Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some updates

When I started this project it was really fun. Its now been almost three years and its gotten a bit more serious and not as fun.  I’ve got the perpetual internal battle about do I lighten up a bit and have more fun, or do I drive to completion with the thought that I may eventually be able to monetize what we have done. I don’t have an answer, but the struggle is still there.  One runs a risk turning something you enjoy doing into a business. Will you still enjoy it when its a have to?

Long time followers know that we started our software development with an RC Helicopter. Then we ported the software over to the blue ball and did some hovering. While a hovering rocket is cool the LLC task requires more than hovering. We need to navigate and sequence through the 3D way points with time delays etc… We also need to be be able to soft abort  allow some manual steering to try and hit the exact target. Its much easier to develop this stuff on the helicopter that does not require a 4 hour trip to test. So Today I spent the day putting the helicopter back together and checking it out. This entailed putting a new processor board on the helicopter and installing  a new GPS as I’d stolen the originals for the silver ball. I just returned from flying it about 20 times. Its currently set up to takeoff, hover for 15 seconds at 2m then land.  Here is a picture I took tonight of it sitting in the back of the truck after the flights.



We also are now using a new tool that was first tested with last weeks blue ball flight. The FAR desert is really hard on things like laptops. So when we setup the vehicle and then cycle valves, read voltages, check out the GPS and telemetry links we had been brining a laptop out to the vehicle. The Laptops are hard to read in the Sun and the sand gets every where. So I built a little box that had a daylight readable 4x20 reflective LCD two twist and push knobs and allows us to do all the checkout. Its about 1/3 the size of a normal laptop  and has enough battery in it to run for 48 hours. Its in a solid aluminum case and is pretty rugged. It also worked tonight with the helicopter, we did all the heli flights without setting up the main telemetry station and the computer.

Here is a picture: (Its about 8” long)



I also upgraded the laptop when the spare laptop died.  Ebay is your friend, I picked up a semi rugged Dell for 25% of what a new rugged dell would cost:


All the damage on the Silver ball from the eventful truck ride has been repaired and it should be back together for more static firing next weekend hers a picture of the motor and the ball.


This coming weekend we are going to have a busy weekend, we hope to:

  • Tether hover the blue ball.

  • Static test the silver ball.

  • Fly the full LLC profile from the pads with the Helicopter.

  • Do the first steps of the peroxide processing with the 1 55 gal drum of 50% food grade we got months ago.

This will probably take two full days. I’ll keep you all posted.


David said...

Thank you for the update. It has been a long hall. I can certainly understand the drag starting to have it affect. I do hope your able to always have fun (at least most of the time) even if your able to turn this experience into a viable business. Good luck on the next series of steps.

BTW: Performing the flight profile with the helicopter is a great idea.

heroineworshipper said...

Developing rocket engines is really hard & cutting edge & seems to be a valuable hobby. Executing a flight plan is required for a contest & seems to be a business. There's no GPS or magnetic pole on the moon. A lunar lander contest entry could never actually land on the moon.

To make money, people tend to get into things that have marginal value. What makes money tends to be less valuable because the money has no value. The only difference between $1000 & $1,000,000,000,000 is a few runs of the printing press, so what difference does it make for a customer if they're after rocket engines or twinkie consulting? There's no value system forcing customers to pick 1 thing or another.

Anonymous said...

Dude, sure it seems like you've hit a bit of a wall with the lawyers and other realities.

But the point is that although the journey is often touted as the point of a trip, it's actually the destination that really matters.

So, where are you going? Do you still want to go there? If yes, then take a break if needed, then wait for your muse to return and do it justice, with determination and glee.

Peter Lund said...

Have you considered using a big clear plastic bag for the laptop when you are at FAR?

You might want to apply a bit of tape here and there to form the plastic but it should work.

We once put our cell phones inside a freezer bag (*) and tied a knot on top when we went canoeing. We made sure there was enough air trapped inside the bags that the phones would float in the water if we dropped them. The phones were still easy to operate and the sound worked perfectly.

*) Actually two freezer bags because we were paranoid :)