Daily Journals

I really love how Copenhagen Suborbitals has been doing great documentation and almost DIY videos on its rocket building. First we saw their great video on the Tycho Deep Space 1 development  and now the Turbo Pump video.


Merlin 1D test - photo credit: SpaceX

Merlin 1D test – photo credit: SpaceX

Hawthorne, CA – Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Merlin 1D engine has achieved flight qualification, a major milestone for the next generation Merlin engine. Through a 28 test qualification program, the Merlin 1D accumulated 1,970 seconds of total test time, the equivalent run time of over 10 full mission durations, and is now fully qualified to fly on the Falcon 9 rocket.

The program included four tests at or above the power (147,000 pounds of thrust) and duration (185 seconds) required for a Falcon 9 rocket launch. The Merlin 1D engine was also tested at propellant inlet and operating conditions that were well outside the bounds of expected flight conditions.

SpaceX’s testing program demonstrated a ratio of 4:1 for critical engine life parameters such as firing duration and restart capacity to the engine’s expected flight requirements. The industry standard is 2:1.

“The Merlin 1D successfully performed every test throughout this extremely rigorous qualification program,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and chief designer. “With flight qualification now complete, we look forward to flying the first Merlin 1D engines on Falcon 9’s Flight 6 this year.”

The Merlin 1D builds on the technology of the Merlin engines used on the first five flights of Falcon 9. With nine Merlin 1Ds on the first stage, the Falcon 9 rocket will produce nearly 1.5 million pounds of thrust in a vacuum. The Merlin 1D has a vacuum thrust-to-weight ratio exceeding 150, the best of any liquid rocket engine in history. This enhanced design makes the Merlin 1D the most efficient booster engine ever built, while still maintaining the structural and thermal safety margins needed to carry astronauts. Additionally, the new engine is designed for improved manufacturability by using higher efficiency processes, increased robotic construction and reduced parts count.

Testing took place at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.” -SpaceX Press Release



“The Rocketry Golf Organization (RGO) Aimed its First Contest with Golf Pro, Shawn Kelly, vs. Doug Frost, at The Ridge Golf Course, Auburn, Ca., March 19 and 26, 2013
Rockets with plastic golf balls, replace driver clubs, as they fly to the green no matter how far. Shawn Kelly, golf pro, will compete against these rocket machines. Doug Frost, rocketry golfer, will have to putt out with a real golf ball and club.” -PRNewswire

On the official Rocketry Golf site it mentions that

“The Merger of Two World-Wide Sports. This Sport was designed to be played on any field with a flag, a pole, and a hole in the ground. However, it was also designed to be played on a Golf Course !”

I can imagine the decisions on a hole. I wouldn’t be looking at what club but I would be picking what motor. Hand me a “D-12″…

Understanding thrust will become more important than improving your swing.

“…..the world’s first rocketry golf game.  In the historic first game, Doug Frost, the inventor of Rocketry Golf, played the Game against two veteran Golf Pros who played Regular Golf.  Jack Guio, the head Pro at the Shoreline Golf Links, Mountain View, CA, and John Lowe who had 18 years of experience in golf behind him.”

Kits are available on the Rocketry Golf site.

More Links:

The official Rocketry Golf Site


“SpaceX’s Grasshopper doubled its highest leap to date to rise 24 stories or 80.1 meters (262.8 feet) today, hovering for approximately 34 seconds and landing safely using closed loop thrust vector and throttle control.  Grasshopper touched down with its most accurate precision thus far on the centermost part of the launch pad.  At touchdown, the thrust to weight ratio of the vehicle was greater than one, proving a key landing algorithm for Falcon 9.  Today’s test was completed at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas.” – SpaceX

This thing is huge so pulling this off is quite incredible and SpaceX continues to push this technology in its test. I looking forward to one day seeing the Falcon 9 return this way.

Grasshopper, SpaceX’s vertical and takeoff and landing (VTVL) vehicle, continues SpaceX’s work toward one of its key goals – developing fully and rapidly reusable rockets, a feat that will transform space exploration by radically reducing its cost.  With Grasshopper, SpaceX engineers are testing the technology that would enable a launched rocket to land intact, rather than burning up upon reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere.” -SpaceX

* Notice the Cowboy dummy riding on the strut platform. It is especially easy to see at the end of the video.

March 8, 1926, in Auburn, Massachusetts after failed launch attempt

March 8, 1926, in Auburn, Massachusetts -a failed launch attempt that day led to a successful launch on March 16th

and then on March 16th

The BE-3 is a liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen(LOX/LH2) 100,000 pound thrust engine. The BE-3 is designed to be part of the RBS(Reusable booster system) that powers the Blue Origin Space Vehicle.

In 2011 Blue Origin received a 22 million commitment from NASA as part of the Commercial Crew Development phase 2.

