A Level 3 Casing. Can Anyone Guess What This Means?

I am in possession of a level 3 casing. Can anyone guess what this means for 2013? This means that I am going to go for my level 3 certification! Finally! This is going to be my main project for 2013, and it will enable me to fly rockets on M-O impulse. Now, I know what you're thinking... You're a poor college student. How are you going to afford to be a level 3 flier? The answer to that is quite simple. First of all, this is a borrowed casing from the Iowa State Space Society (Thanks guys, even though you didn't even know you had this casing in the first place!). So all I need to buy are the rocket parts and the reloads. Still kind of pricey. But future projects are going to be primarily funded by my university, including Rockoon. The goals for next year are to build a two-stage rocket using this casing for the first stage and a baby-N load, and the 75mm Cesaroni casing in the second stage with a baby-M load. Initial Rocksim predictions say that if we launch from a balloon at 80,000 feet we would hit the very edge of space.


But I'm not going to do it without help. I'll need a team. Just a few members with strong and diverse skills. Nimble and adaptable to any situation. We'll need resolve, because space is hard. That is why we do space. WE EAT SPACE FOR BREAKFAST!


I'm an Astronomer! (Oops!)

See the pretty picture of the Iris Nebula that I took? This is the result of endless hours of work. It goes with a 15-page report about the photometry of the surrounding stars, the flux ratios in different bands of the nebula, and other random science stuff. I enjoyed this class, but I know now that astronomy is not my cup of tea. It's a rather passive form of space exploration, and I'd much rather work on the vehicle to get there.

Special thanks to my lab partners, Mikaela and Mia.


Spin Stabilization

Not sure if this has been  done before, but I've just recently had a new idea:

Spin stabilization has been a concept that's been around in rocketry for a long time. But just how fast can you spin a rocket, and just how far can you benefit from it? Do you even need fins at all if you get it spinning fast enough? Take a look at a bullet, for example. It has no fins. It is, however, exiting it's "launch tube" at supersonic speeds, but perhaps this can be related to rocketry.

I imagined a launch pad that uses an electric motor to spin the rocket extremely fast, say... 1000 rpm. One point of concern is the electrical leads for the igniter. You would need to use some sort of conducting bearings, or even an onboard ignition system triggered wirelessly.

Just a thought.

The main question I would like to look into is: Can spin-stabilization be effective enough to have a rocket with no fins? At what angular velocity? With what kind of rocket geometry?


Lawn Dart

Sometimes you just have to take a break from studying and launch a rocket. This can lead to misadventures. For example, a few friends and I went out to launch some rockets out in the cross-country fields. Thought they were big enough to launch a G motor. Turns out there was a neighborhood not too far from there. My rocket came in ballistic in a neighborhood.

I got pretty lucky. Usually rockets aim for the ONE tree or the ONE creek or whatever ONE thing in the middle of a wide-open field you don't want to land in. This time, however, I hit the ONE patch of grass in a sea of pavement, cars and houses.


The upper portion separated and drifted somewhere, so I didn't even bother looking for it. But when I got home, I had an email from one of my classmates whose roommate had found the rocket, and he's bringing it to class on Monday.

Huh. Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket.


Rockoon Update

Our final project for the semester is to assemble our design into a very large poster (it's like four feet wide). I'd like to share it with you! But instead of just posting a little picture of it, I've re-written it in post form so you can actually read it. That said, here it is:

ISU Rockoon

The objective of the Rockoon Project is to build a fully reusable, economic, lightweight and stable sounding rocket to be assisted by a high-altitude balloon. The rocket will be launched near the stratosphere, to an altitude of at least 140,000 ft.  
The Rockoon will be powered by a L-class impulse rocket engine to carry video and communication systems (allowing the entire rocket flight to be live video-streamed), GPS tracking system, navigation-sensor systems, telemetry system and any payloads of interest to be used for experimental flights. Recovery systems will be used for safe return of the rocket and platform to the ground, making the Rockoon system reusable.

The concept of a Rockoon was first developed in 1949 by the Aerobee Rocket engineering crew and consisted of a sounding rocket that was launched from a balloon, rather than from the ground to achieve higher altitudes. James Van Allen was the first to use the rocket-balloon combination to study the atmosphere in 1952. In 1953 Rockoons fired off Newfoundland detected the first hint of radiation belts surrounding Earth. The low-cost Rockoon technique was later used by the Office of Naval Research and The University of Iowa research groups in 1953-55 and 1957, from ships in sea between Boston and Thule, Greenland.

