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.