Monday, November 14, 2011

Paralyzed by options

For the last two months I've been working on improving my physical self. Next year I turn 50 and its clear that some attention to self maintenance is no longer optional. I've been running, carefully controlling what I eat looking at things like nutrient levels unrealized food allergies etc... So far I've lost 25 lbs, I am sleeping better, fixed some weird digestive issues etc... I'm starting to feel a whole lot better. For the next few months this is going to remain my primary focus, but I'm starting to have some spare brain cycles to devote to interesting projects. The only problem is I have not yet picked one. Its almost an embarrassment of riches as I have far more things I'd like to work on than I could ever possibly do.

Here is the list of what I've spent some time on in the last three months:

  • Exploring the possibility of starting a Nanosat/Microsat launcher business.
  • Exploring the NASA NanoSat challenge.
  • Working on developing peroxide compatible high performance tank age.
  • Training my self to run, I'm up to running 5K, long term goal is to finish a 1/2 Ironman, the swim and bike are much easier for me that the run part.
  • Learning to be a better RC helicopter pilot.
  • Updating the Helicopter autopilot to clean up code and use more modern lower cost sensors.
  • Helping my Son move to Seattle and getting adjusted to the "Empty Nest"
  • Testing GPS units under high acceleration.
  • Cleaning organizing my Shop in anticipation of getting back to a rocket project.
  • Repairing my little catamaran and doing some delayed maintenance on the boat.
  • Going to the shooting range and relearning to shoot well. This was the primary Father son activity with my Dad from age 8 to 16. Sad to say that I took my Dad to the range and he is too far gone down the dementia path to enjoy that, it was loud and confusing and he realized he was not shooting well, but could not put the cognitive skills together to figure out what he was doing wrong, one of the Sadest things I've done in a long long time.
Here is the short stream of consciousness list of projects I'd like to do, and that I've spent some time sketching or thinking about.
  • Develop a tiny low cost guidance and control package for HPR class rockets.
  • Develop a truly low cost (<5K) hovering controlled rocket vehicle for use by students, schools, serious amateurs etc...
  • Develop an autonomous aerobatic RC helicopter.
  • *Develop a integrated RC transmitter and Telemetry receiver display for UAV and controlled rocket use.
  • *Develop a gas and go 100Kft reusable liquid rocket. (Glide back, guided parachute, or VTVL TBD)
  • *Develop a high G integrated GPS and IMU system.
  • *Break the VTVL hovering duration record.
  • Build something like the Martin Jetpack.
  • Build a Solar powered aircraft. (My last attempt is here:
  • Build a manned solar powered aircraft.
  • Get my FAA medical back and start flying again. (13 months ago I started using CPAP, so without a lot of paperwork and hassle that pretty much kills my medical.)
  • *Develop a peroxide rocket that uses thermal decomposition rather than catalysts, allowing 95% peroxide and removing cat pack black magic issues.
  • *Develop the full range of motors necessary to build a nano-sat vehicle.
  • *Build a electric "turbopump" driven rocket motor.
  • *Do more development on 3d printed rocket motors. (This is really a $$ issue)
  • *Build and fly a two stage liquid rocket.
  • *Build out and test the paper concept I have for a very simple to construct Rocket Motor.
  • *Develop a set of compact brushless valves and actuators and Sell to NewSpace co's.
  • Build, test and sail a trans pacific autonomous sailboat.
  • Build a large envelope 3D printer IE a Makerbot on steroids.
  • Start something like Techshop in the San Diego area.
  • *Start something like the original Armadillo aerospace setup. IE get a building and have a group of volunteers working on some serious rocket projects with meetings/work parties twice a week or so.
  • *Start a properly funded venture funded rocket business.
  • Do some more public speaking. (I've really enjoyed the speaking I've done)
  • Build and market an RC helicopter "Oh Shit" Autopilot, IE a small box on an RC helicopter that will recover from dumb thumbs and put the vehicle in level hover if you screw up and hit the Oh shit button)
  • Do some more traveling and see parts of the world I have not seen.(South America, Asia)
  • Buy a big sailboat and take a long cruise.

Everything with a * is applicable to the NanoSat challenge.

So many choices so little time.....


Jon Goff said...

Curiosity question for you Paul. How do you think the DARPA ALASA project will impact the marketspace for a nanosat launch vehicle? Obviously it wouldn't impact winning the prize, since I'm pretty sure the prize has some sort of private funding clause like the X-Prize and the NGLLC did. However, if DARPA is funding one or two teams to build a 100lb to LEO for $1M vehicle, is that going to dry up or severely limit the market for say a 20lb to orbit vehicle?


