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Monday, October 27, 2003

The X PRIZE Foundation is getting ready to choose the semifinalists in the bid to host the first annual X PRIZE Cup. Four US States, California, Florida, Oklahoma and New Mexico will compete for the venue and the chance to host the first air show for the private space community. Earlier this year, the X PRIZE Foundation released a Request for Proposal (RFP) to all Spaceports in order to select a strategic partner and hosting venue for the X PRIZE CUP.
The X PRIZE Foundation plans to leverage the competitive and sponsorship aspects of the $10 million X PRIZE into an annual, publicly attended event known as the X PRIZE CUP. This two-week long event will take place at the same time and same location each year and will allow all X PRIZE-Class vehicles to compete for cash prizes in a series races resulting in a single winner. While only one team will win the $10 Million X PRIZE, many teams are expected to create reusable launch vehicles in the private sector. Read More

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Engine improvements, Mixture ratios
chabot imageOn Tuesday, we did several things to test improvements to our highly successful combination of last week.
We used the short (2”) chamber extension, and packed it with one 1” thick foil monolith catalyst and covered that with 110 grams of catalyst bale. This extension is 6” ID, and the monoliths are only 5.5” OD, so we packed the bale catalyst around the sides as much as possible. It turns out that the Champion diesel glow plugs we are using have the same thread diameter and pitch as 1/8” NPT, but with a straight thread. This allows us to weld a 1/8 F-F pipe union on the outside of the chamber, and thread the glow plug into it. With some anti-seize on it and a bit of torque, it seems to seal even though the taper is only on the female threads. The glow plug tip does protrude slightly past the end of the union into the chamber, but we didn’t expect quenching to be a problem.
I made new three-pass catalyst plates. Because the upper catalyst doesn’t get much over 250F, the monolith has plenty of structural strength to support itself without the cross bars, so I removed those for better flow. The upper plate is also 0.050” thicker to give a bit more turn-around volume. Russ welded on some spacers at the top of this plate to guarantee that it wouldn’t bow up and close off any of the top flow. Instead of standing the perforated flame holder away from the bottom of the lower plate, we welded it directly to the plate, which gives a 0.25” gap between the bottom of the catalyst and the perforated plate. Read More

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Self-Preheating, 125 second burn time
chabot imageAfter the rather surprising preheat behavior with the spray nozzle injector head with the glow plug, we bought a bunch more glow plugs for experimentation. They are a different brand than the previous one, and we unexpectedly found that if they are left on for too long without any extra resistance, they will burn themselves out. We added some extra wire to cut the current a bit, but they still draw 15 amps each.
The easiest thing to try was to put the glow plug in a side chamber above the engine inlet. We have to avoid getting liquid splashed directly on it, which can cool it down too fast, but having it branched off the main flow path seemed to shelter it enough. We had hoped that the decomposed peroxide and vaporized methanol from the warmup pulses would find its way up through the spreading plate holes and off to our little side chamber, but there doesn’t appear to be enough vapor circulation for this to work. Read More

Friday, October 17, 2003

Scaled Composites news: Fourth glide flight of SpaceShipOne
chabot imageObjectives: Fourth glide flight of SpaceShipOne. Primary purpose was to examine the effects of horizontal tail modifications at both forward and mid-range CG locations (obtained by dumping water from an aft ballast tank between test points). The tail modifications included a fixed strake bonded to the tail boom in front of the stabilator and a span-wise flow fence mounted on the leading edge of each stab at mid-span. (See the write up under the SPACESHIPONE GROUND TEST section that describes our Ford-250 wind tunnel which was used to help derive the current flight configuration). Other test objectives included a functional check of the rocket motor controller, ARM, FIRE and safing switches as well as the oxidizer dump valve. Additional planned maneuvers included full rudder pedal sideslips and more aggressive nose pointing while in the feathered configuration.
Results: Launch conditions were 46,200 feet and 115 knots and produced a clean separation. The tail performance was examined by flying "longitudinal stability" points between stall and 130 knots and showed considerable improvement of the airfoil's lift coefficient as well as its post stall characteristics. No vehicle pitch up tendency was noted as the main wing now stalls first. Real time video of the tufted tails fed back down to mission control helped considerably in assessing the performance of these aerodynamic improvements. More aggressive maneuvering in the feather made it evident that the pilot could readily point the vehicle's nose where desired and all rocket motor functionality tests were satisfactory. Read More

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

chabot imageSun Microsystems of Canada Inc. (Sun) and the da Vinci Project are teaming up to build and safely launch its first reusable, manned spacecraft into sub-orbit, the two organizations announced today. The technology sponsorship represents a big boost for the da Vinci Project as it furthers its Canadian entry into the $10 million X Prize Competition, an international contest aimed to kick-start the manned commercial space industry.
As an "Official Technology Products Partner" of the da Vinci Project, Sun is providing the Canadian team with a broad range of powerful hardware and network cluster tools for design simulation and virtual prototyping. Sun tools will power applications like FEA (Finite Element Analysis) and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics), which are key processes in substantially reducing engineering costs and improving time-to-market for aerospace designers and engineers. Read More

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Armadillo Aerospace News: Hot preheat mixture, E-Beam foam, self-preheat
chabot imageWe performed a number of interrelated experiments in the last week. A lot of experience was gained, but we don’t have a clear win yet.
A general problem that we have had through all of our work with the mixed monoprop solutions has been ensuring a complete preheat of the catalyst. Passing a calibrated air / propane mixture through the catalyst will bring it up to a fixed temperature, but only if the reaction is started by heating part of the catalyst up to the temperature where propane begins to catalytically burn. We had been doing this by the unreliable method of sticking a torch up the nozzle until we got at least part of it red hot, then turning on the air / propane flow to let it bring the entire pack up to our target temperature of around 1600 – 1800 f. Read More

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