A rocket's simple exterior can make you forget how many different systems lie underneath the surface, and how vital they all are to a successful launch. One thing people often forget about rockets is that while it must endure thousands of pounds of pressure and temperatures that match a small star's, it must also be brought back home (hopefully, in one piece). The avionics and recovery teams are dedicated to doing just this.
Over the last year, activity at the USC Rocket Lab has been astronomical, and we’re not planning on slowing down any time soon! While we’re diving head first into the 2015 semester, we should take a moment to look back at our accomplishments over the last 12 months. From launching the year off with DCX, to solving our problem with multiple static firings of rubber ducky cases, to our final two launches of Flying Dutchman and Tirebiter (which came within 3 weeks of each other), our commitment to lab has never wavered and our morale has never been higher.
Back in 2005, USC's Rocket Propulsion Lab launched its first ever rocket: Del Carbon. Nearly ten years later, RPL launched Del Carbon's new and improved sister: Del Carbon Extreme, or DCX. Designed to reach nearly 264,000 feet and speeds up to Mach 6, DCX would soar more than twice as fast and 26 times higher than Del Carbon. At 11:53am, October 18th, 2014, DCX took to the skies above Black Rock Desert, Nevada, to demonstrate the amazing progress RPL has made.
It has taken three months to write this post, but justly so. Our members have been rightfully catching up on the three months of sleep we each lost as we readied Traveler II for launch in mid-May. With the chaos of a lab move, some rather tedious regulations, and composite material troubles, the semester started off slow. What resulted though, was an extensive to-do list for those brave souls willing to make TII a reality in the final weeks of school...
Traveler was launched on September 21, 2013, after two years of hard work and waiting. The flight ended in an explosion at T+3.5 seconds. Most parts of the rocket were recovered, and some can be reused. Luckily, enough of the motor was intact to piece together the cause of the explosion. This update will cover pre-launch operations, the launch itself, and future plans.
For the fourth time in lab history, we're within a week of launching Traveler. This time, we know we'll be able to make a shot, since we have signed FAA and BLM waivers! It's been an intense two-year process by two generations of lab leaders to get approval to launch. Out of it, though, we've made excellent contacts at the government agencies, gotten good advice about how to plan our launch operations, and laid the groundwork for regularly obtaining future clearances.