Saturday, January 29, 2011
"Last year we started work on a new vehicle planform, which we're calling the tube rocket. From our perspective it is a Supermod whose 36 inch spherical tanks have been replaced by 15 inch cylindrical tanks with a common bulkhead. Otherwise it is quite similar to our other vehicles; low pressure LOX/alcohol as propellant, regulated helium pressurization, the same type of engine as a Mod, the same engine gimbal and roll vane for guidance and control, and the same computer box and plumbing schematic.
From an external perspective, it's looks like a fairly large liquid fueled sounding rocket. We're using a dual parachute deployment system that would be familiar to anyone in advanced high power rocketry (HPR), adjusted for a rocket that goes rather higher and is quite a bit heavier than most HPR.
We're still definitely working toward a fully reusable VTVL human-carrying vehicle, and the tube rocket acts as a risk reduction step in that direction."
My biggest concern about these competitions is that they focus on Moon landers (a crucial step, and important to work on) but seem to skip the hardest and most important part: actually launching payloads off of the Earth into space and orbit. I suspect that Google picked the lander competition because it is bite sized and produces cool looking footage. Making an orbital challenge, possibly the most important thing Google could do with these teams, would result in lots of crashes. And when it works, the rocket just disappears. In any event, it is good to see this team working towards space.
See more amateur rocketry over at the N prize blog.