Friday, October 30, 2009

New images from Project Farside

If you read this high power rocketry blog regularly, you know by now that this was my all time favorite rocket. Indeed as soon as I get back down to DC (have not been since taking rocketry on as a new hobby in the late 90s), I plan to get to this rocket and take detailed pictures. Here are two previous posts on the topic: Project Farside 1 Project Farside 2

In short, this was a late 1950s project to send a tiny payload to very high altitude using a 4 stage rocket and a large balloon. The results were limited, but it seems that the last two launches did get solid altitude, perhaps as high as 3000 miles. These rockets were also on the threshold of being able to make orbit, which means they are a good example of something that amateur and hobby rocketry people could try today.

Here are three new images from a launch of one of these rockets. The 4 stage stack (with 10 motors total) simply flew up through the balloon on the way to space. To use hobby rocketry terminology, the rocket was just under 2000 lbs when launched, and it initially accelerated under the combined power of 4 R 160,000 motors. That would be a (small) T 640,000. In other words, tons of thrust.

Now to be fair, I can't perfectly confirm that these images are from a farside launch, other than to say that the magazine returned them for the project farside search. It seems likely that they are the very same, because the video in my first post matches these images pretty well.

One source states that this balloon was about 200 feet in diameter when fully inflated at altitude. So that is something to keep in mind - the rocket stack looks pretty small for good reason (even with exhaust and blurring), because the balloon was quite large indeed. Yet in the video (PF post 1), the the farside rocket passed through the balloon in less than a second.

This was good timing because there is an ongoing discussion of rockoons at the rocketry planet:

On Rockoons

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

LRO footage from the moon

Nice image of the Apollo 17 site.

Ares 1-X !

"Ares 1-X launch from Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at approximately 11:30 a.m.. T minus 1:00 on."

This is a great rocket because it is: simple, safe, fairly cheap, and never mixes humans with payload. This is a very small step, but a step in the right direction. Hopefully this rocket will be able to carry men to space before 2015...

I wanted to quickly explain, in simple math, why I think the Shuttle system was a HUGE waste of money, time, and lives:

The shuttle program has cost at least $170 billion for just over 125 launches. That is quite a bit to say the least, certainly (at $1.5 billion per flight) not so great given the only modest LEO payload. But here is the worst part: Using advanced rockets and a really efficient external tank, the shuttle rocket motors launch up to 250,000 lbs to LEO. BUT, this includes the orbiter at about 200,000! That means that, given 127 launches, the shuttle system launched over 25 million lbs to LEO that was utterly wasted on the orbiter. That's right readers, since the early 80s the shuttle has placed enough mass in LEO to launch several Mars missions (not to mention spending the money they would cost), AND land men on the moon again, and to build a nice space station to boot. And it was all wasted because it was simply the mass of the orbiter that was to carry at most 1000 lbs of men back to Earth after the flight.

Anyone who wants to know more about the ill fated shuttle program, how it started on the right foot and then quickly turned into the space exploration blunder of all time, read these books:
Vol. 1
Vol. 2

Monday, October 26, 2009


This is a great little engine, from the N1 program that was cut short. This has the highest thrust to weight ratio of any rocket engine (that does NOT include solid rockets etc.)

NK-33 Wiki

NK-33 at at E.A.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Simulation of small rockoon launch to orbit

This is a simulation of a very small rockoon launching a tiny payload into orbit. This is interesting because it show how, under ideal conditions, it only takes about O impulse (according to the person posting this in the forum) to get a pico-sat. into orbit. Granted nothing like this may ever be launched, since real life never seems to be as good as simulations, but it does lend a great deal of credibility to N prize inspired attempts based on the NOTS and project farside rockets.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

3 Micro Sattelites

"Inside Orbital Sciences’ Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, this closeup shows the Space Technology 5 (ST5) spacecraft's microsatellites mounted on the payload structure. The spacecraft will be enclosed for launch. The ST5 contains three microsatellites with miniaturized redundant components and technologies. Each will validate New Millennium Program selected technologies, such as the Cold Gas Micro-Thruster and X-Band Transponder Communication System. After deployment from the Pegasus, the micro-satellites will be positioned in a “string of pearls” constellation that demonstrates the ability to position them to perform simultaneous multi-point measurements of the magnetic field using highly sensitive magnetometers. The data will help scientists understand and map the intensity and direction of the Earth’s magnetic field, its relation to space weather events, and affects on our planet. With such missions, NASA hopes to improve scientists’ ability to accurately forecast space weather and minimize its harmful effects on space- and ground-based systems. Launch of ST5 is scheduled from the belly of an L-1011 carrier aircraft no earlier than March 14 from Vandenberg Air Force Base."


