Successful Launch, Failed Recovery

After a fantastic liftoff, the rocket disappeared into the sky. I quickly set down my camera and picked up the receiver. I caught a signal to the southeast, and hopped into the car with some friends to go chase it. Two hours of driving around did not yield a single signal, and the rocket was given up for lost. We had several ideas why the signal could not be picked up: The rocket could have come in ballistic and buried itself underground. The rocket could have landed in water (since it had rained a lot previous days and flooded parts of the fields) and shorted out or blocked signal. Or it could have landed behind some structure or in a valley or ditch. The battery was new and good, and taped in securely, so it is unlikely that it caused the loss of signal. And while I did tape around the entire transmitter with electrical tape, there is a possibility that ejection gases could have gotten to it and messed with the electronics.

Since the rocket did hold together and didn't do anything wild or unstable, it is safe to assume that it did go supersonic, maybe as fast as Mach 2. I'm hoping to try some even faster minimum diameter projects in the future. First I have to earn some money.


Mach 2 Rocket Launch Today

It's going to be a little soggy in the field today, but a great day to launch rockets. I'm planning to launch my Mach 2 rocket. I did a nice black paint job after a lot of priming and fine wet sanding. It will never look this nice again.

I'll be sure to post a video to YouTube later.

Due to RockSim's ever optimistic weight estimations, I believe Mach 2 might be a little fast. I'm sure it will hit at least 1.5 (and hopefully not shred), but it will be impossible to tell for sure since there won't be any onboard electronics except a transmitter.

As usual, I have come up short in the Name Department. The RockSim file is called "38mm Attack," but I think that sounds kind of lame. Commend if you have any suggestions!

Note: If I am unable to borrow a transmitter from someone, I don't think I'll be launching today. Hopefully I can work something out.


Back on Twitter

A while back I took a leave of absence from Facebook, Twitter, and all social media. While I still disdain Facebook, I decided to rejoin the Twitter community since it appeals better to my blogging senses. It's also a great way to survey what's going on in the world aerospace, and just the world in general. I'll try to continue posting mini-updates to my Twitter page and full-length updates to my blog about all my current aerospace endeavors.



SpaceX Dragon Capsule Docks to ISS

They've done it! The Dragon capsule has berthed with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first commercial company to ever dock with the ISS.

"Today marks another critical step in the future of American spaceflight," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Now that a U.S. company has proven its ability to resupply the space station, it opens a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space -- and new job creation opportunities right here in the U.S. By handing off space station transportation to the private sector, NASA is freed up to carry out the really hard work of sending astronauts farther into the solar system than ever before. The Obama Administration has set us on an ambitious path forward and the NASA and SpaceX teams are proving they are up to the task."



SpaceX COTS 2 Demonstration Flight Now In Orbit

The launch of the Dragon capsule this morning was a success, and it is now in orbit in pursuit of the International Space Station. It was an exciting moment for all at the SpaceX facility, and cheers could be heard at every step from ignition to solar array deployment.

I was excited too, and stayed awake until 3:00 am to see the launch.

I am looking forward to future SpaceX successes, and hope that I can be a part of it. I am submitting my internship application today, and we shall see what comes of it. I hope one day to play an important part in the private space industry, either at SpaceX or somewhere else. After working several years as a "grunt engineer" of sorts, I have dreams of starting my own small aerospace company to fulfill some niche, or to develop new technologies that will allow further development of space and deeper exploration of the solar system. No matter what happens in the near future, it will be interesting and exciting to see how it plays out.


SpaceX Test Launch, Abort

This morning at 4:55 am EDT, SpaceX attempted to launch its Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on a mission to dock with the International Space Station. There was only a one second window so there wasn't any margin for error. Unfortunately, upon ignition one of the engines failed to perform up to specifications and the ignition sequence was shut down. In their Twitter feed it was reported, "Launch aborted: slightly high combustion chamber pressure on engine 5. Will adjust limits for countdown in a few days." The next available optimal launch window will be on May 22nd at 3:44 am EDT.

