Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Quick Update...

I had someone ask me to update my blog....
Its been awhile, I have not been idle and this post is probably going to be 95% unsatisfying as I have no cool rocket pictures, videos, or time for the kind of detail I've normally done.

First one must sharpen the saw.
If one cuts wood for a living one must take time off from time to time to sharpen the wood saw otherwise everything goes badly. My saw is my ability to think and work hard. Over the three years since the LLC I've felt generally yucky. I've talked about my battle with motivation depression and project decisions on the blog. I felt tired old and run down. so for the last 7 months I've taken a real active approach to fixing that.

I've gotten my physical self in order, I feel more energetic, sharper and generally I feel ten years younger than I did a year ago. I'm sleeping well, I'm beiing creative and getting projects done. This has not been an easy thing to do , I've lost 52 lbs and done a 100% change in my diet and exercise behaviors. This takes a lot of time I'm currently exercising about 7 to 10 hours a week.

After doing this for awhile I'm finally getting to the point where my body is getting used to this and I have the energy to start working on interesting things. Its only been in the last 60 days that I've had the physical energy to start working on projects and things beyond the day job.
Here is before:

Here is now:

All the cool rocketry projects and other things on this blog are made possible by my success with my primary business NetBurner. This is the source of all funds and its success enables the freedom needed to work on Rockets. In 2011 Netburner had a record year, out best ever.
However my 3 year lethargy and funk has left a bit of a product hole that needs to be filled. I'm in the middle of releasing several new and cool NetBurner projects and fixing some missing product line pieces. This has to take precedence over the rocket stuff.

On To rockets:
Out at FAR I've watched countless cool rocket projects crash and burn due to recovery failure.
Recovery has to be learned, so toward that end I'm working to learn recovery in the traditional HPR sense. Last Saturday I flew my very first electronically triggered dual deployment HPR and it was a 100% success. Next Month I'll fly my slightly bigger L3 project. This L3 project is about the size and weight of the next liquid rocket I'm going to build so it will be a good training ground.

Guidance Electronics:
There are a number of cool things going on in MEMS solid state sensors. From high precision stuff from analog devices to really low cost stuff from ST micro. I've build a new tiny 50gm autopilot that uses some of these sensors. The first version had some issues and the 2nd version is sitting om my desk as a pile of parts awaiting assembly. I hope to fly both a rocket and the helicopter with this new autopilot in the next month.

Aerodynamic guidance:
A while ago I posted some pictures of some canard control fins I was going to build for an HPR. I got some feed back and did some studying and learned that for super sonic flight this is just plain not going to work as the shock waves will interact badly. Toward that end I've been looking at putting some tiny trailing edge fins on my L3 project and doing guidance that way.
The flometrics (girls and guys thanks Judy) have been helping with some detailed transonic CFD to help with placement and fin shape to make sure the shock interference does not negate control.

Here is an animation of the pressure...
We have done several rounds of simulation and will continue with this effort. The L3 rocket does not get guidance and stub fins until after I fly it for my L3.

I am going to finish the canard fins project and fly it with the following rules: If we are subsonic active control... otherwise center the fins. I hope to fly this with just roll control operational a week from this Saturday. I'll try to get some pictures up of this vehicle.

The project to build composite flight weight chemically compatible propellant takes is ongoing. We have had real inconsistent results, some tanks work and some turn out very brittle. Our resin vendor has basically burried their head in the sand and stopped responding. I'm 90% sure that they have a production QA problem with their resin as the difference between the 1gal sample and the 55gal drum of the same stuff is night and day. I'm also 98% sure that the 55gal drum does not meet the specs on their data sheet. A most frustrating effort. Toward that end I've been working on several liner approaches that will allow us to build tanks with resins that we are structurally comfortable with. I hope to have results on several of these efforts "Real soon now"

Rocket Motors:
I have a very light weight innovative design idea for a new Regen rocket motor. I'm building the first version as a 500lb thrust version and I home to have the prototype for show and Tell at Space Access in April.

As I've said several times here and else where building a sat launcher is all about weight. In basic complexity it can be less complex than a full reusable VTVL rocket that the other LLC competitors are working on. If my ideas for low cost light weight structures, innovative pressurization and light weight motors all work then I think I have a pretty solid business case for a profitable launcher business.(Starting with a proof of concept nanoat launcher) The real question is do I want to go get funding and accelerate that project or do I want to just keep using discretionary $$ to slowly work up to that level.... I hope to have a lot more info about this mid year or so.


MikeJ said...

Great update Paul. I appreciate your comments about the fitness - productivity link. Staying fit pays big dividends for sure.

Chuck G said...

Paul: good to see you getting in shape, the Romans used to say "mens sana in corpore sano", a sound mind in a sound body, and a sound body will keep your mind active and healthy for a lot longer.

Thom Vincent said...


Thanks for the update, and congrats on getting in better shape. Should serve you well going forward.


Stevo Harrington said...

The CFD was done with Solidworks Flow Simulation on a Cool-Flo liquid and air cooled Cirrascale Blade Dual Intel Bromley system with 56 gb of RAM and 16 cores. (

heroineworshipper said...

Big difference between the Appalachian Mountain club & the Carlsbad Canyon club, but can you maintain it for the rest of your life?

Thad Beier said...


Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here..." He was as wrong as you are about this being an unsatisfying status report!

It's great, and inspiring, to see you getting healthier. From the number of separate things going on in your life now, it really does appear to be doing as much for your creative health as your physical health. I find that running is boring, yes, but it does give you time to free-associate ideas, and that can be a very good thing.

I'd love to see the parts you're using for your autopilot. I'm interested in building tracking systems for motion picture cameras (to make visual effects easier/better/cheaper) The solid state devices I looked at a few years ago were so inaccurate and drift-prone as to be useless (my description of the data was "almost useful")

Seeing my niece Judy getting to do some transonic aerodynamics is good too :)


peterfirefly said...

Nice to see that you don't look like a middle-aged American anymore ;)

Joe Stanton said...

Thanks for ridding the blog of it's loneliness. You are an inspiration in lots of ways. We are both Alaskan high schoolers from the same class (1980?) though different cities, and we met at FAR one day when I came down with my camper to help do grunt work pre-LLC. Your comments about sharpening the sword are well taken. When we met I had just lost over 65 pounds, and felt great. But since then I've been traveling 100% and failure to do more than feed my workaholism and make a living have led to accretion again. My next project is in NC, and I plan to change the plan as to evening time and actually use the equipment the hotels provide - yes competition is steep for those Stairmasters and such. Nevertheless, thanks for this posting.

Alex said...

Paul is a role model in many aspects, not only rockets. It's good to read an update, but really great to have news like this, even if they're dismissed as off-topic.

Dana Oredson said...

Looking good in that photo, Paul!

Great updates.

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