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Advanced Rocketry News
July-November 2004


Aerospike engine test by CSULB and Garvey
Cal State U. at Long Beach - Aerospace Engineering
Succesful firing on June 23, 2003 of a liquid fueled aerospike engine
built by students at Cal. State University at Long Beach Aerospace
in collaboration with Garvey Spacecraft.

Articles here describe news and developments in advanced amateur and student rocketry, experimental rocketry, and innovations at small entrepreneurial rocket companies.

See the Advanced Rocketry section for links and resources in these areas and be sure to check out the Records, Achievments & Competitions section.

The RLV News section also overlaps with this section, especially with regard to the X PRIZE competition. See RLV Countdown for links to suborbital and X PRIZE projects by small organizations.

December 23, 2004

News briefs ... David Livingston on the Space Show interviewed John Garvey of Garvey SpaceCraft last Tuesday. The program is now available for downloading from the archive...

... Bill Colburn tells me about his book, A Manual for Hybrid Propulsion System Design by William H. Colburn, which includes info on hybrid propulsion from the "GIRD vehicle in the 1930's to the SpaceShip One".

December 12, 2004

More Prospector 5 XL flight photos.. John Garvey sent me these additional photos of the Prospector 5 XL launch on Dec. 4, 2004 by the Cal State Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft group.

[Update Dec. 13: There is now a page posted at Garvey Spacecraft - News on the flight.]

Prospector 5 XL Launch
NLV Horizontal
Photo courtesy of
KMark Caviezel
NLV Horizontal
NLV Horizontal
NLV Horizontal
Lower 4 photos courtesy of
Tony Richards

John also reports that an "initial inspection of the vehicle in the lab yesterday evening further confirmed that the hardware is still usable for future flight testing. We've narrowed down the candidate test options that we are considering and will settle on one after final exams and the holidays."

December 7, 2004

Prospector 5 XL flight photos.. John Garvey sent me the following photos of the Prospector 5 XL launch on Dec. 4, 2004 by the Cal State Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft group. The launch took place at the Mojave test site owned and operated by the Reaction Research Society.

The vehicle is also referred to as the NLV (Nanosat Launch Vehicle) first stage or Flight Development Unit 1 (FDU-1).


John says they will update "the associated web sites in the next week or so after receiving all the photo and video inputs."

Here was the pre-launch announcement: CALVEIN Team Targets Flight of NLV Flight Development Unit No. 1 (P-5XL) for Dec. 4-5 Weekend - CSULB - Nov.23.04.

November 30, 2004

CSXT booster recovered... Last May the CSXT/GoFast project successfully launched an amateur rocket to space for the first time. The nose cone and avionics were recovered at the time but the booster was considered lost. Now comes news from the Stratofox tracking and recovery team team that the booster has been found and brought home: Mystery Solved: Stratofox Recovers CSXT Booster - Nov.2004

November 17, 2004

News brief ... The CSULB/Garvey Spacecraft collaboraton continues to develop new technologies. Check out the latest photos of the recent LOX-propylene engine test and the full scale mock-up of the Flight Development Unit - 1 (FDU-1) of the NLV (Nanosat Launch Vehicle) first stage.

November 15, 2004

Florida student sounding rockets ... The SOAR (Suborbital Amateur Rocket) student rocket project at the Florida Institute of Technology plans to send a two-stage solid motor powered rocket to 122km (76miles). The ICARUS project of the Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers' and Developers' Society plans also to attempt to reach the same altitude.

However, it looks like both teams will need to go to Wallops Island in Virginia to launch their vehicles: Students' space race may launch from Va.: State space authority holds key to Fla. site - Florida Today - Nov.13.04.

Wallops will "pick up associated launch costs, paying for range safety analyses, ground operations and radar tracking, among other things." The state of Florida has so far balked at paying for these costs if they launch from Cape Canaveral.

November 9, 2004

ERPS news... The Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society has revamped their web site in a Wiki interactive style ...

... The group also announced progress with their GizmoCopter project (www.gizmocopter.org): [ERPS] More gizmo flights (sort of) - David Masten * WhatsNew - ERPS. They want to use the vehicle to develop VTVL (Vertical takeoff, vertical landing) control techniques that can be applied to VTVL rocket vehicles.

Flometrics/SDSU news... Here is the news letter for October.

October 2004 Update for the rocket fuel pump and
SDSU student rocket project.

Rocket Fuel Pump.
The paper was well received at the AIAA space conference. One Air force scientist said, "Best new idea I've seen for awhile". Also, we had the pump on display in Education alley and at the Space Frontier Foundation, and I gave a talk there as well. This attracted a few potential customers which we are talking with now.

We had hoped to set up the clear demo model to pump Margaritas, but we were not able to due to scheduling, i.e. the area where the pump was on display closed down before receptions at both AIAA and SFF.