Launch Platform Design
The launch platform is essentially the fundamental component of a Rockoon system, as it is the part the actually connects high powered rocketry with high altitude ballooning.  The platform needs to be durable and lightweight, but able to house the rocket and electronics, and be able to successfully launch the rocket.  The platform will be a “cannon” like design connected to a multiple balloon system, with the rocket sitting in the middle of the platform surrounded by three side rails.  These side rails will hold the rocket in place while it’s being towed to launch altitude, along with keeping the rocket stable while it reaches a sufficient launch velocity.  The platform will also house electronics that will allow us to track the platform and actually communicate with the rocket prior to motor ignition.

The electronic systems for the launch platform have to perform four basic functions: (1) Monitor the motion of the launch platform, (2) Receive command to launch the rocket, (3) Track the launch platform via GPS, and (4) after ignition of the rocket, cut-down from the balloons so that the platform would return to Earth. The first flight of the launch platform will be to test the reliability of the launch platform and electronics without the launch of a rocket. Several cameras will monitor the motion of the balloons and the platform. An onboard accelerometer and gyro sensor will record motion data to an onboard micro-SD card. These functions, along with the ignition and balloon cut-down will be controlled by an Arduino MCU, and are depicted schematically in the figure below.

Rocket Design
The rocket design is based off of a carbon fiber airframe that was passed down to us from our predecessors. It will be a minimum diameter rocket that is just over eight feet tall made completely of carbon fiber. The nose cone has a metal tip to help burst through balloons if needed.  This rocket will be flown on a Cesaroni 4-grain, level-two L motor.  Payloads will consist of a GPS, CO2 pressure ejection system for recovery,  an accelerometer, and a camera with the possibility of a live video stream.  Initial RockSim simulations predict a maximum altitude of 157,000 feet, and a maximum velocity of 2427 feet per second (Mach 2.4). 
The design for this rocket has a center of gravity of 76.7 inches and a center of pressure of 91.8 inches, giving a static margin of 4.8 caliber. If the launch were to occur from the ground this margin would be too high, but since the launch will occur at higher altitudes, the perturbing effects will be much less effective due to the lower air density. Due to launching at high altitudes, bigger than normal fins will be used and an exit velocity of about 150 feet per second from the platform will be needed for stable flight.

Flight Performance Analysis (RockSim)


Mojave Air and Space Port 2012

Found this video on YouTube that was posted about a week ago. Getting me pumped up for moving to Mojave next semester!


SpaceVision 2012

I was hoping to be able to attend SpaceVision 2012 in Buffalo, NY this year. It is going on right now, and they are discussing some fascinating subjects that I want to participate in! It will be going on all weekend, and you can follow along at the Spacevidcast Live Channel:


Next year for sure!


First HABET Flight of the Year

I participated in a high-altitude balloon launch this past Sunday with the HABET team at Iowa State. The payload was a model of the house from "UP." I learned a lot about what it takes to do a balloon launch, which gives me a better idea of what will have to go into our Rockoon system.

It went "UP" alarmingly fast. Have you ever seen a house do a 3-minute mile? Well, I have. By the time we went back inside Howe Hall it was already over 10,000 feet. Just before I left, it was doing 100 mph horizontally, after hitting the jet stream. Ballooning can be an extreme activity!

The recovery team had to leave about 45 minutes before the balloon launch to get a head start on their chase. I haven't heard how the recovery went yet, but I'm pretty sure they actually found it. 

There are three subteams that conduct a HABET launch: Mission control, which is located in the basement of Howe, recovery team which drives around the state of Iowa in a mad chase, and launch team which simply steps outside, fills the balloon and lets it fly. I got to do launch, and in the future will probably get to do the other teams to learn the ropes.

All in all, still not as fun as rocketry though. That's why ballooning + rocketry = epic awesomeness.

Semester plods onward!


