Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A mach 2 custom fiberglass rocket

"In which I launch my fiberglass 38mm minimum diameter rocket at a Tripoli MN research launch... and lose it. No surprise! A 32-inch rocket at 10,000 feet?

We had several theories as to why we lost signal. It could have landed in water, come in ballistic and buried itself, or simply landed in a ditch or valley.

The rocket held together, which is encouragement enough for me to try again, and possibly ramp it up further!"

Daniel has rapidly worked his way up from a teenager flying mid power rockets, to a young adult flying L motors as a college student! Here is his application for a Space X Internship. I sincerely hope that Space X notices his potential and gives him the internship. You can catch a quick shot of the same mach 2 rocket in this video. It looks like a little gem. In an era where carbon fiber is the go-to material for high performance, it is nice to see fiberglass elbow back into the limelight a bit.  The layup seems extremely light-weight, and the fact that it is transparent, while not particularly useful in flight, is still very cool.

You can read more over at DTH.

MiniCube - $320 to near space

"The MiniCube is small plastic box five cm on a side. On the base is a standard camera tripod mount. You put your project inside the cube and mails it to JP Aerospace. We carry it to the edge of space then send it back to you. When you purchase a MiniCube you will get a MiniCube and a flight. We immediately send you a MiniCube. You can drill, cut, glue modify your MiniCube and mount your project inside. You then mail your MiniCube to JP Aerospace. We carry your MiniCube to the edge of space.After the flight your MiniCube will be returned to you along with a data sheet about the mission and a CD with images and video from the flight."

These cubes can also be flown on rockets for testing and integration.

JP Aerospace

Tuesday, May 29, 2012



CTI Pro54 Skidmark Flight On-Board

"On board footage from a post Level 2 certification flight, dual deployment 4X88" Quantum airframe on a CTI pro54 6G k motor. Top speed was 841kph. 808 Keychain camera."

 What is up with that spin? It stopped suddenly, then started, and stopped again?

Father and son throw rocket away

(Sound warning during flight.)

 Obviously this was a crowded area for flying. But the fact remains, no one should ever touch a rocket unless they own it. There are safety concerns on larger rockets, and sometimes very valuable parts fall out that can be left behind if the recovery team is not experienced.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Issues associated with a hypersonic maglev sled

(This image has nothing to do with the article below.  The one below discusses conventional rocket sleds that employ maglev technology, while the image above is a spacecraft launcher that is extremely hypothetical.  But hey, it looks cool.)

"Magnetic levitation has been explored for application from motors to transportation. All of these applications have been at velocities where the physics of the air or operating fluids are fairly well known. Application of Maglev to hypersonic velocities (Mach > 5) presents many opportunities, but also issues that require understanding and resolution. Use of Maglev to upgrade the High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo New Mexico is an actual hypersonic application that provides the opportunity to improve test capabilities. However, there are several design issues that require investigation. This paper presents an overview of the application of Maglev to the test track and the issues associated with developing a hypersonic Maglev sled. The focus of this paper is to address the issues with the Maglev sled design, rather than the issues with the development of superconducting magnets of the sled system."


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Project Thunderbolt - O 10,000 to M 3,700 two stage rocket

Aluminum nosecone and transition - among the best options for high performance hobby rockets.  Perhaps only second to steel or exotic metals like titanium for overall performance and strength at mach 3+.

Similarly, aluminum fin cans find an ideal balance between heat resistance, strength, and weight.

To ignite the upper stage, timers were crammed into the nozzle.  Clearly it worked, but head-end ignition (considered for this project) is now the more viable option.  It also allows for electronics to stay with the rocket for recovery, and record flight performance. 

The mighty O 10,000 comes to life.  Note that this is the same thrust as an N 10,000 with double the burn time, or just over 2 seconds.

A seemingly boring smoke trail, until one considers what this represents.  This is a picture of a 2.5 inch aluminum rocket under the thrust of an M 3,700.  That alone is impressive.  Yet consider where and when this M 3,700 was ignited - several miles in the air, and just moments after the O 10,000 burnout.  At this time, the rocket is almost certainly going faster than mach 3.

