering. The system is fairly devoid of kludges: no variable thrust differential steering, exhaust vanes, or gas injection schemes; roll control is handled via simple gas jets. All engines are low pressure, including the booster. The third stage engine is roughly 30 psi chamber pressure (or potentially lower), the second stage roughly 60 psi; the booster will run at ~200 psi (or otherwise generally between 150 psi and 250 psi depending on certain experimental factors). The targeted specific impulse for the booster is estimated to be >220 s (sl), >230 s nominally; upper stages are both estimated at >270 s (vacuum).

The entire rocket will be about 75 kg GLOW (or more generally between 50 kg and 100 kg). The ultimate weight depends upon the final parameters of the third stage (the prototypes of which are now at ~560 g (wet mass) including payload, with an approximate 0.8 mass fraction; refer to the LMR-A/S3-HG for an example of one of our experimental third stages*)." Blog post 1

It would be incredible to see such a small rocket fly to orbit, or high altitudes at all. Looking forward to some images in the future!

For more N Prize information, visit Nprize.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Masten flight with engine restart

“We’re extremely excited and very proud to announce that we now have in-air re-light capability,” said David Masten, CEO. “The ability to turn off our engine, re-ignite it in flight, successfully regain control and land was the next big milestone as we expand our flight envelope to include high altitude flights. Each milestone we hit makes the path to space much clearer.”

These teams are creating some incredible rockets, which will prove useful as landers in the future.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Titan Missile Museum

Have you ever been inside the control room for a Titan ICBM? Well now you (virtually) can!

Titan Missile

From: (with many many more locations.)

From Philip B., a prolific member of the R2K team.

Apogee Altimeter One

"'AltimeterOne' is the ONE altimeter that you'll use in every rocket you fly to find out how high it went. Why? The four main reasons are because it displays the altitude on an LCD screen, it is so easy to use, it doesn't require a payload bay like other altimeters, and it is small and lightweight."

I plan on ordering one soon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

America responds to Sputnik

While searching for more info about Project Farside, and generally failing to find anything new, I did come across articles from Life Magazine. These are from October 1957, just after Sputnik made orbit. The coverage is pretty detailed, and rather balanced considering the political conditions at the time.

Oct 1957

The ads may just be the best part!

Best search of the day

"power beamed airbreathing ramjet"

I like it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

John Holdren on the new manned missions

Skipping the Moon is exactly the right call here, and on this I can't agree more. The Moon is a luxury that we cannot now afford, and with triage comes hard choices. But there is one major flaw with this plan; where are the rockets? Seriously, what rocket do we use to send our men into deep space? At least the capsule is still being developed, that is something. The Ares 1 should also be continued, at a minimum. And then there is the need for a heavy lift rocket to replace the shuttle (really to replace the Saturn V where the shuttle failed to do so.) No matter how much the "skip the Moon" concept agrees with me, I cannot get past the feeling that Obama basically prevented me from ever seeing real developments in manned space exploration before I turn 50, at which point the Moon landings will be about 60 years in the rear view mirror.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Titan and the rings of Saturn

"This incredible composition was captured by Cassini during its May 18, 2010 flyby of Enceladus. In the foreground, near the top, is the night side of Enceladus' south pole, only about 14,000 kilometers away from the spacecraft. In the middle ground are Saturn's rings seen nearly edge on; with the Sun nearly in front of Cassini, the wispy F ring makes the brightest, fuzzy-edged streak. In the background, peeking through the gaps in the rings, is Titan, with its twilit atmosphere nearly encircling the visible disk."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Possible volcanic ash in Meridiani Planum

Searches to this page

future space propulsion
high powered rocket for stalite launch
vmax motors
demand for space rockets in NZ
why the name underexpanded nozzle
53 inch high power rocket
detailed image of inside rocket
flying humans rocket booster pack
black and blue mongoose

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dummy test rocket for air launch system

"How do you test whether a large space rocket can be launched out of the back of a cargo plane? If your idea doesn't work, you've lost a very expensive rocket and possibly a cargo plane and its crew too. Answer: You have Hanson Tank build a full size replica of your space rocket to test the idea. So that it's the same weight as a real one, you include several internal water ballast tanks that can also be used to distribute the weight precisely. So that you can run the test more than once, you also invest in some very large parachutes. But just in case, you also order another one as a spare."

Scroll to the bottom of the page for more images.

How about adding 4 Q motors to this thing and some fins. Am I right guys?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex - SRMSC

(Click to enlarge, well worth the dl.)

A loyal (or first time, or sporadic) reader recently sent a link for lots of videos of Sprint, Spartan, and some crazy PAR technology at the web site dedicated to the The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex. "The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was the United States' first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. The primary goals of this web site are to (1) provide an operational overview of the Safeguard ABM system and (2) document its single tactical deployment at the Mickelsen complex in North Dakota."