Peter Diamondis' Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind

Some of these are really obvious. Others make you think. Below are Peter Diamondis' (think X Prize) 28 rules for a persistent and passionate person:

  • 1. If anything can go wrong, Fix It!!... to heck with Murphy!
  • 2. When given a choice... take both!!
  • 3. Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
  • 4. Start at the top, then work your way up.
  • 5. Do it by the book... but be the author!
  • 6. When forced to compromise, ask for more.
  • 7. If you can't win, change the rules.
  • 8. If you can't change the rules, then ignore them.
  • 9. Perfection is not optional.
  • 10. When faced without a challenge, make one.
  • 11. "No" simply means begin again at one level higher.
  • 12. Don't walk when you can run.
  • 13. When in doubt: THINK!
  • 14. Patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing.
  • 15. The squeaky wheel gets replaced.
  • 16. The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.
  • 17. The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!
  • 18. The ratio of something to nothing is infinite.
  • 19. You get what you incentivize.
  • 20. If you think it is impossible, then it is... for you.
  • 21. An expert is someone who can tell you exactly how it can't be done.
  • 22. The day before something is a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea.
  • 23. If it were easy it would have been done already.
  • 24. Without a target you’ll miss it every time.
  • 25. Fail early, fail often, fail forward!
  • 26. If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
  • 27. The world’s most precious resource is the persistent and passionate human mind.
  • 28. Bureaucracy is an obstacle to be conquered with persistence, confidence and a bulldozer when necessary.

From Singularity.


Obama and Romney and Space

I was a little concerned about voting for Romney for awhile there, because I couldn't figure out what his stance was on NASA, space exploration, and the private space industry. Recently I've discovered more information, and both sides tend to agree on the general direction we should be heading: namely for private space to eventually take on manned launches to Earth orbit, while NASA focuses on deep space exploration, eventually to put a man on Mars. It's nice to know that no matter who is elected, whether Romney or Obama, the future of space exploration is bright and optimistic.


Internship at XCOR! (For Real This Time)


Last November I received some correspondence from one of the co-founders of XCOR Aerospace about a possible internship with them. While it didn't end up working out for last year, this year I received an offer that I fully intend to accept.

XCOR... Mojave Air and Space Port. *Droooool*. It's every young rocket scientist's dream. Even just to live there would be great, but getting to work with actual rocket-powered vehicles day in and day out at the Space Port puts the cherry on top.

The link below paints a pretty good picture of what it's like to live and work in Mojave. Living conditions may be harsh, and there really isn't anything to do... except aerospace. And that's why they do a LOT of aerospace.

Mojave Rocketeers



I have delayed posting about this semesters project for awhile now, but now that I have a decent amount of material to present it is time to post it here.

The idea of a rockoon system is to lift a rocket high above most of the atmosphere on a balloon, in order to minimize the drag loss. Extreme altitudes can be reached at a reasonable cost.

So I was looking for a new project to start at the beginning of this semester, and I went to talk to the project adviser about it. There was really only one rocketry related project going on at the time, one in which I had participated for the last two years (USLI). I was about ready for something new.

My initial idea was to design, build and test fire a rocket engine, either a hybrid motor or an aerospike engine. He told me that that was going to be very tricky... the design part was obviously not an issue, and not even the build part. But testing a rocket engine on campus was going to be a challenge running by Risk Management. He wanted to see a project that was reasonable to see through to completion, and suggested that I look into restarting the Rockoon project. This would be something we would actually be able to fly, and if we got everything to work we could reach extreme altitudes, up to 150k feet or more.

Interest piqued.

Last week we just completed our preliminary design review (PDR) and were reviewed fairly positively. Below are some pretty pictures from the presentation:

Our next steps are to:
  • Find RockSim Pro and refine design. Do simulations.
  •  Refine launcher design (Materials ideas: balsa & fiberglass composite, minimum amount of aluminum)
  • Ansys, CFD. ß lower priority
  • Start ordering supplies!

There may be an interesting complication that may inhibit our ability to launch by the end of next semester, but I want to wait before posting about it. (You'll just have to wait and read the next post. Don't worry, it's nothing bad...)


Astrodynamics - 3 - Constants of Motion

This is the 3rd installment of my mini series on Astrodynamics. I am way behind where we're at in the course right now, but that's okay. I'll just keep going at this rate and maybe power through the rest during finals week.


First Time Flying

Aerospace engineering at Iowa State has a requirement that each student needs to gain at least two hours of flight experience. So I got to fly a plane for the first time last Tuesday, along with one other student. Basically I got to do all the controls except the throttle, and controlled the plane from takeoff to final approach (instructor did the tricky touch-down part). We even got to do some maneuvers such as stall recovery, rapid descent, slow flight, and some other basic stuff. It was a blast, and an interesting day for it too, with the clouds and the rain.

