Monday, October 20, 2008

2nd thoughts about a rational choice.

From a development standpoint we are at about the same technical level as True Zero, they decided to go to the contest we did not. Seeing them go has caused a lot introspection on my part for the last few days. Emotionally the decision was hard, rationally it was and is the right decision. 

First off we promised both the FAA and the Xprize foundation that we would demonstrate both a 90 second hover and a free flight. The 90 second hover  requirement was in our FAA application and in the LLC rules.  We could not accomplish that before the go/stay decision needed to be made. While I could have asked to waive the requirements, personally I don’t like waiving safety based rules. As a general principal establish your safety rules before you go out to the field and don’t violate them with out a pow-wow of all involved to think about what you are violating. I can’t say were 100% perfect on this front, but we try.

Secondly I saw no reason to risk the vehicle. When I was my sons age my Dad and I designed built and raced outboard hydro planes. We were successful with what we did. We placed at the nationals with our first joint boat design.  This taught me one thing  things never go as well at the competition as they do in practice. If you have an issue every tenth practice it will appear in every competition, thats just the way it happens.  We aren’t afraid to loose the vehicle, we just don’t think it makes sense to risk it until we have worked out more of the bugs. We have complete spare airframe all fabricated, it passed hydro last week.  I have a spare of every single part on the vehicle with two exceptions: I have not welded up the spare motor because we need to work on the mixing problems. I haven’t built a new vane assembly because I want to upgrade that to Rene 41 for possible biprop use. 

Third in order to go to the competition I would have had to write a 22K check for insurance. I would say without getting it done in practice we would have a 10% chance of success. All this for the possibility of taking 2nd place. I have no illusions after watching the Armadillo team center on the pad with their camera  in real time, we could not beat that for the tie breaker.

If Armadillo takes the two first prizes that leaves 2 second prizes to be won. True Zero could take it, but given my own estimation the odds of that are low.

If the first prizes are won then its possible that the rules will change to first to demonstrate rather than a central exhibition.  This would allow me to demonstrate at my “home field” under my waiver without having to buy insurance. This could happen as soon as midyear. So I wait 6 or 7 months, get to do a lot more practicing, save 22K and improve my chances.  

A rational decision…. emotionally its still hard to stay home and watch others toss Hail Mary's.


heroineworshipper said...

Maybe it's time to change the blog name & start focusing on another contest. Unreasonable moon rover. Unreasonable asteroid deflection. Unreasonable submarine.

Simon said...

I was wondering why you didn't decide to go and fly the rocket at their location just for the experience. After reading this, it makes much more sense. 22 grand just to participate? Ouch.

ザイツェヴ said...

I would say, as long as you did not borrow too much from your bigger life (e.g. did not sell your house to finance the rocket), it probably is not bad.

BTW, I wonder if there's any Apollo effect ("trickle down") for anything you learned on the rocket into the computer controller business.

-- Pete

Paul Breed said...

>, I wonder if there's any Apollo...
This was the most significant project I've done using my own products (IE NetBurner stuff) and
I realized that the complexity of debugging a real world multiprocessor system interconnected by unreliable radio links is hard. There are a number of tools and utilities I've written for this project that will eventually morph into general purpose tools and make it back to the NetBurner environment.

David said...

22K is no small change and you are correct its very likely there will be two 2nd place awards to be taken. I do not wish True-zero any bad luck though I would expect something to go wrong - may be even loose the craft. Having said that they would be well aware and accept the risk. It is a shame a demo flight could not be conducted just for the show. Makes it far more interesting for us mortals.