Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A day at FAR - FAR - Away

Not really all that far, but, FAR - Friends of Amateur Rocketry (an organization and a place) is a few hours away from Lake Arrowhead and also a fair distance from anything else, i.e. igniting rockets that can and do explode.  Click here for the Album of the FAR facility

Preparing rocket at FAR - Friend of Amateur Rocketry
Students preparing a 2 stage rocket for launch
The Students working at the site today (Sun. June 2, 2013) had camped out at the site so they would be right there ready to go.  We left Lake Arrowhead at 5:30 in the morning and arrived a bit after 9AM with a stop for breakfast.  We arrived and the students were busily working on their rockets for flight.

Four teams were present, one each of sizable rockets from Stanford and from UCSD and I think the other two were also from USCD.  We were called in for a safety briefing which was we needed to be in the bunkers for 3 of the rockets.  Stanford was supposed to go first but they still needed a couple hours to load the nitrous oxide into their rocket.

So the first launch was a small, 1 1/2 foot tall solid rocket that took 5 tries to ignite and so I missed the lift off in the end but did catch the parachute returning to the ground.Click here for parachute landing Then the other smaller rocket, about 3 feet long I did video and which exploded soon after lift off. Click here for exploding rocket

I made a point to catch up to Dave Dunlop who I met at the ISDC conference the previous weekend and we talked for a while.  We were out in the sun and then we decided to sit in the shade of the stairs of the Vertical motor test stand.  We were talking while still, now 3 hours into the nitrous oxide fill, the Stanford rocket started making sounds of escaping gas and we noticed everyone was gone from their launch stand.  We headed immediately for the bunkers just as the call to return to the bunkers was announced.  I was able to zoom the camera in and got a nice video, albeit low resolution, video of it leaving the launch pad.  We lost site of it quickly and while it was supposed to be retrieved, the electronics didn't broadcast as expected, according to Jerry, likely because the second stage didn't ignite and it crashed early and was considered un-retrievable. Click here for the Stanford video

We finished with going into the bunker for the Vertical test stand and a few pictures from the top of the stand and us on it.  We left just as the last USCD rocket was loaded on the rail.  It would take them a few hours to load the propellant.  It flew just fine, but the parachute failed and the it experienced a "hard off-runway landing".  Click here for the activities of the day

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Catching up on the New Space Industry

Much of my reason for leaving Alaska was to get with what is called the New Space Industry.  Our OpenLuna project is part of the movement. Interestingly, we founded ISECCo back in 1988 under the exact same concept, so I was New Space before New Space was cool.  So I had the chance to come over the California for two conferences, the first being the SpaceExpo which had a free exhibit area and two speaking forums plus one speaking forum at the usual framework of a sizable conference fee.  The second was the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) which is the annual meeting of the National Space Society (NSS).  They overlapped one day and were a couple hours apart. 

In the pilot's seat at the Expo; Full Scale mock up of Lynx
The Space Expo is actually a trade show and the topic of the paid conference was the business case for space.  It was held in Long Beach May 21-23, and was a few miles from a friends home where I was able to stay.  Thank you Monika, Andrew and Isabelle.  The booths were varied but highly technical in nature.  The ISDC was just north of San Diego in La Jolla a couple miles south of LA/Long Beach.  It was May 23 thru Memorial Day.  I only attended Friday afternoon and Saturday and mostly stayed in the exhibit area tending the booth for OpenLuna with some help from Gordan Fisher and he managed it on Sunday for us, thank you.  The topics of discussion were at a much higher level in general with highly technical stuff available for those.  The exhibitors were few and the room lightly attended but the ones who did come through were good contacts. 

I left the mountain, which the locals call the "rim of the world" into the LA area.  Traffic wasn't too bad but I forgot one of the highways and went a bit out of the way, story of my trips these days,and I arrived around Noon in Long Beach, the first day of the Space Expo at the Long Beach Conference and Entertainment center.  The booths ranged from companies producing connectors to facilities in formation like The California Space Enterprise Center.  The well known players XCorp, the X-Prize, The Planetary Society, SEDS, and Boeing had booths.  The Commercial Space Flight Federation sponsored the coffee. There were manufactures, testing labs, test equipment rental companies, sensor manufacturers so very technical skiled people.  I would ask them what they had that I would need to get to the moon.  I left after 2 1/2 days
with a pile of data sheets and promotional materials. 

The best contact came on day 2, I stopped by APV Manufacturing's booth to see what they did. They engineer and manufacture any part out of many material for development (vs production, i.e. 1-15 copies).
I spoke with Bruce Richardson, a Retired Army Col, was intersted in helping with OpenLuna and has become our Marketing Manager.  He has a plan.  More will come on this soon.  I am very excited
that we could get things moving very fast.

Full Scale exhibit of Lynx spacecraft under development
Between the prospect of a marketing manager (what we have been really needing for the project) and the promotional ideas that Jerry was talking about it was very tempting to return to the mountain (Lake Arrowhead) and get started.  The problem was, the team originally planning to attend ISDC were not going to make it and I had the brochures for that exhibit table.  So Friday morning, I drove down the La Jolla amidst some slow traffic so when it finally picked up the pace I almost missed the exit.  The only reason I caught it was because I needed an exit anyway.  As it happened, traffic was just starting to back up at the intersection and I just got off in time.  When I left early at the end of the exhibit time on Saturday, I was able to say, "I am going to get working on the problem instead of just talking about it" and everyone liked that.  After 5 days at conferences, my brain was pretty full anyway.

Trying to keep up

On the dock near the convention Center.
So the last 10 days have been so busy I am barely making any status updates to facebook.  I see the blog as being a more refined version of what is happening so I like to have time to fill out the story.  If you want to keep up with what is happening/and where I am I suggest making a account.  You don't need as extensive of a profile and then just look for me as 3324wilk (one of my gmail accounts) and click the "follow" button and when I make a post, you will get an email and never have to go back.  Otherwise, know that these post will be days behind what is actually happening, which is okay.

So I have remained in California after the conferences, which I will discuss in the next post, until further notice.  While I felt very "at home" with my sister in Idaho, the professional goals that I set for myself are more readily available here and so with the successful interactions with Jerry and connecting with a marketing manager for the OpenLuna project at the Expo, I decided to stay on.  Even the possibilities for high tech work are much more prevalent here than in Idaho.  Jerry has an empty condo that I am staying in while we work on getting his new shop ready for business.