I don't have any video of me actually flying the plane (too busy flying to work a camera) so this entire video I am sitting in the back seat while the other student is flying.

Now I want to do it again. I've already been planning to get my pilot's license someday, but actually getting to fly makes me want to get it sooner rather than later. The plan is to be an engineer, work for awhile and earn money, then move to Alaska and be a bush pilot for awhile.


Astrodynamics - 2 - The Two-Body Equation of Motion

Continuing my Astrodynamics video series. Currently ~ 4 weeks trailing material covered in class, starting with simple 2-body orbital mechanics. This stuff is pretty easy, but things get hairy later on! That's why I want to stay on top of things with the fundamentals so that the harder stuff goes smoothly later on.



Lunch with Bill Nye

So I was minding my own business in the computer lab one day (like I usually do), when in walks the president of the Iowa State Space Society (pictured above with her arm around Bill). She asks me and another student who is also part of the ISSS club what we were doing on Friday at noon. "Nothing?" she says. "Well then you two are going to eat lunch with Bill Nye."

Fun stuff like that happens at college.

So some back story: Last May at the Space Tech Expo in L.A. one of our members met Bill and struck up a conversation. Bill wanted to meet the leaders of the club, so when he came to Iowa State this week for the opening event of Engineer's Week, we had the opportunity to eat lunch with him. It was great.

So he told us a lot of interesting and funny stories, we talked about science, space exploration, the Planetary Society (which he is now the CEO of), and of course, the Iowa State Space Society. I wished I had a recorder in my pocket or something. Then I'd be able to write down what we talked about.

At the end after we took a group picture with him, I had him sign my motor casing right next to Kari Byron's signature (Mythbusters).

So that was the highlight of my week.



To accompany a class I'm taking right now, I decided to do a video series on astrodynamics. I'm eating this class up since it is my first *real* space class. Sometimes the best way to dig deep into a subject is to teach it. That's where YouTube comes in to play. This is sort of a "Rocket Science 102" course. Enjoy!


Stressful Fun: Random College Updates

If I thought I spread myself too thin last semester... I had no idea what was coming! Junior year in aerospace engineering is famous for requiring super-human abilities. Below I have summarized in a random bullet list some of the hectic, crazy objectives I am trying to complete this semester:

  • Juggling 18 credit-hours (times 3 is 54 hours/week dedicated to my studies): Flight structures, astrodynamics, flight dynamics, french, and thermodynamics. 
    • Flight Structures: Easily my hardest class, since it is based on mechanics of materials, which was the first class that I had to worry about not passing... So I will abe putting some extra effort into this one.
    • Astrodynamics: Easily my hardest class, but since it is also my favorite class it really isn't *hard*. The professor also makes it a great class since he is an excellent teacher, extremely knowledgeable and has a definite passion for this subject.
    • Flight Dynamics: I'm behind! (I had to wait two weeks for my book to come in the mail). Must go study! The fun part of this class is the part where we get to go to the Ames Municipal Airport and fly airplanes.
    • French 101: I have to take a foreign language since I didn't *formally* take one in high school. I picked French since I already had a foot in the door, and some family members already speak it. If the University would let me I would like to learn the basics of a couple languages instead of advancing to 102 in French. For instance, I've learned a few phrases in Chinese and its a fun language to speak.
    • Thermodynamics: A lot of it is easy review of physics topics, but the professor is making the class hard. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
    • I have already pulled two all-nighters doing homework for classes...
  • New project! More on this in another post, but it involves high-altitude balloons and rockets. Going to be a lot of time to see it through to completion.
  • Need a part-time job to pay for school. I've applied to some good ones, but if I don't get them I'll have to start thinking smaller, such as working in the dining center, etc. (I have an interview today with a professor in materials engineering about a possible research assistant position). 
  • Applying like mad for internships! My number one objective is to land an aerospace internship for either spring or summer, or both. I have a list of about 20 companies in my sights, but have only managed to apply for 3 so far: XCOR Aerospace, ATK and SpaceX. Other options include: ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada, Moon Express, Virgin Galactic, and pretty much any NASA center. The list of companies is seeming to grow faster than I can apply.
More in-depth posts to come, specifically on Rockoon, and I'm considering continuing some of my YouTube series if I have the time. Stay tuned!

Fun fact: This is my 300th post on this blog!


A Tribute To Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

The following video was put together for the first general meeting of the Iowa State Space Society to honor one of our favorite space heroes. Hope you enjoy.

