SixyBack Construction Update

Our next vehicle will be called SixyBack, a play on Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack." Construction is proceeding on schedule for a December 1 launch from Mojave.

Essential stats:
  • 100.8" long, 6.27" maximum diameter
  • 67.55" carbon fiber airframe / motor case
  • 4 AP/Al BATES grains, each 9.75" long with 2" port
  • 3 carbon fiber fins with phenolic leading edges
  • Titanium nose tip
  • Fiberglass nosecone with ablative cork/nomex thermal protection
  • Avionics system composed of UFC-3, Raven, and BigRedBees
  • 1200 lb maximum thrust
  • Maximum speed Mach 3.5, maximum altitude 60,000'
  • CO2-ejected apogee drogue; main parachute deployed lower
As the statistics suggest, this is a vehicle with a complexity comparable to that of Traveler. It has the same TPS technologies, similar avionics components, and same recovery method. SixyBack's flight profile was designed to give it a high max-q (80% of Traveler's), so its forward surfaces would experience high heating. This will let us observe the effectiveness of the nosecone TPS before Traveler flies.

This will be the first flight of a Rocket Lab vehicle with dual recovery deployment. Our method, designed by recovery lead Jordan Raice, involves the nosecone being blown off at apogee by a CO2 cartridge, after which a drogue opens. Once the vehicle has descended to several thousand feet above ground, as measured by a barometric altimeter, a black powder charge fires to open a Kevlar deployment bag that releases the main parachute. This system allows the vehicle to descend through most of the altitude quickly, limiting how far it drifts, while giving a slow touchdown velocity. Traveler will use an identical method.

The first two weeks after the design was completed were spent working on the nosecone. The two TPS halves were laid up, then mated in the complete mold along with another nine layers of fiberglass:

The other half, of course, is "Play to Kill."

Fresh from the mold, next to Traveler's nosecone.

Following completion of the nosecone, we machined the retention rings and bulkheads. We machined the leading edges for the fins, then layed up each fin with 40 layers of carbon fiber. The next task for the fins is to machine them to their final dimensions with the proper bevels. Then they will be ready for mounting to the airframe with the assistance of the fin alignment guide.

This weekend, we are laying up the motor case. The carbon tow and filament winder had trouble working together, so we will be using the machine only for tape wrapping. Stay tuned for more construction updates ahead of the launch of SixyBack!