Graveler

The RPL team standing alongside Graveler.
A small crew from Rocket Lab went to the Mojave Test Area (MTA) on May 20th. With our largest motor firing to date planned, Graveler, we all had hurried to finish the project during finals before everyone left for the summer.

A new stand was fabricated for this static fire. With lessons learned from prior stands, a larger version of our Kiwi motor stand was envisioned. With Ryan at the helm, a grinding and welding marathon ensued as the stand began to take its final form.

Stand fabrication underway as Ryan prepares surfaces the welding.

One of the final steps adding retaining ring slots to the motor case. Normally done on our lathe, this case unfortunately was too big to machine our usual way. Instead, a jig was machined in order to add the slots with a router.
The router and jig being cooled after the  first groove was cut. Apparently this was more than it was originally intended for.

With no room for error and no backup plan, Jordan went to town with the setup. With a lot of fine tuning and grace, both the grooves were done. With that and other last minute heroics, we were finally ready to leave the lab upon midnight the evening prior.

Often impromptu methods don't turn out perfect - on occasion they do. Both grooves were completed flawlessly.

Arriving in the middle of the night, the team took a couple hours rest before dawn. The lab's trailer joined us once again, with a brand new set of tires and rims. 

Brandon and Kristjan go for a ride as the truck and trailer are moved into position for unloading.

Setup lasted till the early afternoon, when we suddenly found a loaded motor staring us down. Having seen the power these can unleash, we quickly gave the motor some space, except a quick look as a sanity check to make sure we didn't forget anything - or maybe just for fun.
Desiree, Jordan, and Arren enjoy a peak down the motor after it is loaded.

With the data acquisition team nearly ready and the stand anchored down, the motor was gently brought over, courtesy of the Ford Ranger belonging to RPL's advisor, Dr. Dan Erwin. With the team exhausted from the prior weeks of late nights, long time RPL mentor David Crisalli and USC's own Dr. Keith Goodfellow assisted in locking the motor into its stand.
A special delivery from Dr. Erwin.

David Crisalli assists in final preparations at the test pad

As final checks are completed, all that's missing is the igniter.

The last modifications were made on the pad, including Brandon's artwork- beautiful albeit facing away from the camera. With everything set in place the majority of the team headed to the bunker while the data acquisition team went to the blockhouse to get a closeup of the firing - from dead ahead of it.
Either named after the Pokemon or for Ground Traveler, we leave the decision to you. 
 The igniter was connected and after a dramatic 10 second count, we had ignition. With a roar coming from the motor we peeked out from our hiding spots to see a storm of fire and smoke blasting out the nozzle. Feeling like we had watched for minutes, 13 seconds of rumbling later and we had shutdown.
In case you couldn't tell it was lit, imagine the sound of standing between two freight trains.
 As the smoke settled and the all clear was called we ran to the motor to see how it held up. Just about everything looked normal - other than the nozzle was still on fire and we had dug a plume sized trench in the ground. With that, we quickly packed up and were on the road back home.
The team enjoys the unforgettable smell of solid rocket combustion. 
The nozzle, still on fire minutes after shutdown.
A long range video of the firing can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct8WDbmEOp . Close-up video will be shortly be available in a future post.

Later this summer expect news about our plans for the fall as we approach the date of our next launch at BALLS2013.

Flight on!