Also see my previous post on The Pegasus.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1954 The Earth from space

"This is a photomosaic of the first natural color images of the Earth sucessfully taken from a high-altitude rocket. It image shows a large swathe of land to the south and east of the launch site and a tropical cyclone is visible over Del Rio, Texas. This image is also the first ever taken from a sufficient altitude to show the large scale structure of a storm and hints at the promise of meteorological satellites. The rocket was a US Navy sounding rocket launched at 1815 GMT on October 5, 1954 from White Sands, New Mexico and it was at an altitude of about 100 miles when this image was captured."

It took about 90 images to create this mosaic from space. Rockets should carry cameras. Particularly high altitude projects. Yet they generally do not.

NOAA Paper on weather observations from space

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tempest sounding rocket

During the CATS prize, I had been following all of the teams and just hoping one would eventually make it to space with the metal slug, required payload for the prize. No team made it (the CSXT was close), which has always been strange to me. Sure it is easy for me to sit here at a computer and think about how easy a space shot could be, so I need to be careful and reasonable. However, the fact remains that a $100,000 prize would have covered the cost of just about any amateur space shot. Even the elaborate CSXT Go Fast shot that did finally hit space (still, years later, the only amateur rocket to do this.)

One really cool project that I always loved to check up on was this two stage attempt. Obviously no flight was ever attempted, the rocket did not get that far. But boy were they close, maybe only a year away. This rocket is a small R staged to a healthy P motor, according to my possibly flawed math. The ratio there is a bit off ideal, which would be a full R to a full P, but basically they are right on point. Also see how the R is fairly fast, and the P sustainer is on the slower side. This is also a good thing. There is little doubt that a rocket of this size and impulse could make space, and probably do it cheaply with a small amount of propellant. However, one should note that the target altitude for these CATS prize flights was 200 KM (not just space at 100 KM.)

At the bottom of their page, the Tempest team offers the rocket parts and plans: "The offering price for the Tempest vehicle, including the above accessories, and documentation files is $45,000 US. This price and terms are negotiable."

That may be a bit much, but the rocket is really worth quite a bit. It is ALMOST ready for space.


Weight Summary

Total gross takeoff weight: 547.10 lb
1st-stage burnout weight: 372.1 lb
2nd-stage burnout weight: 127.44 lb

First-Stage Performance

Thrust: 5500 lbf
Specific impulse, Isp: 235 s
Linear burn rate: 0.4 in/s
Burning area: 942.2 in2
Mass flow: 23.40 lb/s
Burn time: 7.48 s
Burnout speed: 2776 ft/s
Mach number: 2.59
Burnout altitude: 11,069 feet
Downrange distance: 302 feet
Maximum dynamic pressure, Q, at 7.4 s: 46.2 psi


Delay time: 3 s
Speed at end of delay: 2461 ft/s
Altitude at end of delay: 18,459 feet
Downrange delay end: 535 feet

Second-Stage Performance

Thrust: 2100 lbf
Specific impulse, Isp: 235 s
Linear burn rate: 0.4 in/s
Burn area: 359.7 in2
Mass flow: 8.94 lb/s
Burn time: 13.43 s
Burnout speed: 7,265 ft/s
Mach number: 7.42
Burnout altitude 83,068 feet
Downrange distance: 2,435 feet

Trajectory Performance

Maximum altitude: 863,550 feet
Required altitude: 656,170 feet
Downrange distance: 49,930 feet

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Really nice footage from a lunar lander prize flight

"October 7, 2009 - Masten Space Systems flew our XA0.1B-750 rocket vehicle in the Northrop-Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, level one. Both Flights were successful meeting the required flight profiles and time conditions. We are now in a position to claim the second prize award of $150, 000. First prize was awarded in 2008 to Armadillo Aerospace. Two other teams are scheduled to compete in the competition window that ends on October 31, 2009.

Level one requires a rocket vehicle to take off from one pad, fly to a minimum altitude of 50 meters, move to a second pad a least 50 meters away and be in the air for a minimum of 90 seconds. The rocket may then be refueled before is repeats the flight back to the original starting point. The accuracy of the landing determines the winner in the case where more than one team flies the required profile. The average landing accuracy for "Xombie" was 16cm (unofficial pending judging).

This video is the first of the two competition flights from the downward facing camera located onboard the rocket.