Thanks to Michael from North Dakota for this great link. If anyone else has information, images, rocketry tales, videos, or anything else worthy of posting (but perhaps you don't have a page), please contact us via the email button at the upper right hand side of the page. Or simply send to arlukiii at gmail dot com (well fix it then send the email.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Two more vintage videos

I particularly like this video above because of the on-board footage showing what appears to be some intense paint ablation (from :10 to :13.) Does anyone know a source for more footage like this? It would be great to see the entire flight from this perspective.

"The Safeguard Program was a United States Army anti-ballistic missile system developed in the late 1960s. Safeguard was designed to protect U.S. ICBM missile sites from counterforce attack, thus preserving the option of an unimpeded retaliatory strike. Safeguard used much of the same technology of the earlier Sentinel Program, which had been designed to protect U.S. cities.

Sentinel was developed but never deployed. Safeguard was planned for several sites within the United States, but only one was completed. Until the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system was deployed, the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard complex in Nekoma, North Dakota, with the separate long-range detection radar located further north near the town of Cavalier, North Dakota, was the only operational anti-ballistic missile system ever deployed by the United States. It defended Minuteman ICBM missile silo near the Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.
In May 1969, the US Army Institute of Heraldry approved this shoulder sleeve insignia for Safeguard.

It had reinforced underground launchers for thirty Spartan and sixteen Sprint nuclear tipped missiles (an additional fifty or so Sprint missiles were deployed at four remote launch sites). The complex was deactivated in 1976 after being operational for less than four months, due to concerns over continuing an anti-missile-missile arms race, cost, effectiveness, and a changing political climate."

This one has:

a.) Some funky theme music
b.) Technology of insane size and power
c.) Some old school computers

Youtube is perfect for these kinds of videos, only 10 years ago I had to order away for VHS copies of these!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Abort LES tower test - it worked

Not the best footage ever, the cool part is missing. Any rocket we do wind up using to carry men must, MUST, have an abort system like this in place. Two crews died as a result of a shuttle with no credible early abort, and no capsule.

Furthermore, I would like to strongly express my desire that this capsule program be continued. Even if we don't use it on a constellation rocket, we do need a standardized capsule that could be used (if modified slightly) for deep space work.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Launch at the Baikonur Kosmodrome

The best part about this set of images is that it shows the people and surrounding area of the BK.

From English Russia

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

16 inch armor penetrating shell

Note the shape of the penetrating cap (center.) For some reason, this rather blunt shape is used for armor penetrating shells of this size. How do these caps work?

Rockets on a timetable

From a Nov, 1950 Popular Mechanics article. This covers several rockets including the Bumper Wac two stage, record breaking system.

Rockets on a timetable posted early this morning at The Rocketry Planet.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

N prize team profiles

This is an update from the N prize blog.

With about 500 days left, this looks like a good time to quickly describe the plans of some notable participating teams. In some cases, information is not available, or not complete enough to warrant much discussion. But let's start with an updated list of teams. This list is probably incomplete, but represents the majority of the active teams including some that one should consider at the head of the class, Team Prometheus for example.

If your team is missing from this list, and has a web page, please comment to this post or email me (link at the upper right of the page) so that this list can be updated.

N Prize teams:

Micro Launchers
Potent Voyager
Team Prometheus
Little Monster Rocket
Kiwi 2 Space
QI Spacecraft
Yit Space
Daedalus Aerospace
Team 9.99
Thomas Space Corp
The Angel Express


Neblua Aerospace has a very nice web page, with some images showing test equipment. While quickly browsing, I was unable to find any detailed images or plans for the rocket, however.
The Cerberus rocket is planned to fly with an 8 component aerospike engine.

Epsilon Vee has planned to build a rocket called CESTUS 1, or Common Expendable Space Transportation for Ultra-small Satellites.
This very small rocket is only "8 inches in diameter, roughly 12 feet long, weighing in a some 180 lbs (82 kgs). Primarily 6061 aluminum, lox / propane propellants and ablative engines. It has a payload of a whopping 1 lb (455 g)!" It is unclear if a rocket like this could ever launch payload to orbit, largely because small rockets suffer from severe low atmosphere drag and mass fraction ratios. It should be noted that this rocket has not been built yet, and the latest update here was from 2008.

SARA, the South African Rocketry Association, has some very interesting looking rocket plans. Group platform:

Aims of the South African Rocketry Association

To promote experimental research rocketry in the South Africa.
To promote mathematics and science through rocketry in education.
To promote space science as an industry in South Africa
To encourage affiliation of all interested parties
To reach the altitude of 100km, a first for a private institution in SA.
The rocket on the right, which looks a bit like the NOTS-EV-1 Pilot (NOTSNIK) rocket, appears to be the N prize rocket - perhaps combined with the taller rocket next to it. Details are limited on this, and like on most pages, updates are mostly from 2008.

Micro Launchers has some solid information on their rocket plans. There is a short presentation available on very small rockets. This first rocket is called a cansat launcher, made to launch nano or pico-satellites. This rocket would certainly be the smallest satellite launcher ever used, particularly if it is launched from the ground. The high mass-fraction, high ISP bipropellant stages are a great idea. But, as usual, rockets this small suffer severe drag losses at low altitude. Most updates are several years old.