This remains among my favorite rocket projects. First there is the insane paring of a very fast O to a very fast M. Then there is the fact that these two rockets are extremely thin (4 inches and 2.5 inches!) and entirely made of metal. These two factors, combined with a bit of Kosdon flare for the extreme, give us some really fun numbers: 90,000 feet and mach 4. Because data were not recovered from this flight, it is worth being conservative. Still, it is safe to say at least 50,000 feet and mach 3 were achieved. I posted about this project many years ago, but was only able to include a few images. Now there is a video available online:


If you want to know more about this project, and the development of the O 10,000, Visit AHPRA.ORG. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Just how big is the super moon?

Comparison of angular diameter of the Sun, Moon and planets with the International Space Station and human visual acuity. To get a true representation of the sizes, view the image at a distance of 102.6 times the width of the largest (Moon: max.) circle. For example, if this circle is 10 cm wide on your monitor, view it from 10.26 m away.

From Wiki, the source of all knowledge. 

BREN Tower Pt. 2

Well lots of readers are visiting to see the BREN tower video, over 1,500 today alone. The previous post even made the front page of Reddit for a while!  (Impressive to me but nothing to those who run certain other rocketry blogs...)  Not being one to skip out on a new audience, or celebrate on the rare occasion that I get more than a few readers at a time, I wanted to include some other images trawled up from the Internet:

DOE article on BREN.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bren tower demolished

If you like what you see, click here to see the rest of High Power Rocketry.

"BREN Tower was a guyed steel framework mast, 1,527 ft (465 m) high, on the Nevada Test Site in Nevada, USA. "BREN" stands for "Bare Reactor Experiment, Nevada."[1] The structure was owned by the Department of Energy and maintained by National Security Technologies. Access to the tower area had been closed since July 2006. No reason for the closure has been given. As part of the Nevada Test Site, it was also located in restricted airspace (R-4808N)."


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Build the USS Enterprise in 20 years? (The NCC-1701 one.)

Not usually one to mix science and science fiction, I nevertheless think this is a cool idea and a useful mental exercise.

"This website proposes something truly inspiring. It is this: We have the technological reach to build the first generation of the spaceship known as the USS Enterprise – so let’s do it. The ship can be similar in size and will have the same look as the USS Enterprise that we know from the Star Trek science fiction. It ends up that this ship configuration is quite functional. This first generation Enterprise can have 1g artificial gravity and ample living space. It can be as comfortable to live in as being on earth. A thousand people can be on board at once – either as crew members or as adventurous visitors. While the ship will not travel at warp speed, it can travel at a constant acceleration such that the ship can easily get to key points of interest in our solar system. The Enterprise would be three things in one: a spaceship, a space station, and a spaceport. Finally we will have a permanent and viable foothold in space – a sustainable, roving village out in the heavens. Building the Enterprise will provide a giant leap forward for the human race when it comes to the task of establishing a permanent infrastructure in space, on the moon, and on Mars – an infrastructure needed to pull us farther out into space, the place we are surely destined to explore and live."

Some specs:

Total cost including launch - slightly more than $1 trillion.
Total mass - 187,000,000 lbs.

The author has created an exhaustive presentation on this project:

Fancy meeting you here...

Went to JFK airport last night to pick up a family member. The airport is very large, almost like a small city, complete with it's own highway system. On the way to terminal 7, I happened to drive past a hangar with a shuttle orbiter in it! (The picture above is not mine, no time to snap a shot while driving.) Boy that thing looks huge, can't wait to see it up close when installed in Manhattan.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hideo Itokawa

Did a quick talk today about the asteroid Itokawa, visiting it with manned missions, blowing it up with nuclear weapons, etc... While doing background research, I found this great image of the asteroid's namesake.  The rocket here is a Kappa - 9.  This variant of the sounding rocket was capable of carrying significant payloads to 350 km.  Looks like something we could try these days.  A T motor to an R motor to a P motor...  

Friday, May 18, 2012

60,000 feet in 60 seconds

"We are team of well-rounded and talented college students from Southern California that would like to build a record breaking amateur rocket. We have the skills, but unfortunately, not the money to do so. We have successfully flown to 30,000 ft in 30 seconds in April of 2012, and set a National Altitude Record thanks to a wonderful community of sponsors. But now, we look to a wider community for financial support of this challenging project."

