Traveler: L-1 Week

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.

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