BE-3 Test Video

more on Blue Origin

Official Web Site

UPDATE: Successful Launch at 10:10 am

image: SpaceX

Liftoff of Falcon 9 on CRS-2 mission – image: SpaceX


Be prepared for the mission.

The launch will be webcast live, with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California, at spacex.com/webcast, and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at www.nasa.gov/nasatv. Pre-Launch coverage will begin at 8:30 EDT on NASA TV (40 minutes later on the SpaceX site)

SpaceX is targeting launch for 10:10 AM


After SpaceX’s successful first official resupply mission to the International Space Station last October, SpaceX is set to launch its second Commercial Resupply (CRS) mission to the orbiting lab. The SpaceX CRS-2 mission is targeting launch at 10:10AM EST Friday, March 1 from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

If all goes as planned, Dragon will arrive at station on Saturday, March 2, where it will be grappled and berthed to the complex for an expected three-week visit. Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on March 25 for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Baja California. Dragon is the only cargo craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies from station to Earth, including experiments. – SPACEX”


I am happy to see Estes re-release one of my favorite rockets of all time – The Sprint. The new release is a bigger meaner Sprint built on a BT 60 tube and using D and E motors and is a tribute to designer Mike Dorfler.

Last year I used a standard Sprint in several NAR contest and won each of them. The efficiency of the design incorporating the elliptical fins and a boat-tail is legendary.

Link to Estes Astron Sprint XL

Please read my full post from 2007 on the Sprint


Indian President Pranab Mukherjee announced that the Indian Space Research Organisation plans to launch a Mars Orbiter Mission in October of 2013.

The purpose of the mission is stated as ” it will look for signature of life and reasons for loss of atmosphere on the red planet”

India’s major space port is Satish Dhawan Space Centre

It’s not clear what rocket India will use for such a mission. It’s most powerful rocket (still untested – test expected this year) is the GSLV III

SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV, GSLV III - image credit:WDGraham

SLV, ASLV, PSLV, GSLV, GSLV III – image credit:WDGraham

Found this nice graphic of Spacecraft size comparisons. A notable point to the graphic and capsule history are the number of flights of Soyuz in comparison to all others. It has definitely been the most successfully flown spacecraft. Another point is that the Dragon has a capability of 7 astronauts (not 6 as the graphic suggest) and the Rus has 6.

The first crewed flight of the Dragon is expected sometime in 2015. Here is a great graphic on the SpaceX Dragon manned capsule.More info on the Rus or PPTS can be found here and here

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Great behind the scenes video of the Armadillo Aerospace STIG B-1 crew during launch.  Love that slow takeoff.

photo credit:NASA

photo credit:NASA


Sorry for the sparse postings lately but I have been recovering from an illness. I wanted to post a couple of really cool links in the meantime to keep you going.

The first is from the Poker Flats Research Range in Fairbanks Alaska.

Poker Flats Research Range is the largest land-based rocket research range in the world and the only high-latitude rocket range in the United States. Poker Flat launches scientific sounding rockets, performs satellite tracking and is home to a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft.

Poker Flat Research Range is perfectly located in Interior Alaska. From this site, rockets can launch and fly over the sparsely populated tundra hundreds of miles north of the range with special permission from federal, state and tribal landowners. Additionally, the range is situated beneath the auroral oval – a ring across the circumpolar north where auroras typically occur – providing ample opportunities to continue scientists’ examination of the aurora. Most sounding rocket launches occur between January and March and scientists come from around the world to use the facility for their research projects.

The range’s expansion into the burgeoning field of unmanned aircraft began in 2004. Today, the range has more than two-dozen models that range in size from a 2.5-pound quad-rotor Aeryon Scout to the 40-pound fixed-wing Insitu A-20. Personnel dedicated to the unmanned aircraft efforts are deployed across Alaska to assist in projects that are hazardous or difficult for manned aircraft to maneuver in.” -link here

Watch the launches Live! Poker Flats Launch Webcam (check schedules for launch information)


I just re-watched this great documentary called :

Failure is not an Option – A Flight Control History of NASA

I highly recommend it



Just finished adding a new page of LEM development pictures.

Click here to see the new section which is part of a broader Rocket History section I am creating.

Young NASA engineers and  a F-1  photo credit:NASA

Young NASA engineers and a F-1 photo credit:NASA

The mighty F-1 has been revisited. These young engineers having been reviewing how the powerful Saturn F-1 might assist in building heavy lifting rockets. What better way than to rebuild the F-1. In this case they rebuilt the Gas generator.

“This activity provided us with information for determining how some parts of the engine might be more affordably manufactured using modern techniques, such as additive manufacturing,” said Kate Estes, a Marshall liquid propulsion systems engineer.

Link to the story

Great Video of the Gas generator test done by these engineers (Love that roar!)

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