This is a cool idea for a project, basically a very small rocket with an N 5800 in it. 60,000 feet should be plenty doable IF (IFF should I say?) the rocket survives and does not suffer extreme delamination. This strikes me as an excellent test of this motor, and a good way to understand hypothetical projects based on this motor such as the frequently discussed N to N to space possibility.

60K in 60

At the same time, CTI has posted this:

CTI is pleased to announced the "Fly the N5800 to a record contest".

Over the last couple of years there have been several attempts to fly a 98mm minimum diameter rocket to extreme altitudes and speeds with the Pro98-6GXL C-STAR N5800 reload. However, AFAWK none of these rockets survived the flight.

CTI would like to encourage others to build a stronger/better rocket and demonstrate that such a flight is actually possible. Therefore this contest.

The winner will be the first to:

  • Fly a minimum diameter 98mm rocket;
  • With Pro98-6GXL C-STAR N5800 reload;
  • Make a full and safe recovery;
  • Obtain the official TRA record for this flight;
  • Flight to take place before end of 2012.
Prize: Two reloads of your choice for the Pro98-6GXL Hardware (or any smaller-sized reloads).

N 5,800 contest

CTI knows they have the meanest motor on the block, almost too mean for this hobby.  Almost...  The greatest gulf between hobby rocket performance and professional rocket performance is in the motor.  We can use composites to get mass fractions pretty good, but those mass fractions are usually already greatly reduced because of the motor and casing.  By making a casing reusable, out of aluminum, and to a safety margin that is extremely high, vendors must compromise on performance.  The N 5800 still suffers from some of these limitations, but it still has great potential.  Under ideal conditions, perhaps launched from a high altitude site, this motor can break 100,000 feet!  That kind of performance was unheard of just 10 years ago when N motors were barely breaking 30,000 feet.  A well built N 5800 is capable of beating the performance of some previous P, Q, and R motor flights.

Space art by Don Dixon

There are hundreds of images found here, including of spacecraft, solar sails, and the image at top; a space-based SETI telescope.

I build rockets, in the news

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Zipper damage on Formula 75 flight

During my level 2 flight, recovery appears to have been a second or two early, and perhaps also more horizontal than ideal as the rocket did veer a few hundred feet into the wind while coasting. Sadly because of clouds, it was hard to track the rocket through apogee. If I had added a camera, it could have provided a good record and served the function of a telemetry-type data recorder. In any event, I was able to certify (just barely, as this zipper was small) but this is my first ever zipper on a rocket. That includes many paper rockets. And who would have expected it to happen on a fiberglass airframe? The force involved must have bee pretty significant. The recovery shock cord is 3/8ths inch kevlar! The skyangle 'chute was a good idea because it survived what must have been a seriously violent ejection, and safely recovered the rocket.

I plan to repair this zipper by waxing the nosecone, then putting a thin sheet of wax paper on the shoulder. After applying a tiny bead of epoxy to the inner zipper, I will insert the nosecone to hold the epoxy flat. Hopefully some of it will soak into the airframe fibers. More generous amounts of epoxy will be applied to the outside, where I plan to also use wax paper to compress and flatten the area. After cure time, I will obviously have to sand this part down. But I expect that the rocket will be able to fly again with no further problems. I may want to get the cherry bomb/fireball or consider electronics so that I no longer have to rely on simulations to set the delay time. Any advice?

The next option would be to cut off the end of this airframe or get a hefty coupler in there and stretch the rocket with a 36 inch section of airframe. I think that would better reinforce the airframe and would also result in a huge rocket! But at a cost.