Press- Please contact Masten Space Systems for official news releases and access to higher quality media files."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Adrian Carbine three stage project

How cool is this project?!

The info and some of the pictures below are from early attempts, such as in a 2006 article from Rocketry Planet. However, it appears that a flight took place at the most recent balls launch, and from the looks of the video (seen last at the bottom of this post) the flight may have done very well indeed. 100,000 feet sounds unlikely, but anything over 50,000 feet would impress me a great deal. And check out the electronics in there...

I came across this project (well was told about it by another rocketry person) while looking to find out if the three stage 38mm project had flown at balls or not this time. I found a video that looked like a three stage flight, and asked around if that could be the one. However, I was informed that it was this flight, and the two videos seem to match up. How did I confuse a J to J to J flight with a N to N to M flight? :)

"The rocket itself stands 24 feet tall and weighs 120 pounds, flight-ready. The empty rocket itself only weighs about 35 lbs - half of the rocket's total weight is just the motors. The flight plan called for the sustainer to do most of the work, taking over around 30,000 feet and quickly climbing toward 100,000 feet. It would hit a peak velocity somewhere around Mach 2.7, where it was to reach apogee around 1.5 minutes into the flight, and then takes approximately 20 minutes to descend under a small drogue chute.

Adrian Carbine and his 'project manager' with the three-stager.
The motors for the flight were made by Cesaroni Technologies: an N2500 in the first stage, an N1100 in the second stage, and an M1400 in the upper stage sustainer. The upper two stages use dual-deployment with four CO2 systems on-board: two are used for staging while the other two are for drogue chute deployment at high altitude.

The rocket was built for high-temperature high-mach flights, using high-temperature materials and epoxies, along with an aluminum tip on the nose cone. The glossy red paint used on all the transitions, fins, and the nose cone is an automotive brake rotor paint, supposedly good to 900 degrees F. Carbine used this to eliminate the paint bubbling he saw on his last record flight."
Rocketry Planet

Thursday, October 8, 2009

38mm madness!

There are two crazy 38mm projects being discussed right now in the Rocketry Planet Forums, both of them expected to be (to have been) flown at Balls 18:

One is a 38mm rocket built by "Binder Design" (user name, also a well known rocketry company) to fly on an L5000. Yes thats right... an L. A 68 inch long custom L motor with a full diameter smoke plug at the end. Simmed to about 30,000 feet and mach 3, perhaps a bit more. Remember that, generally speaking, an L3000 in a 54mm rocket is pretty extreme. It still is really, but this project is just seemingly impossible. Indeed most of the thread is a debate back and forth about if this motor really is possible, and if it is really a full and efficient L motor to begin with. The Length to Diameter ratio in a 38mm x 68 inch motor is almost unheard of. Also, each APCP grain is 10 inches long!

The rocket has an aluminum fin can that was constructed using Durafix. The airframe is basically the motor case (which is the hallmark of professional rockets.) It doesn't look like this project will fly this year, but hopefully some day soon.
38mm L5000

The other project is by "Adrian A" who owns Featherweight Altimeters. These are a set of very small, and very capable altimeters. They are perfect for small rockets, high altitude flights, and anyone who wants the many smart features including high G (250) reporting in some models. Despite his modesty, I think Adrian does some of the best small carbon fiber rockets in the hobby. He makes tiny, short, ultra-light kits that are all asking to break altitude records. Here, he plans for a 3 stage 38mm rocket. Now I find this so exciting because 3 stage high power rockets are so rare in the hobby, and they seldom have successful launches when they are put forward. The only way to change this record is to build and fly more 3 stage rockets. And an electronics expert is the right person for the job, as you can see in the thread. Planning out the staging and recovery sequence is a very complex task for such a project.

The estimated altitude in a J to a J to a J configuration is a bit over 50,000 feet (to as high as 60,000 feet) and a bit over mach 3! That is INSANE performance for a 38mm hobby rocket, and also insane performance for K impulse. It would be a no-limits K record (possibly even doubling the previous record).

As of a few days ago, here is the last update:

"Yep, a launch report is in work. Stay tuned..."