Neil Armstrong, NASA engineer, test pilot and astronaut, the first man to set foot on the moon, passed away from cardiovascular complications at the age of 82. His life will be celebrated by space explorers forever, an inspiration to reach for new heights and to learn more about the Universe.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden had to following to say about Neil Armstrong’s legacy:

On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Carol and the rest of the Armstrong family on the passing of Neil Armstrong. As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own.
Besides being one of America's greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all. When President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a human to the moon, Neil Armstrong accepted without reservation.
As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut and true American hero.

Armstrong’s family made the following statement commemorating Neil’s life and impact on the world:

We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.  
Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. 
Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.  
He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.  
As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.  
While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.  
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

The following two videos are by the VlogBrothers, and paint an inspiring picture of Neil Armstrong's life:


XCOR to Open New Operations/Manufacturing Facility in Florida

XCOR Aerospace announced Thursday that it would be establishing a new base at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for manufacturing and testing of the company's Lynx suborbital spacecraft. Good news for me, this means as many as 150 new jobs through 2018. I *should* be graduated by then... XCOR is one of my favorite private aerospace companies, right up there with SpaceX even though they are a fraction of the size. They prove to the world that small companies can do big, amazing things with the right focus and drive.

The KSC is a very exciting place to drop an aerospace company. As CEO Jeff Greason said in the press release, "Looking over the KSC Visitor Complex grounds and seeing the history of U.S. human spaceflight and realizing that soon XCOR will be a part of the fabric of the Space Coast is very exciting to me personally and our company." XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson pointed out, "The Space Coast as seen a slow wind down of legacy space operations in the past few years, but the new commercial space industry will return high paying aerospace jobs and human spaceflight back to Florida in the very near future, with several scheduled flights a day! We foresee significant positive impacts on the creation of technology clusters and educational opportunities for K-12 and college students."

I look forward to seeing where this company ends up in a decade from now. Heck, I'm looking forward to seeing where I end up in a decade from now, and maybe it will be with XCOR. You just never know.


College Halfway Point.

Being at the midpoint of any endeavor yields some interesting perspectives. Admittedly, I may be here as long as five years, but the view is still the same. I have come a long way from where I started and I have a long way to go until the finish line.

My journey started out strong freshman year. I got some good grades, met some great friends and had a lot of wonderful experiences. I'm glad I took initiative to get involved on campus and in aerospace projects such as USLI. 

One trend that I've noticed, however, is that each semester my performance is a little lower. Not sure if I'm decreasing in intelligence or just classes getting harder. But this semester I intend to break that trend. I know last year the biggest problem was probably the same problem Alexander the Great experienced in that I spread myself way too thin over classes, projects, and other activities. So this semester is going to be a study on living a simple lifestyle in order to keep the main thing the main thing.

And what is the main thing?

I'm looking ahead to next summer (maybe even this spring) in which I fully intend to land an aerospace internship! All of this year will be spent mainly in preparation for this goal. This includes, but not limited to, getting good grades, making a lot of contacts, talking to professors, getting recommendations, applying to positions, making phone calls, etc. In all of this, I will at least make room for one project, such as USLI.

Recreation and entertainment are important, but need to know they're place at the bottom of the totem pole. For instance, it's a good way to bond with friends and roommates. After I moved in to the apartment, two of my roommates and I went shooting and ate dinner at one of my roommates home, since it was his birthday. It was a great way to start the semester off. 

For some reason after the end of last semester I just had to stop and wonder what it was that I wanted in life. It's funny how I can ask that question and also know exactly where I'm going with my career at the same time. For the past six years I have known that I want to be an aerospace engineer, but suddenly I began to get the inklings of a question on why. Just because it's fun? Because I think it's an important contribution to humanity? Because I want to earn a lot of money and do a lot of cool things in life? What exactly is the point? What would my life look like in ten, twenty years from now? Who will my friends be? Will I have a family? What will I be working towards, fighting for and living for?

And I can just shrug all these questions off now, because, if nothing else, I'll always be living for the glory of God. And if that doesn't make sense to you, I hope and pray that it will someday.

My homey work station.

From left: Me, Darin, Nick.


MSL Pictures

I actually stayed up until one in the morning last night watching this stuff unfold. Even my heart was pounding during those last 7 minutes of terror. You may have seen that previous video I posted about how complex the landing sequence is. If any one thing malfunctioned, the entire multi-billion dollar investment would be lost.