Estes 29mm motor retainer

Finally got out to a launch, testing this plastic motor retainer on an H410. In the first image below, you can see the motor installed before flight. It looks crooked, but that is just the yellow cap. And the second image shows the retainer after a flight and recovery. There was no damage, just a bit of soot. This shows that the retainer is fine for even small HPR motors. The only test remaining is to see how long it lasts.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Shockwave 29

"The Shockwave 29 is a high performance 29mm rocket. I wanted to gain experience building a rocket out of carbon fiber. I came up with a 1.26in wide, 24in tall mach buster. The body tube is 3 wraps of 2x2 twill carbon fiber. The fins are a homemade combination of 6oz fiberglass and 2x2 twill carbon fiber. They are attached with CA with carbon fiber fillets for strength and graphite-epoxy fillets for cosmetics and aerodynamics. The nose cone is a fiberglass 5-1 ogive from shockwave rocketry (hence the name).

She'll fly on a H410 Vmax at hellfire.
Estimated speed: Mach 1.31
Estimated altitude: 5400 feet."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Popping 100 balloons with a laser

 Here is a world record submission video of 100 balloons falling like dominoes in a single file line. If confirmed, this will have been the most balloons in a single file line consecutively popped from end on with a single fixed visible laser beam to date.

Using a 750mW - 1000mW (1W) Spyder III Krypton Laser the record for single file balloon popping was set: 100 six inch (15.2 cm) balloons!

This video has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for officiation. The balloons are held in place by being weighted down with specially modified cups filled with water. This prevents balloons that are popping from knocking other balloons out of position.

The focusing lens used is from a soldering kit's "helping hands" alligator clips holder.


Plastic engine prototypes

Thursday, May 10, 2012

943 Yard Mountain Goat Shot

Note the clearly visible trail of the bullet through the air, in a gentle arc towards the target.

Rocketry inflation

Let no one say that high power rocketry is cheap. It has always been expensive to fly large rockets, and that is fine. No one expects to send a 6 ft tall, 4 inch thick rocket to two miles and the speed of sound for nothing. Yet compared to the hobby when I first started, in 1998, prices seem much higher. I happened to come across an old Giant Leap Rocketry catalog in the back of my closet. Below you will find a few items at the 2004 price and current 2012 price. This in no way is to suggest that Giant Leap prices are unreasonable, or that they are the only company that has increased prices. I am fairly certain that these cost increases are hobby-wide, and also certain that Giant Leap is still a great place to shop. Also, some of the increases seem reasonable. The only way to really know is to do the math:

As you can see above, the cost of hardware has not increased significantly.  The 29mm phenolic airframe price did increase about 10%, but most other items selected for this informal survey simply responded to inflation.  There is no doubt that many items are also more expensive because the cost of oil is drastically higher than it was at this time.  However, I would expect increasing costs to be canceled out by the size of the hobby, significantly larger than it was in 2002.  So the fact is, if one were to blame someone for this problem, it would have to be the government.  That is not entirely shocking.

I have yet to check motor prices (but I do have an old Magnum Rockets motor list, also from 2002.)  Have you noticed a price increase since starting in the hobby?  And in what areas?  Leave a comment below.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What TV show are aliens watching?

A graphic showing what aliens would be watching on TV if they're monitoring us right now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Frames from the H410 video

It is always fun to get onboard footage and then watch a flight one frame at a time.  This is particularly helpful when using a motor as fast as the H410.  I have selected a few interesting frames below.  Thrust was only captured in a few frames (technically it should be 15 frames for a .5 second motor burn time.)

This is the first frame to show motor thrust.  It looks as if the thrust actually started in the middle of a scan.

In the 2nd frame, under thrust, the hefty v max flame can be seen.  A length of metal pipe was used as a standoff, and the flame also appears to have been shot through this pipe seen at mid right.

Now the rocket is really moving, about to leave the tower.

After about .5 seconds, the H410 burns out and the rocket starts a long coast to apogee.  You can see me as a pixel in the upper left.  I was a bit closer than the flight line here because I had to start the camera and then run back.  With a 2 gb memory card, there is no real rush.  But it is a good idea to launch soon anyway for the sake of uploading to youtube.

This image is from near apogee, around 1800 feet.

Here we can see most of the METRA launch area.

This was taken moments after apogee.  It is hard to see what is going on, but I wanted to include this to show the surrounding clouds.  This rocket just barely scraped the cloud level.  It never did enter a cloud, but was in a bit of haze between lower clouds.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Launch report - Level 2 certification - H410 video

Today I attended a great METRA launch. The wind was near zero, but clouds were low for much of the day. Despite this, I was able to take my level 2 test and fly the Formula 75 on a J285 motor. There was minor damage to the rocket (zippering, will report on this in more detail later) but the certification was accepted.