Potent Voyager has not updated their web page or posted any plans that I have found, since announcing their entry into the n prize competition on 8/8/2008. This seems to be, sadly, a common trend among these teams. What happened in 2009 that made them stop?

Team Prometheus is perhaps the most famous n prize team. They have received a large amount of press, and coverage in the rocketry hobby. More important, this team has also regularly updated their web page, and to post in rocketry forums. Recent developments include:

Testing of a tiny satellite transmitter, a ground detection station, and a rotating launch tower. Nothing here is ready for the n prize, but these and other parts will be put to use. A rockoon launch is planned soon, and it will be one of the few amateur rockoon launches ever attempted. Here is footage from a balloon launch to near space:

And an interview:

Little Monster Rocket does not have specific plans, and has not updated this web page in over a year. The FAQ is detailed, however, and contains some interesting discussion. One key question is: "Is the N prize possible?" The authors say yes, comments say "show us the math."

Kiwi 2 Space has some very interesting plans and projects under development. "Our approach to the N-Prize is relatively simple. (I hope!)
We plan on using a 3 stage liquid fuelled rocket to reach low earth orbit, consisting of a pump fed booster (money and time permitting or else we will resort to a pressure fed booster) and liquid fueled upper stages, from which the propellant choice is still yet to be confirmed. The rocket will be ground launched from a mobile launch platform.
The 19.99g satellite will be placed in a 200km high circular orbit with an inclination of 34deg. The size of the rocket will enable us to launch multiple satellites giving us more chance of winning the prize if one is to fail. This added redundancy has been incorporated into the design so the rocket still achieves the required Delta V for orbit. For a 200km circular orbit the satellite needs a Delta V of 7786m/s to stop it dropping out of orbit, so the total rocket Delta V will be in the realms of 9300m/s."

QI Spacecraft has a simple (text only) blog that shows some progress towards a rockoon project. Images would be nice in the next post! (Sadly, the last post was from 2009.)

Yit Space This web page is no longer active, it has been parked.

Aerosplice has some interesting work that revolves around a strategy of using air breathing or air augmented booster stages (pulse jet, ramjet) that do most of the heavy lifting.

"Why is the Aerosplice approach better?

Every second that a conventional rocket burns fuel, it plows through economic resources, and leaves a wake of a destroyed budget behind. Why begin acceleration as a rocket? There are so many options now to reach reasonable speeds at a cost of a thousand times less than that of conventional rockets.

To go from stationary (at rest on the launch pad) to orbital velocity (Mach 25) or even escape velocity (Mach 35) a vehicle must accelerate. Acceleration requires that you continuously burn more fuel or decrease the mass of the rocket continuously. So shouldn't that burnt fuel be as inexpensive as possible to achieve the maximum acceleration and altitude (potential energy)? Of course! Especially if that fuel is as cheap as Kerosene or nearly free in the case of hydrogen produced from sunlight and water.

Currently the conventional rocket fuels of choice are extremely expensive such as liquid Hydrogen/ Liquid Oxygen, Liquid Oxygen/ Kerosene, or Nitrogentetroxide/ Hydrazine. When using conventional rockets most of the vehicle's weight is fuel! 90%! and only a tiny percent is payload, usually between 2% and 5% . That has to Change.

What Aerosplice provides is alternative technologies to the expensive conventional routes to space. Technologies like valveless pulse jets to get the rockets off the launch pads and get them up to speeds between Mach 0.5 and Mach 0.9. Then Ramjets to get the Rockets to speeds greater than Mach 10. Then finally Hydrogen Peroxide based rocket engines to get vehicles into space and beyond. We also do extensive research into Ion, Plasma and Hydrogen Fusion systems for travel between planets and for satellite re-orientation."

Daedalus Aerospace has a Google groups page with some fairly recent updates. Balloon work is one highlight of their "recent" progress.

Team 9.99 has a great looking web page. Sadly, they do not have any further information on this web page!

Wikisat launched a test balloon in 2009, from Spain, but were unable to track or recover it according to the last update on this web page. They have a very interesting, and very tiny electronics package:

Valkyrie has some information about their plans, and updates on some very different topics, but little in the way of specific information.

Thomas Space Corp has a cool picture, but no real web page.

The Angel Express (Te Anahera Tere)
has a simple web page with a statement of intent. They are a rather late entry into the N prize, so perhaps it is somewhat more reasonable that they do not have much information yet.


It appears, in all honesty, that these N prize teams are for the most part stagnating or falling behind. There is nothing shocking or shameful in this; rocketry is hard, expensive, and for almost everyone, just a hobby. Large projects seldom wind up flying, even projects that are designed to fly a simple hobby rocket to 100,000 feet. Orbit is much harder, and the N prize is very constraining. There is little chance that any team will even even attempt a credible N prize launch. Having said that, great benefits can be gained from such a competition even if it is essentially impossible. If Team Prometheus is able to do a few rockoon launches, perhaps culminating in an N-10,000 rockoon flight to space with a camera, that would have made the whole competition worthy of our time and attention.

Stay tuned for further updates.