A Ladder to Space

A whatta to wha? What do I mean by a ladder to space? Am I going to try to build the World’s Largest Structure Ever Conceived by Man?

DTH Rocket Endeavors’ Ladder to Space – noun: A metaphorical ladder consisting of certain steps I must take in different seasons of life to get to the point where I have the ability to build spacecraft and other Vehicles of Wonder.

As far as I can see, this ladder has 5 rungs:
1) Model rocketry
2) High-power rocketry
3) College
4) Either get a job or start a privately funded aerospace research company, eventually augmenting the resources for step 5
5) Build a spaceship

Step One: Model Rocketry

Model rocketry is currently where I'm at in my ladder. Model rockets are small, lightweight rockets propelled by commercially-manufactured, NAR-certified motors under 160 Newton-seconds (35 pound-seconds) of total impulse (that probably doesn't mean anything to you, but it equates to a type "G" motor). On the low end of the spectrum, model rockets are typically made from a paper tube, balsa wood fins, a plastic nosecone, and are propelled by black powder propellants. On the large end of the spectrum they are usually powered by ammonium perchlorate composite propellants, which is what NASA uses to power the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters!

Step Two: High-Power Rocketry

This step will probably be the longest process, because it ranges from rockets slightly larger than the ones I'm building now to behemoth monsters that are almost as tall as some baby model rockets can fly! (That might be a slight exaggeration!) There are three levels of high-power rocketry, but I like to think of it as four, because beyond level three you have to build your own motors. Each level is defined by the power of the motors.

Level 1: H - I motors

Level 2: J - L motors

Level 3: M - O motors
Level 4: Research rocketry - Scratch built rocket motors up to size "T." That's 131,072 times larger than any rocket I've built and flown!

Above is a rocket powered by an experimental "S" motor.

Step Three: College

I can't possibly expect to get to space without learning a few things, can I? Next year I will be a Junior in high school (homeschool) so I still have some time to think about it.

Step Four: Undefined

There are zillions of things I could do in this step. I could either get a job with a pre-existing aerospace company, or I could start one. I could build experimental research rockets, join the air force as and aerospace engineer, or anything else that would bequeath to me valuable experience and consolidate my resources.

Step Five: Outer Space

Uh... Why again would I devote my entire life to this? The answer is surprisingly simple: I am fascinated by it. I want to go there. And it's not just outer space that fascinates me, it's the vehicle to get there!


High-Power Rocket Launch

The next step in my ladder to space would probably be high-power rocketry. These rockets are like model rockets, only much bigger and louder, and can fly much, much higher. This afternoon I went to a high-power rocket launch of Tripoli Minnesota and took a few pictures.
The following picture is of a rocket flying with a type "I" motor. That would be four times as powerful as any rocket I have built:

This rocket has a kind of amazing story. Right when the range safety officer pressed the launch button a large gust of wind came up, and the rocket arched over in the sky. We expected it to straighten out, but it just kept curving, until it pointed towards the ground! When it finally did straighten out it was flying along parallel to the ground—still accelerating. It barreled into the ground and skipped like a stone…at nearly half the speed of sound! It’s too bad I didn’t video-record it. It was amazing. You would have liked to see it.

And at this launch I flew the famous “Squirrel’s Rocket” which appeared in my short clay animation. It was an amazing scene, a dark cloud in the background with the sunlight reflecting off the metallic paint job:

I can hardly wait to fly high-power rockets!


How the Story Ends

So... I last left my rocket 50 feet high in a tree in a tangled mess. How on earth was I ever going to get it down? My Dad and I went out there to look at it, my Grandpa and I went out to look at it, scratching our heads in bewilderment, until my Grandpa got the idea to use the forklift. While we were waiting for a day when we could try it, it rained. Ugh. Things were looking bleak.

Well, it was certainly worth a try. On Thursday we started up the forklift and spent some time building a platform on the forks (to stand on) out of a sod pallet. The hope was that with the 21 feet the forks could be raised to plus the eight feet or so one of us could reach to, plus another 15 feet from the pruning pole we brought along, that we would be able to reach the rocket.

So we spend all that time and energy planning a way to get the rocket back, and when we get out there where the rocket is supposed to be hanging in a tree...

No rocket.

The rocket was not in the tree, but laying on the ground beneath the tree. As it turns out, the rain had loosened the shock cord mount so that it came out all together, and the lower part of the rocket fell to the ground. The nose cone and the parachute are still out there, but they are inexpensive and easy to build.

It turns out that our elaborate plan was not necessary after all!


First Launch of the Year!

I have about 80 dollars hanging in a tree right now...

Yesterday afternoon I suggested opening the flying season with the flight of an unnamed rocket whose official title is "Project 3 Rocket 2." This rocket is sort of becoming the mascot rocket of DTH Rocket Endeavors, and it needs a name. I'm open to suggestions!

I had plenty of spectators, which always makes a launch more worth while. The liftoff was so astounding that my spectators were shocked, enthusiastically astonished and pumped with alacrity. It was a near perfect flight...

But there was one problem: it never came back. The rocket soared to apogee, deployed the 'chute, and went drifting off over the horizon. I was a little dismayed, to say the least. I was watching as my rocket with that 70 dollar reloadable motor in it went sailing off into the distance... perhaps never to be seen again?

After long hours searching all afternoon, I finally found it: tangled 50 feet high in a tree about a half mile from where it had been launched. It had traveled the length of a sod field, over a strip of woods, across another sod field, and over a busy road (I can just see the drivers' faces, seeing a large black rocket floating by) where it finally came to rest at the top of a tall oak.


I have to get it back right away, because you're supposed to clean the reloadable motor within 24 hours, because the burned propellant can eat away at the casing. This is sure going to take some creative thinking!