I've been searching for a good rocketry project. The one I really want to do is start up a nano sat launcher business. Every person I presented my business plan to had the same response, no way you can build a successful orbital launcher for lest than $XX million dollars. Everyone's XX was different but they were all at least two digits.
I was not planning to go to SpaceAccess this year. I had nothing to present and I felt I know what most of the people presenting were going to present and felt the whole thing would be somewhat depressing watching power point after power point saying we are going to fly real hardware "real soon" With the exception of the few groups building real hardware (all of which I have personal friends on the inside) One sees same slides every year with different logos on it, and dam little real hardware. My wife was visiting her sister in Canada and I woke up Friday morning feeling like maybe I should go to SA15 after all. The hotel still had rooms for Firday night so after work I borrowed by friend Jeff's Mooney and flew myself to Space Access. (all of my airplanes were rented ). A lot of people were really happy to see me. After 5 years it still amazes me the impact that my little garage project called "unreasonable rocket" has had on people. One of the people I was looking forward to seeing at Space Access was Charles Pooley... he did not attend, more on that later.
I did not watch many space access presentations, I spent far more time sitting outside talking to people. One subject of discussion was what I call amateur sputnik, ie what would it take for an "amateur" group to orbit the equivalent of sputnik, ie the smallest radio transmitter that can be easily detected on the ground.
After returning to San Diego several of us were worried about why Charles had not come to Space Access and why he did not answer his phone. On Monday we learned that he had died in his apartment. Charles was in his mid seventies and had spent countless hours helping my son and I on the unreasonable rocket project. He had a vision for small launchers that he and Ed Labouthiller turned into a book (MicroLaunchers). While I disagree with some of his technical designs (I felt they were too complicated) and disagreed with reluctance to use computers, I did agree with most of the big concepts in Charles microlauncher concept.
I'm I'll be 53 this year, not young, not old, sort of in that neither region were I can see both camps and hints of inevitable entropy introduce themselves to you most mornings. In the past past three years I've lost my Dad, My Step Mom and my Step Grandmother. Seeing Charles dream extinguished without a real shot at doing it was just another sign pointing at the impermanence of life.
Building an orbital vehicle is om my bucket list, so all of this adds up to the inevitable question if not now when. So I guess its now. In the last week I've started several balls rolling, I have 4 or 5 concepts for composite flight weight tanks.
- Our previous flight weight tanks had liner leakage problems dues to bad resin, the trial batch of resin worked the 55gal special order did not. . One of my new concepts is to build unlined tanks, then take them to a roto-molder and have the insides coated with polyethylene.
- We tried to re-blow a large PET bottle and then cover it in carbon. The fact that we did this as two seperate steps made the resulting tank too heavy as there were fillers and excess to match the carbon support to the liner. So the current concept is to make a flight weight high temperature composite cover for the PET bottle and then blow the bottel into the flight weight shell in a single step.
- I've had the concept of a long composite tubes lined with polyethelene heat sealing bag and high quality machined aluminum end caps.
- For a vacuum stage the pet bottle is almost good enough all by itself. So one concept is to just provide a tiny bit of carbon enforcement to the stock pet bottle around its girth and use that as a 100 psi tank.
Additionally if these don't work I have two more concepts to try:
- Take a aluminum an tank form. Have it powder coated with thick clear powder coat.Wind a carbon shell over that. Use Lye do dissolve out the inner aluminum shell leaving a carbon shell with thin uniform poly liner.
- Wellmate makes really light poly lined fiberglass water tanks for residential use. I used one of their tanks as the fuel tank on silver. They are almost flight weight as a stock COTS item. One coudl do much development work with the stock tanks and for the final flight weight version one could aquire the un wrapped liners and wind carbon instead of eglass over them and.
In addition to restarting the airframe tank work I've started the ball rolling to get some fresh propellant delivered to FAR.
In the very short term I need to get my Garage cleaned up, I'm just going to pack and remove anything not rocket related and put it in storage.
Over the next month I will formulate a plan, a rough schedule and list of tasks. Many people have offered to help, some have almost begged me to organize an effort they can participate in.
I'm not good at delegation I like to get in there and do it myself, if this is going to work I will need to work on that. At the same time having the project turn into a free for all doesn't work either.
Some things I know I will need help with:
- I need the smallest transmitter that can be detected on the ground and last for at least a week with batteries, it can have solar panels if they are lighter.
- The current notional concept has a guided 2nd (or 2rd) stage that points, spins up and ignites an unguided solid final stage that puts the transmitter in orbit. I think I need someone that can build a final stage high mass fraction solid to be the final stage, I think I have someone for this, but if this is your area of expertise I'm open for talks.
- I need someone to help me put together a good simulation ie to simulate the rocket getting to orbit. And hopefully to eventually do hardware in the loop simulation...
- I'll need help on GNC, I can do GNC hardware and understand the concepts, but my GNC stuff was not great.
- I need someone local to help video,photograph and blog things.
- I will need help at FAR (two people) twice a month starting in September for at least a year.
- I need someone that likes data, I gathered lots of test data in my last effort, I just never found the time to take this gathered data and put into presentable form, ie I'll provide a file of raw sensor data... it would be nice if this could be calibrated, trimmed to show the interesting parts and put in nice graphical form....
- I need someone that likes to fabricate things.... to help with some of the development. For example I have some concepts for really light robust actuated valves, I could spend three weekends fabricating several sets, or I could spend an hour or two describing the concept to someone and let them fabricate and test.
- If someone wants to own the FAA part of this project I'm not sure its possible to deligate this, but I'm open to suggestions...
- I'm open for someone that might want to help raise social media funds, ie kickstarter, indigogo, subscription access to the progress blog two weeks early etc... so anyone with ideas or a desire to do this would be helpful.
If you see anything on this list you want to help with, or other ideas you think you can help with
I'm more than willing to entertain the idea. At this point this is an amateur not for profit project to get something tiny in orbit. When that succeeds I will want to turn it into a proper business, how to give the volunteers involved with this project a share and value in the follow on potential company is something to be worked out upfront and I'm open to ideas.
In the next few weeks I'll do follow on posts with an outline of the notional vehicle, and a number of the detail concepts that I am in the process of fleshing out.