Tuesday, December 1, 2009

New Zealand sounding rocket to space?

Rocket Lab, a New Zealand rocketry group, has launched a two stage sounding rocket that was expected to reach space. They claim that it did reach space, or strongly imply this (which the media takes as a confirmation, on face value with zero data, I might add.) There has, to date (12/3) been no confirmation of altitude or recovery of upper stage. Despite this, many news sources have jumped to the conclusion that it did reach space, and the team behind it is not doing anything to refute this rumor. Obviously they are worried about investments, and want the good press. But lets be clear: if they cant prove it went to space, there is no reason to assume it did. The amount of impulse used here is, as I say above, very low for a space flight. Even if the simulations show it does go to space, assuming that it did is a big mistake.

Check out the video on this page (sorry can't embed it.) Clearly it sounds like a hybrid!

Or you can watch the video here:
(Possibly with an annoying advertisement.)

I have to admit, that is a pretty badass booster stage.

Crummy youtube video here:

"The Atea-1 is a two-stage sub-orbital vehicle capable of carrying payloads of 2 kg up to 120 km altitude. The new launch vehicle offers significant advantages in cost and is aimed at opening up access to space for scientific research at an unprecedented level.

Rocket Lab has taken the approach to provide the international science community with a quick-response, mobile solution with high flexibility in mind. It can be launched by users on existing launch infrastructure or Rocket Lab can provide complete launch and recovery services.

The Ä€tea-1 leverages Rocket Lab’s innovative propulsion technologies in the form of a hybrid booster. This engine, currently under development, uses a polymer based fuel with liquid Nitrous Oxide. The engine is capable of producing a peak thrust of 1,550 lbf for up to 14.5s, resulting in a total impulse of approximately 22,500 lbf-s."

This booster is a small Q, according to my mental math. The upper stage looks like a K or so, probably just a solid.

I am a bit concerned because there is no information on how the altitude was confirmed. Hopefully there was some confirmation and this isn't just based on a simulation and a good launch. There is no indication that the team has recovered the upper stage, and frankly the odds of ever getting it back are slim, particularly if it landed in water. If there is no recovery and no confirmation, no space flight can be claimed. However the story is worthy of a post and continued tracking.

It is rather nice to see hybrids used in sounding rockets. This is one technology that hobby rocketry people do very well. It combines many of the good parts of bi-propellant rockets with many of the good parts of solid rocket motors. The long burn time of the first stage has to be a very beneficial factor in reaching space, as a Q 15,000 would hardly be appropriate here. However, this does clearly show that the types of solid rocket motors flown regularly at Balls launches ever year, O, P, and Q motors, are capable of flights to space. Now someone has to try it.

NZ Article
Universe Today Article
SatNews Daily (wth does that name mean?)

Here is a nice interview video:

And here is a link to the rocketry planet news article that talks about this project (from before the flight.)

Article with video at the upper right hand side.

Note the test flight of the upper stage, this time on a J motor. The fins on this upper stage are rather small, seemingly too small for a really stable flight. In this test flight the rocket shows signs of poor stability, conning, and lots of spin. These things could be enough to keep it from space even if a perfect flight would make space, and these effects would only get worse: At higher altitudes and higher mach speeds, the center of pressure generally seems to move forward from what I understand. Yet again, these are reasons to wonder if it actually did go to space, and a reason to demand proof. The onboard video is a nice touch, hopefully the upper stage had one and hopefully it can be recovered. That would be quite a view!

At most, there was a claim by the team that both stages worked. That is simply not good enough, and in a way it detracts from this great project. It is like having a top marathon runner start a race and appear to run well. Then suddenly you lose track of him half way to the finish line, and never see him again. He almost certainly made it to the end, but you have no right claiming that if you are to be scientific and honest. This type of amateur rocket to space (it would be only the 2nd to do it, and the 3rd to get close) is far less likely to succeed.

I would pose these questions in closing:

Does a team have the responsibility of correcting the media when premature claims are made?
Did this team carefully state that the final altitude is unknown in the press release?
If it is found that the rocket did not go to space (quite likely given the track record of other attempts like this), will anyone tell us?


Chrisn said...

The booster had a burn time of 22 seconds, but will have to look again to find the thrust curve I got of it.

The 2nd stage is also a hybrid

GPS battery died this afternoon (2 days life) They did not get any lock probably due to the heavy cloud cover 24/7 and rough ocean.

Private message me on rocketry planet with username "Chrisn" for more information

R2K said...