Fortunately it was all worth it. I'm looking forward to seeing all the pictures that will keep coming in, and also reading about results from science experiments.


Curiosity Arrives Safely on Mars!

After 7 minutes of waiting on pins and needles, the Mars Science Laboratory is now safely on the ground. The first thumbnails have already come in just minutes after the landing, and scientists are just itching to start getting data! This mission has been a major accomplishment so far, and hopefully it will be a very rewarding mission from here on out.


My First LDRS -- In 31 Seconds!

This is basically just a photo dump from my trip, put to some accelerated Gustav Holst, with a surprise at the end. Enjoy!


Aerospace Engineering?

"Aerospace Engineering?

I'm considering a major in aerospace engineering. Does anyone have any experience in it, or know anyone who does it?"

- A question by Tim Smith, which I answered 7/23/12 at 12:33 in the morning, on Yahoo Answers:

YUP!! I love aerospace engineering. Here's my take:

I first got interested in it through a model rocketry project I did in 4H. It was a scratch-built little rocket that didn't fly straight, and I wondered why. It motivated me to borrow a book from the library on the subject, and learned that my rockets were unstable. I dug deeper and deeper, and in one summer I had my entire life figured out, and wanted to build spacecraft.

Connecting the dots, I found out about an aerospace engineering major. I ended up going to Iowa State (after some recommendations about their aerospace program, I figured it was a good compromise). Iowa State is a slightly different experience than you might find at another school, because you get hands on, major-related courses freshman and sophomore year as well as junior and senior.

Aerospace engineering deals with vehicles that interact with a medium, and is typically subcategorized by aeronautical and astronautical engineering, which deal with airplanes and rockets, respectively. First two years you'll dabble in both disciplines until you have a narrower focus. Me, I'm making a beeline for R&D in rocket propulsion. An efficient propulsion system is key to a feasible space mission. My ultimate passion is for manned deep-space exploration, and someday I hope I can work on the spacecraft that lands man on Mars.

Right now I'm putting together a list of companies I would love to intern for before or just after I graduate. The list currently has 20+ companies which includes SpaceX, XCOR, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, virtually any NASA center, and other companies competing in NASA's CCDev initiative. I'm also looking at small companies that are building suborbital spacecraft, or competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize.

Some people say that aerospace engineering is one of the most difficult engineering disciplines. It is, after all, rocket science. My response to that, however, is that if it's what you love anyway, it will be play and not work. The great joys of aerospace engineering far outweigh the difficulties of heavy mental engagement.

If you're curious about typical salaries, a typical entry-level salary is roughly in the ball-park of $60,000. After ten years working for a company, maybe six figures. It depends, though. If you go into the private space industry, your starting pay may be smaller, but with greater opportunities for future increase. If you go into the civil space industry (i.e. NASA), your starting pay will be much greater, but won't increase as fast. Like most engineering jobs, it pays fairly well because it's a marketable skill. I'm just lucky enough that what I love to do just "happens" to pay well. One thing that you will never have, however, is job security. The aerospace industry is usually pretty turbulent (no pun intended).

That's my story! Sorry if it is more information than you bargained for. I hope you dig deeper and like what you find. We could use you! We could use a more aerospace-oriented economy. But maybe I'm a little biased. Good luck deciding!


Adventurous People -- Nick Macomber

At LDRS 31, I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Macomber, who flies the Go Fast Rocket Belt.

Nick Macomber flies the Go Fast Rocket Belt at events and functions all over the world. His passion for Adventure led him to a keen interest in rocket belt technology and someday hopes to design a jet-engine pack for longer flight duration. I hope you enjoy this first installment of Adventurous People!

If you or someone you know fits into the "Adventurous" category, send me a message! I might consider interviewing you (possibly via Skype or email if you are far away) for this series on Adventurous People.

(More info on LDRS to follow! I have a lot of material and not much time to post it, but I will get to it eventually. Stay tuned for a video on my 2-stage "anomaly" and recap of events).


My First LDRS -- First 2 Launch Days

I've had two awesome days at LDRS!!!

It is simply heaven on earth here. There are so many AMAZING projects here. N's and O's are commonplace, and M's are practically ubiquitous. At Tripoli MN, when a level 3 rocket goes up it's the highlight of the whole day. Here at LDRS there have been some level 3's that go up and you look up and say, "hup, there goes another one..."

