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Saturday, September 27, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Mixed monoprop progress, Big vehicle landing gear
chabot imageI skipped last week’s update partly because I was out of town all day Sunday when I usually write them, and partly because I was frustrated at the results of the day’s testing. Things are better now.
We finally had all the pieces together to do high quality engine development – high purity 50% rocket grade peroxide from FMC, high purity methanol, laser cut spreading plates and pack plates form Global Stencil, and a big batch of fresh rolled-foil catalyst from Catalytic Products.
The catalyst we had the most success with so far was a 200 pore-per-square-inch rolled foil corrugated catalyst. The 5.5” diameter catalyst was originally 3.5” deep, but used in that form it provided little activity, with most of the propellant being channeled straight through the pores by the gas from reaction at the pore edges. When we cut the catalyst into three sections a bit over 1” deep and interspersed a couple screens between them to break up the channeling, we finally got some good runs. However, the length of the runs was always limited – our standard test run of 9.6 liters was always starting to cloud up at the end, and looking up at the catalyst through the nozzle with a mirror showed areas that were no longer red hot. There was also some degradation in general reactivity over the span of many runs, which may have been due to poisoning or stripping. Read More

Friday, September 26, 2003

chabot imageTeen to Fly on Second X Prize Competition Flight
MOJAVE, CA (September 26, 2003) -- Rocket manufacturers Interorbital Systems (IOS) announced their intention to launch the first teenager into space. Justin Houchin, a 16-year old high school graduate, robotics enthusiast, and Eagle Scout candidate, is seeking sponsorship to complete the purchase of a $50,000 ticket to ride aboard a rocket currently under construction by Interorbital Systems at their Mojave, California facilities. Justin's supporters made a down payment on a suborbital space tourism ticket for the young man who has taken the first step toward becoming the world's 'First Teenager in Space.' Read More

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Scaled Composites news: Third glide flight of SpaceShipOne
chabot imageObjectives: Third glide flight of SpaceShipOne. Aft CG flying qualities and performance evaluation of the space ship in both the glide and re-entry or "feather" mode. Glide envelope expansion to 95% airspeed, 100% alpha and beta and 70% loadfactor. More aggressive post stall maneuvering and spin control as a glider and while feathered. Nitrous temperature control during climb to altitude and performance of upgraded landing gear extension mechanism and space-worthy gear doors.
Results: Launch conditions were 46,800 feet and 115 knots and produced a clean separation. First stall entry maneuver resulted in an un-commanded nose rise before reaching the wing stall angle of attack. Lateral/directional controls were used in conjunction with forward stick to effect recovery. This aft-cg stall characteristic was worse than predicted and will likely require aero modifications to fix. The feather entry was not explored and the rest of the glide flight used to assess the handling qualities of the vehicle leading to an uneventful landing. The White Knight's heating system was able to keep the Spaceship's nitrous oxidizer conditioned during climb, such that the maximum N2O pressure variation was less than 6 psi. Read More

Monday, September 22, 2003

Scaled Composites news: Avionics upgrade evaluation
chabot imageObjectives:
Avionics upgrade evaluation
Satisfactory GPS-aided INS stability and position keeping through a normal launch and glide flight profile.
Read More

Friday, September 19, 2003

Scaled Composites news: SpaceShipOne approach and landing profile review
chabot imageObjectives:
SpaceShipOne approach and landing profile review
Evaluated a variety of different profiles to assess ease of set-up, forgiveness to off normal starts and pilot situation awareness during the approach.
Read More

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Miscellaneous
chabot imageMuch to our dismay, our big order of platinum catalyst has been delayed again, so we didn’t get to do any engine testing this week. They say it is due to ship next Thursday now. Also no update on our 90% peroxide supply.
I spent Thursday at White Sands Missile Range discussing our flight operations. WSMR is a spectacular location for flying rockets, but they are a military facility, and they aren’t really sure they want to be involved with commercial manned rocket ships. We have some good supporters there, but they consider flying something before the end of 2004 a “very aggressive schedule” just to get all the paperwork done. Cost may also be an issue – a test taking full advantage of all the range facilities, like tracking, telemetry, flight termination, and other services, can cost $180,000 per test flight. That is a lot more than our entire vehicle costs, so we clearly aren’t interested at that level. Our position is that all we want from them is a clear range, and we will handle everything else. We need to convince them that our vehicle absolutely, positively cannot leave the range boundaries under any failure condition, so we can fly without real time monitoring and a flight termination system. Somewhat surprisingly, the dominant factor by far is drift under the main parachute if a series of failures causes the vehicle to apogee at 100,000’ and deploy the main parachute there. High winds can cause it to drift a long way by the time it gets to the ground. Read More

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Miscellaneous
chabot imageWe had a pretty light week, because delivery of our big catalyst order was delayed again. They are now projecting a ship date of next Friday, but I am trying to get them to ship three 5.5” rolls earlier so we can do engine testing next Saturday. Engineering designs certainly do benefit from using standard parts that are available for next-day shipping from McMaster-Carr, but there are a few specialty items that we just need to deal with longer lead time suppliers on.
Don Stark is reporting that he has the first five gallons of concentrated 90% peroxide ready for us, but I told him we don’t really want to start using it until we have at least 20 gallons on hand, enough for us to ground test, hover test, and flight test the small vehicle, barring problems. We have contracted for five hundred gallons of peroxide from him, which will be enough to do all the tests we want with the small vehicle, and fly the big vehicle a couple times with silver screen based engines if the mixed monoprop engines wind up not working out. If the mixed monoprop engines do work out, we will wind up sitting on most of the 90% peroxide until we get back to working on biprop engines for upper stages. Read More

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