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.
Even with the two-year delay, there's still a lot of work being done on Traveler. Foremost is remaking the motor, as the original one was fired in May. We also took the opportunity afforded by the delays to redesign the avionics package, adding more advanced components and making the integration method much more straightforward.
Other work includes the tower team practicing the setup of the launch tower, the renovating of the trailer, and the construction of a UAV to track the rocket.
|Traveler's phenolic nozzle has been integrated, along with its CNC graphite throat courtesy of Titan America!|
We can also officially announce now - if it wasn't already clear - that Traveler's destination is space. It would be the first student-designed and -built rocket to fly there. We expect a maximum speed of Mach 5.5, and an apogee of 350-400 kft (space is defined to start at 328). Our waiver allows flight up to 491,000 feet, above which a commercial launch permit would be required. There are so many variables affecting the flight, from motor performance to aerodynamics to weather, that we can't say anything exactly, just in terms of probability - except that the flight will be spectacular no matter what happens!
We plan for the trailer and chase car to leave near midnight Wednesday/Thursday, with the rest of the cars leaving in groups during Thursday morning and early afternoon. It's about a 10-hour drive if you don't have to obey the trailer speed limit, plus a while for the traditional stop at the Reno Costco.
The waiver allows us to launch during daylight on September 20, 21, and 22 (the three days of BALLS). An afternoon or evening launch would be most likely the first two days, and a morning launch on the third. If weather or technical problems prevent us from launching during BALLS, we will return to the playa during our backup windows two or four weeks later.
Check the blog for some more pre-launch updates. During BALLS, we'll be tweeting occasionally at @USCRPL.