 In addition, I flew the Thunderbolt on a G131 and the Draco on an H410 with a camera. That footage can be seen above. More details and stills from the video in a day or two.

 Thanks to Rick Comshaw (Wildman CT) for providing the motor, level 2 test, and good advice.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Space Age Railroad - US Air Force Rocket Powered Sleds

"The U.S. Navy successfully tested a surrogate STANDARD Missile-3 (SM-3) Kinetic Warhead (KW) for its theater wide missile defense system. The test was the last in a series of four developmental sled tests conducted at the High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico."

 US Navy test of SM-3 ABM system.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Teach the controversy!

It really isn't fair to make fun of simple people like this, but it sure does feel good.

ReEntry Breakup Recorder (REBR)

At the Science and Engineering Festival, there was a booth showing off a program called R.E.B.R. 

"Casualty expectation for reentering space hardware is computed using reentry-survivability models that, in general, have not been validated against flight data from orbital reentries. In fact, observational data indicate that these models do not accurately predict the heating experienced in the rarified regime (between the free-molecular and continuum regimes, or typically between 74 and 120 km (40 and 65 nautical miles (nmi)) in altitude), and ad hoc corrections are used to account for this inaccuracy. Exclusive of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, only a few fragments have been found on the ground and analyzed.

Data obtained from a calibrated model would provide a more accurate basis on which to specify necessary re-design of space hardware to include features that will realistically minimize reentry ground hazard. Even better, sufficient data should lead to physical explanations of the apparent inaccuracy, allowing improved physical modeling. The objective of the REBR flight test is to verify the use of a small, lightweight, autonomous system for recording temperatures, accelerations, and other data experienced by the host vehicle during reentry, surviving the breakup of the host vehicle, and finally "phoning home" the recorded data prior to impact of the recording device.

Once verified, REBR can be attached to launch stages and spacecraft and the data collected from their reentries will expand our understanding of reentry breakup and related phenomena. A single launch may include more than one REBR. The REBR design consists of a sensor suite composed of a GPS receiver, temperature sensors, accelerometers and rate gyros, a pressure sensor, electronics developed for Aerospace Corporations PICOSAT and modified for REBR, a commercially-available Iridium modem, a combination GPS/Iridium antenna, and batteries (one year lifetime in the dormant mode; no power required from host vehicle). All equipment is contained within an aeroshell design developed by NASA Ames Research for the Deep-Space-2 Mars probes. The thermal protection system is provided by The Boeing Company. Total weight of the flight system, which includes all sensors, electronics, and batteries, will be approximately 4 kg (9 pounds) and the maximum dimension is approximately 31 cm (1 foot). The device, enclosed in its protective housing, is attached to an available location on the host vehicle. Including the housing, the device weighs approximately 8.6 kg (19 pounds) and has a maximum dimension of 36 cm (14 in). The device is carried to orbit attached to the host vehicle (or can be carried to orbit in a storage bag and attached by crewmembers), begins to record data during reentry, and remains attached to the host until the housing melts away during reentry breakup. Before and after release, the device is protected by its heat shield. At about 30 km (100,000 ft), the device is falling at subsonic velocity. At about 18.3 km (60,000 ft) the GPS/Iridium antenna is pointing to zenith; at this point, a phone call is made through the Iridium system and the device transmits its data to a ground-based computer. The location and time of reentry can be arbitrary and the device is not designed to survive ground impact. The recovery of the REBR hardware is not required."


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Geordi La Forge

National Rocket Science Association Malaysia

"NRSA is a neutral, non aligned regulating body on policies and procedures pertaining to amateur rocketry in Malaysia. We also provide assistance to NRSA members on forming State Rocketry Groups and how to manage their organization. State Rocketry Groups under NRSA will act as a Project Team where all data on experiment and flight will be collected and analyzed for upcoming phases. Future roles will include Rocketry Programs, Research and Development assistance and other functions." See more here.