These first two launch days have been research days, which means that you have to be 18+ and L2 to fly. Experimental home-built motors are permitted (some of which result in spectacular failures). The two guys in the parking spot next to mine (Bill and Bill, a father and son team) put up an experimental N motor, which experienced some major "turbulence" on the way up, and core-sampled on the way down. I don't think they even found it. It probably dug its very own grave and then died in it.

I have flown two rockets now. Neither flight was really successful, but I learned from both experiences. The first day I flew "Exporter 3000," which formerly flew as the longer rocket, "Exporter 2000," on a 2xG80 cluster. Only one motor ignited and the rocket flew off at an angle. I think Blue Thunder propellant is difficult to do with clusters. The plastic parachute ripped off after apogee and the rocket broke a fin on landing. Main  lessons learned: Don't cluster with Blue Thunder and Firstfire Jr. igniters, and a shorter rocket will be affected more by asymmetric thrust than a longer rocket. Just for kicks and grins and giggles I think I'll work out the physics for asymmetric thrust later and write about the results.

I spent the rest of the day spectating, prepping my big project, and meeting other rocketeers. Back at the campground I met some new neighbors, a guy named Marlin and his wife. Fun people. They drove all the way from Texas! Farther than me. Now they look like they're gone. They only stayed one night having driven all the way from Texas? Perhaps they had other business to attend to. The people on the other side of my site are some of the coordinators of the event, and I've been hanging out with them a little. A guy named Larry, a woman named Mary-Beth, and some others. (Lots of little girls).

Today I spent most of the day getting my two-stager ready for flight. It wasn't until about 3pm before it was ready. I had to check and recheck everything just to make absolutely sure that everything was going to work correctly, specifically with the electronics.

Discovery Channel is here doing a special on LDRS. I'll probably appear on TV here an there. Look for the camo hat. I'm constantly wearing it.

When my rocket was finally ready, I started to get the butterflies. The last time I did a two-stager, it was a G to a G, not a K to an I. Last minute I got the idea to hunt down a Discovery person and ask them to put one of their onboard cams on the side of my rocket. I made a persuasive argument. All I had to say was something like "two stages... nine feet tall... 6000 ft..."

The Flight, in Onomatopoeia:

Flutter flutter flutter flutter flutter.

I recovered most of the pieces, which were spread over a half-mile radius. The only piece I couldn't find was the upper stage booster section, along with the staging electronics. Both casings, the altimeter, and most of the debris were recovered. Good news is that the staging worked! Sort of. It's hard to explain with words, so you'll have to wait until I upload a video. Main lessons learned: Double-check burn duration on booster motor. I don't think the booster was done burning before the sustainer fired. Also, USE GOBS AND GOBS of epoxy. Just GOBS isn't good enough.

Full analysis later.

I'm sure you want to see pictures.... Only a few so far! Also there are SO many other cools stories that I'm not remembering at the moment.

Steve Eve's giant Saturn Ib. Unfortunately it's just show and tell, and it won't fly for another month.
Inside: Fancy actuators and a lot of electronics.
Body tube folds out to form fins for the upper stage (in order to keep accurate scale).
Tim Lehr shenanigans. Nuff said.
Anybody else find this picture a little comical? I don't know many rocket scientist Mennonites.

K700BB reload. My selection was limited because AMW reloads are made differently now (More like Cesaroni).

Assembled motor.

Staging electronics.

Blue Thunder propellant added to ematch for extra punch.
Motor retention for I285.

PML Copilot V2.0 for parachute deployment. I have yet to get the data off of it.
Attached some thread to the booster parachute. In theory, when the booster drag separates the thread pulls the parachute out.

Longshot Starkiller on the pad ready to go.

The Discovery camera was found on the ground all by itself.  Incredibly lucky we found it.  I walked with the Discovery people back to their tent and we tried to pull the files off it. It was blank. I honestly wasn't too surprised. It's just a running gag in my life that onboard video never works for me. Ohhhh well.

The motor mount might have been the perpetrator in the accident. I built this rocket a whole year ago, and  might not have used enough epoxy... The current theory for likely mode of failure is that the motor mount dislodged and went through the body tube.
Collecting pieces one by one.
Looking for that last piece reminded me of October Skies. Never found it though, and I don't think Trigonometry is going to help me much.
That's it for now! Soon I'll put together one or more YouTube videos summarizing highlights of the event, my activities, and more!