Thanks so much, I will get this information and update my post to correct any mistakes.

Chrisn said...

Been discussing the launch with some other people... good indication the sustainer actually sheared off from the booster in flight.

Chrisn said...

Oh yeah forgot to add, the test flight videos you see are of small J sized aerotech motors

ddmobley said...

"It is most disturbing to see that even The Rocketry Planet jumped to the conclusion that the rocket flew to space, despite no evidence to support this."

Rocketry Planet didn't jump to ANY conclusion, it simply republished an existing article created by a NZ media outlet. Rocketry Planet has no position pro or con as to whether or not the team is able to make their claim.

R2K said...

I consider publishing the news on your page tacit consent that the news passes your editorial review. I have almost always resisted the urge to complain about the atmosphere over at RP, and will continue to do so. However you should note that I can only be upset about such a thing if I held RP in high esteem to begin with. And still the false articles remain, no retraction. Above you see that some think the upper stage may have fallen off near Max Q stage 1. If passing along misinformation about rocketry isnt a problem for RP, what is?

ddmobley said...

See, Alex, the thing is you have been told dozen and dozens of times by dozens of people why the articles are presented in the unaltered format that they are yet you refuse to acknowledge that. It is as if you are are purposely doing this so that you can spread misinformation yourself, about Rocketry Planet. Nobody gives a good goddamn whether or not you hold Rocketry Planet in high esteem or not, apparently only you do.

Rocketry Planet will make no more effort to alter a news article published by an outside media source than Google does when it archives a Usenet Newsgroup message, yet you insist on being obtuse in suggesting that we should. When you get Google to correct the millions of Usenet news articles it archives, then Rocketry Planet will begin correcting the media articles we archive. To correct them wouldn't be archiving them. Or has blogging going to your single brain cell?

Until you can get Google to "correct" the err of their ways, go piss up a rope.

Good day!

ddmobley said...

Oh, and if you bring this ridiculous subject back to the site, I will see that you are permanently banned.


R2K said...

Update: I was banned from Rocketry Planet for pointing out their serious mistake, and lack of a retraction. Online, freedoms are great, but then again so is the freedom to censor others. Rather than admit his mistake, DD had me banned. Minor loss really, since I spend most of my time at unmanned for my serious rocketry reading. Rocketry planet is still a good stop for "trashy" rocketry and space news, but do research the articles and their sources because you know DD wont.

Still waiting for an update from the NZ rocketry team. They have not produced any new information, and thus their claim must be considered false. When they intend to profit from such claims, by offering services for money, they are dipping into the realm of fraud. I will continue to monitor and hope for the best on their behalf.

Why does rocketry, particularly on the internet, alway seem to devolve into arguments? Why the power trips?

ddmobley said...

What power trip? What mistake? I clearly stated my policy that Rocketry Planet archives media-related hobby rocketry news articles and it offended you because you think I should correct them. Just like Google doesn't correct USEnet messages, it merely archives them. Why that continues to be a mystery to you defies logic.

R2K said...

No the power trip is you banning someone who does not agree with you.

You have every right to cut and paste articles no matter how wrong they may be, without even the slightest comment or disclaimer (though I doubt it would be so hard to do that.) I even offered to read over articles for you and research their sources and claims, for free.

The problem is, I expected that I would have the right (or that you would give me the right) to question these articles. That was a mistake.

ddmobley said...

> No the power trip is you banning
> someone who does not agree with
> you.
> The problem is, I expected that
> I would have the right (or that
> you would give me the right) to
> question these articles. That
> was a mistake.

What part of "I didn't ban you" do you not understand? The moderator's were sick of your sniping, demeaning attitude while hiding behind "They're attacking me..." They banned you, not me.

ddmobley said...

By the way, to show you I have no malice toward you, I would be willing to give you a blogging column where you could blog on Rocketry Planet with forum commenting. This is a new feature I intend to add and you would be one of a handful of people who would blogging in this same section of the frontend with forum commenting continuity.

R2K said...

I hope you do not feel any anger towards me. I never wanted anyone to be upset or annoyed by my posting.

Note that you are free to say whatever you want in the comments here, even argue with me and call into question everything I post.

Thanks for your offer, I will gladly consider it.

ddmobley said...

It's easy for many people to forget that this is just a hobby and not meant to be taken that seriously. I have often done that and reacted out of anger. I hope you will forgive me if I have every said anything that offended you.

R2K said...

You hardly did, there were some very angry people with whom I was arguing. Remember the guy who PMed me the death threats? All over a snap ring retainer.