Paul Breed said...

ALASA is a new one I'll have to do some research.
Reality there is no real market for a nanosat launcher. I think the business case does not close until you get above 100lbs, so its the right size. A nano sat launcher is really a training wheels program, with aims at a larger launcher.

Unknown said...

Loved seeing this list of projects, let me know that I'm not alone in having a giant list of projects and goals to accomplish! A lot of similar ones as well! Got my Third Class medical back today, have an RC helicopter in the attic and several planes and small helicopters. I list of Arduino projects I need to build and test, a rocket project in the shed, a lot of programming projects to do, plus all the normal house repairs and keeping enough time to spend with the family!

Definitely don't give up on getting that medical back too easily. One thing to always consider is that if you never had a medical denied, you're still wide open for a Light Sport pilot certificate, your drivers license will server as your medical certificate. If you did get it denied, I'm assuming with your weight loss and health gains you're seeing improvement in those areas and it might be easier than you think. There was some information on it here: and via special issuance many diagnosed people still received their medical. If you haven't yet been denied a medical, work closely with your AME to try to ensure that you don't get denied, since then at least you could still fly Light Sport.

Paul Breed said...

I've never been denied so I'm sill eligible for LSA.

C. Scott Ananian said...

I'm working at One Laptop Per Child -- I've been interested in your GPS project because it might have implications for putting a cheaper not-real-time GPS in our XO laptop/tablet hardware. Using the main CPU for offline processing instead of a dedicated DSP would probably half the cost of adding a GPS to our device. So open-source GPS processing code would be very interesting to us. Consider this a vote for that project! ;-)

Paul Breed said...

Do a web search for FASTGPS, this is an open source software only GPS. It receives GPS with only a hardware front end.

Joe Stanton said...

I think the Armadillo model always assumed the 'vesting' of the faithful against the day of incorporation, based on Carmack being his own 'angel investor'. Not sure that could be duplicated anyplace else but San Diego.

Carl Tedesco said...

My 2 cents...
First, have fun with whatever endeavor you choose.

I would next say you have some unfinished business to due from the LLC. Start with a simple hovering system leveraging what you know and have learned from LLC then start flying higher and/or multiple times per day. Remember, Armadillo and Blue Orgin have successfully hovered but have had teething pains trying to fly higher, so expect that. Turbopumps & fancier printed motor should only come if shown to be needed. You have the basic tools to fly, so do it, cuz you will learn some things as you fly higher and higher with greater frequency. I would even start with metal tank(s) and transition to your slick mass ratio composite tank when there is a need or when it is matured. I think it's a distraction from flying at this point.

Chris S said...

I vote for the valves. Before you do it, of course, call up all the NewSpace companies you can think of and ask them what they're looking for. Make sure they know that price is a key consideration for you.

...Actually, what would be really cool would be expanding your 3D printed rocket engines so you could sell them to those who would need them... A cheap, scale-able cold gas thruster ACS/RCS system (perhaps using printed parts) could also be broadly marketed, especially if small enough for nano- or micro-sats. Just some ideas.

Stevo Harrington said...

I would build the 100Kft rocket and keep the launch vehicle goal in mind while doing it. The initial payload for the launch vehicle should be a tiny radio which says: "People of earth, we mean no harm to your planet" , Don't try to do anything with NASA, congress is too screwed up to give NASA good direction. Don't try and sell anything to Newspace companies, they don't have any money, and they think they can do everything themselves.

heroineworshipper said...

We'll see how long the mass ratio stays 25lbs lighter. These days, 2 years seems the point at which you realize food is 4x more expensive than when you started, so you're giving up a lot of opportunities you'll never have again.

gravityloss said...

If you want to be a "primus motor" in some big technology development acceleration thing, you could try to do stuff at the really small scale that can then be replicated thousand fold across the world! Think Kline's hybrid valves or something like that.

I've been toying with the idea of "the simplest possible RC rocket plane". (Bus and train trips with a notepad and pen are wonderful times to doodle!) I now realized I've gotta type a whole blog post about it!

By the way your CAPTCHA with voice is a surreal and slightly even ominous experience!

Anonymous said...


I first saw that you were doing metal 3D printed rocket engines on Next Big Future. Have you done a story or paper on this subject that explains your approach, experiments, and results?

Tony Rusi

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