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!


My First LDRS -- Safe Arrival at Campsite

After an 18+ hour drive, I finally made it to Middlesex, NY and set up camp. It was a fun drive. I stayed the night in Cleveland in a parking lot of a Wal-Mart Supercenter o.O No problems, no break-downs, no getting lost. It went very well. Now I am here at the campground trying to relax before tomorrow.

If I'm going to fly Longshot Starkiller, I've got a lot of work yet to do. It's a tossup at this point whether he will fly or not.

This evening I met a guy named Larry who's camping next to me (who I think I already knew a little bit from TRF). I only got to talk to him for 3 or 4 minutes, but he cryptically said something like I'd see things at this LDRS that I would never see again in my life. Hm... he couldn't say more than that. Whatever the case, it will be an exciting event. Also, apparently Discovery Channel and some Mythbusters people will be here.

I like this camping stuff. It's so open and friendly for opening up conversations and getting to know people. There will be a campfire later and I'll get to meet even more people. Picnic tables also make such great workbenches for rockets.

In pictures, departure from home to arrival at the campsite:


My First LDRS -- It's Official!

Yep, it's true. After a few weeks of uncertainty whether it would actually happen or not, it is finally official, and I am leaving tomorrow morning!

LDRS -- Large and Dangerous Rocket Ships -- is the annual Tripoli Rocketry Association meet. It's the biggest high-power rocket launch in the country. Thousands of people will be there, and some of the biggest projects ever.

Believe it or not, I am actually driving. That's okay, I love driving! It doesn't really save any money with just me in the car, but this way I get to bring my own project: Longshot Starkiller, the big two-stage level-2 rocket. While it is uncertain that he will be ready to fly in time, it will at least be great to show it off and talk about it.

I'll be camping at the Flint Creek Campground, just 2 miles from the launch site. There will be lots of LDRS attendees staying there, so hopefully I will be able to meet some new people!

Stay tuned for travel updates, pictures and videos!


Adventurous People

I'm starting a new series! I'm pleased to introduce Adventurous People, a series of interviews with, well, people who lead adventurous lives. So what exactly defines an Adventurous Person?

Adventurous Person -- s.o. who has a propensity for exploring new places, learning new things, meeting new people, and generally have no two days alike.

That said, you don't necessarily have to currently be leading a life that most people would consider adventurous to be an Adventurous Person. At the first opportunity life throws at you, you take the more adventurous, new and exciting path.

I am looking for people to interview! If you qualify as an Adventurous Person, you should contact me (my email can be found on my profile).

Maybe you're a bush pilot in Alaska, or a missionary in India, or naval officer on a submarine, or an engineer on an Air Force Base, or live in a tree house in the Amazon. Maybe you're a high-tech nomad that travels across the country on a motorcycle, or live in a Soviet missile silo in Lithuania! Your stories and adventures would be read by hundreds of people; this blog receives over a thousand hits a month. Stories are the single most effective means of inspiring All Ducks In A Row People to become Adventurous People. And, lets be honest here. Everyone needs at least a few ducks out of line.