SpaceX is the coolest thing in the world. Check out this video of Elon Musk giving a tour of the California facility:

I'm going to go ahead and try for an internship at SpaceX. There is obviously a lot of competition, but I think I have a fair chance. They recommend you upload a video of yourself and send it to them with your application and resume. I haven't sent it to them yet, but I've uploaded it here for all of you to see first:

Hope I make it!


Mach 2

One of my goals this summer is to break Mach 2. When I got back from school earlier this May, I started work on a new rocket that should be up to the job.

It's a 38mm minimum diameter rocket made of hand-laid fiberglass in my very own composites lab. Rocksim predicts a top speed of Mach 2.3 on a 6G Cesaroni J360.

It is an exercise in space/weight efficiency, construction techniques, and strength of materials.

I used the motor casing as a form and wrapped wax paper around it to protect it.

Then I went around with liberal doses of epoxy resin. I used about 2 feet of cloth.

This was the result after the wrapping. To prevent it from hardening into this bumpy matrix pattern, I wrapped a layer of wax paper around the entire thing.

For the fins I made a little fiberglass sheet with about 8 layers of cloth.

I then covered it in wax paper and pressed it with some heavy books.

(Such as an astrophysics text).

Very happy with the result. Taped on RockSim templates.

Cut them out with a jigsaw.

Sanded them even, gave them double-wedge airfoils.

Not much room for TTW fin attachment, but I did cut slots and but the fins up against the motor casing.

Used lats of epoxy.

A good view of the fillets. Used 60 minute epoxy mixed in fiberglass dust that I collected from sanding the fins. The fiberglass dust gives the epoxy more of a matrix, which increases the strength.

Recovery is going to be a little tricky, but I've got an idea that uses Kevlar shock cord. I'm planning to use a blaze-orange nylon streamer and, of course, a rocket tracker.

I'm tentatively planning on launching this June at Tripoli MN.

I am also determined to make it to either LDRS or BALLS this year, but I have to earn some money first. It'll be an interesting summer anyway.


WSGC Regional Rocket Competition Launch

I don't remember which school did this rocket, but it crashed down maybe 30 feet from me. It was scary!

Our own rocket never launched that day. It was horrible weather and things kept breaking or not working.


USLI -- Launch and Reflections

Where I last left off, I was in Huntsville, Alabama with the Iowa State USLI team. The launch had been postponed to Sunday, which was pretty disappointing because it meant we were going to have to leave early in order to get back to Iowa in time. We woke up on Sunday at 4:30 to check out of our hotel and drive to the launch site. We were one of the first teams there, and got started prepping the rocket before the sun even rose. Things were going fairly smoothly, and we got our rocket ready by the first round of launches.

The launches started, and stopped frequently because of cloud cover. Our rocket sat out at the pad for awhile while we waited. We were a little concerned about the GoPro camera. Technically it's good for 4 hours on 1080p, and it was a fully charged, relatively new battery, but you never know for sure. While we were waiting, we got interviewed, which streamed live over NASA TV. That was kind of fun. (The video cuts out to ISS stuff before our rocket launches).

I don't remember exactly what time it was, but it was roughly 9:00 when it was finally time to launch our rocket. Everyone was pumped.

Launch looked good! But then a couple seconds after motor burnout, something quite disastrous happened. Some altimeter fluke fired the drogue charge, and the flight terminated early. The rocket zippered, the payload mangled itself... it was a nightmare. The payload recovered about half a mile away, and because of the early deployment, we only reached half our intended altitude.

On the long walk to recover the payload, I said that it might still have been worth it just for the onboard video. But of course, lo and behold, video cuts out about 10 minutes before launch! Events like these challenge my optimism.

Even so, it was a great experience and I learned a lot. Everyone on the team benefited.

Next year I will not be leading Iowa State's USLI. I will most likely participate, however. Time to move on to some new projects!


Not Fighting Alone


I've been "out of it" for the last couple weeks. I'm trying to take it easy and think about some big questions (i.e. "WHAT'S GOING ON???" and "WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH MY LIFE???")(which haven't been answered yet). I don't have to know exactly where I'm going this summer, I just have to keep trying, keep praying, and keep trusting.

I'm going to be revamping my posting this summer, starting with a recap of USLI and the events of this past semester, so look for that tomorrow.