3 stage 38mm

Click this simulation to view the expected performance of this three stage flight. Note the top speed just hits above mach 3. You can also clearly see the drag, accelerations, and altitudes. A big part of the discussion in the forum is timing, electronics, recovery, ignition of stages... and also interestingly the temperature concerns. What happens in the upper stage around 50,000 feet when it comes time to recover? In larger rockets, one can be confident that things wont cool down that quickly. But how about in a 38mm rocket with a thin airframe? One great idea, mentioned only quickly in passing, is to thermally link the motor to the payload bay. I instantly got an image of heatpipes coming from the motor to the payload bay to keep things warm. But probably a few rods of copper would be good enough to serve this purpose. And also there was the mention of the surgical tubing for the ejection charge... it looks like this will be more and more common as hobby rocketry gets higher.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nice new Sprint ABM video

This is probably the best collection of Spartan and Sprint footage on the internet today. If you can find anything new, please help me. What an incredible ABM system, it is really sad that we did not maintain it. Many make the weak argument that ABMs cause instability by breaking down what they see as a stable MAD condition. From my perspective, I think we could share our technology with Russia and Europe. The only real use for ABMs on any reasonable scale would be to protect from accidental launches or limited attacks. Surrounding India and Pakistan for example, or Iran and North Korea.

The hit to kill strategy of modern ABMS (which I think are going to be cancelled under Obama) is a fascinating challenge, and certainly possible (since we landed men on the moon in 1969), but really rather unnecessary. Destroying IRVs with a warhead is by far the most reliable method, it is simple, and it is bound to get all IRVs and decoys in one shot. Why, in the early 80s, did the SDI program (star wars) not instantly move towards a national Spartan and Sprint system? They chose the most expensive, elaborate, and ultimately unrealistic plans.

The conspiracy nut in me wants to think that perhaps, just perhaps, defense contractors want the most expensive and long lasting programs possible. Because it keeps them in work for longer. For the modern ABM plans, I suspect it was more about the public’s (rather irrational) fear of using nuclear weapons to protect people. That is why hit to kill was used. But it is much harder to hit a single target with hit to kill, let alone a MIRVed ICBM with decoys. Not impossible, just very hard.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Naval Rail Gun

"Office of Naval Research video of the 31 January test of the world's most powerful electromagnetic rail gun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dalhgren. Firing at a 10.64MJ energy level, railgun achieved a muzzle velocity of 2,520 metres per second"

The idea here is to have, in one or two decades, a gun that fires projectiles from a ship as a weapon. From what I have seen on this system (and please comment with a source of more info because I don't know much about this), it will fire a large RV shaped projectile into space. The projectile will then fall back down, on the target. It is supposed to have a much higher range, and great accuracy as well. Ideally it would be a guided projectile with fins or a small rocket and GPS that could put it on target. But how to make electronics survive such acceleration is also a question.

Now my idea would be a shell with an explosive nose that would blow it up right above the target. Inside the shell would be a bunch of small flechettes or BBs. They would hit the target at about mach 5, perhaps even a tad bit more. In other words, like a howitzer beehive round, the M546 APERS-T for example:

This shell held 8,000 small darts. If detonated a few dozens of meters above the target, these darts would show a fair bit of spread, and lose a mach number or two on the way to the target. Even if these objects could only get on target at mach 5, they would destroy tanks and buildings with no problem. In a perfect world, as much of the shell as possible would be made from Uranium. There is simply no metal that works better (tungsten is decent, but has some real flaws). This means mostly the darts inside. But even steel would work just fine, as long as it gets to target fast enough. Above mach 5, even glass or pebbles would do serious damage. Along these lines, I have been thinking about other ways to use high the impact. Could the shell contain some fine powder like aluminum, magnesium, iron, or even perhaps a mix like thermite? By causing rapid burning of the metal powders, the impact might produce a modest overpressure shock wave, but more importantly, I think it would produce a powerful splash of white hot metal, and maybe even a flash of thermal heat?

There remain some real challenges with this plan... Can a 50 lbs shell (similar to the Apers-T above) make it through 400,000+ feet of atmosphere without losing too much velocity? Or would 100 lbs be too heavy for any rail gun of reasonable scale? And can any working parts be made to withstand the substantially higher acceleration forces in a rail gun? These are some of the challenges that have yet to be addressed, in addtion to the most important challenge of all: making rail guns big enough and strong enough to fire large projectiles on a regular basis, without days of maintenance between shots.

Overall, this seems like a great area to investigate. I am still on the fence, and suspect that UAVs and rockets will probably dominate the future of bombing.

Pop Sci

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Delta 4H

"The particular setup for this was sound activated. The lens was destroyed (worth it of course) but the camera survived this one despite being severed from its ratchet straps and thrown to the ground, and the sound device used for this one disconnected from the camera and thrown about 200 feet backwards into the pad perimeter fence (still worked!). All settings are preset manually. No one is allowed closer than several miles from a launch."

- More please.