Updated software and hardware has reduced the pressure pulses down to the level where electrical noise is a problem(<3%). New higher output pressure sensors have been installed. The lining of the steel tank is flaking off due to a cryo test, so we need to get a new stainless tank to continue testing with. The flaky lining gets into the check valves, causing them to leak, but the pump still works fine, although it cycles with no output flow. (I am spinning this as an example of robust design, imagine a piston pump or a high pressure centrifugal that can pass large debris without damage.)


SDSU rocket:
As far as the SDSU rocket launch is concerned, there was a detonation in the chamber so it never left the rail. The rocket is not seriously damaged, except for the engine. The students are trying to get an Atlas Vernier engine from the San Diego Aerospace Museum. (Anyone else want to donate one?)

The seniors who are working on this program will have some excellent rocket systems experience when the graduate. Any new hires out of school will generally require a year or so to start contributing to the bottom line. If you hire one of these students, or one from the Cal State Long Beach rocket program, that time will be shrunk by half, saving a considerable amount of overhead. Any aerospace companies that want to donate to the program, contact:

Director of Fundraising
Sofia Calica

Carl's description of the event:
For all of our launch attempts and static tests to date we have used pyrotechnic igniters/lances to light the LR101 motor. These igniters resemble miniature road flares and are about the size of a cigarette. When lit with an electric match they end burn and emit approximately a 3/4" flame for about 30 seconds. Two are used for redundancy. They are attached to a rod and inserted through the nozzle so that the flame is directed towards the center of the injector plate. We ignite them at T-minus 5 seconds and look for a puff of smoke leaving the nozzle to verify a good light

A few hours earlier we had inadvertently burped some kerosene through the motor and thoroughly soaked the igniters. Fearing that kerosene could wick back through the LOX holes in the injector we removed the motor and thoroughly cleaned it. When reinstalling the cleaned motor we had a brief debate on whether to use the igniters and rationalized that they would still light just fine. Big mistake!

From the frame by frame video analysis an unusual occurrence can be seen at ignition. During the 400 msec prior to the kerosene entering the combustion chamber, a bright flame can be seen in the nozzle opening. At t=0 when the initial LOX/GOX entered the combustion chamber (CC) it likely accelerated the combustion of the igniters which were soaked with kerosene. We assume this melted the duct tape which secured them to the rod allowing them to slide down into the motor throat. When the kerosene slug finally entered the CC about t=400 msec there was too much unburned fuel and LOX in the chamber. This probably caused the hard start.

We had a good conversation with a Rocketdyne engineer who knows the LR101 in detail. The LR101 was designed to be ignited using a hypergolic ignition. He thought that a pyro-igniter could work, but cited a few weaknesses with our current approach. First, he said that ignition should take place as close to the injector face as possible and furthermore cover as much of the injector face as possible. He suggested we have the igniter flames emit radial along the injector face (daisy pattern). This insures that the chamber walls can not be wetted by kerosene (the LR101 has kerosene film cooling near the chamber walls). Our two pyro lances were mostly directing their flame energy at the center of the injector, an area which is contain extra LOX injectors.

In the future we will use side firing igniters. Here are some photos and videos of what happened:

Movie of chamber detonation and fire:
http://kahuna.sdsu.edu/~sharring/SDSU10.23.04.mpg 2.3Mb

Photo of chamber with internal crack, indicating a detonation in the chamber:
http://kahuna.sdsu.edu/~sharring/Cracked_chamber.jpg 230K

Movie of recovery system going off as altimeter melts
http://kahuna.sdsu.edu/~sharring/Carl_dives.mpg 1.2 Mb

Plots of Data from Paul Breed's telemetry system:
http://kahuna.sdsu.edu/~sharring/PhoenixII_data_graphs.ppt 2.3 Mb

Paul's system used a 1/4 waves dipole buried in the trailing edge of one fin. This gave us good data at the blockhouse. For better reliability,we will use 4 half wave dipoles in each of the 4 fins.

Also, be sure to check out the rocket fuel pump website www.rocketfuelpump.com and www.sdsurocket.org


Steve Harrington Ph. D
President, Flometrics, Inc.
Adjunct Professor, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, SDSU

October 25, 2004

Propylene Engine Firing
LOX/propylene static fire test

Propylene engine test... The Cal State Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft group carried out a static firing test of their LOX/propyline engine last Saturday October 23th at the Mojave test site owned and operated by the Reaction Research Society. John Garvey sent some pictures from a video taken by Eric Besnard. John reported:

The initial on-site assessment was that modifications to the test rack and to the propellant tank pressurization sequence at ignition resulted in a much smoother start-up than in the previous two tests. However, the LOX ran out sooner than anticipated, which lead to a much shorter burn duration and a decent propylene-rich fireball in the flame trench afterwards. Post-test inspection found only minor damage to the test rack and engine.

We plan to conduct a more complete inspection of the test rack and the engine at the next work party later this week and hopefully will have the telemetry data processed by then as well. We will also decide on our next test objective.

NLV Mockup
Flight Development Unit (FDU)

Candidates include another LOX/propylene static fire test or a launch attempt with the “Flight Development Unit” that is a low-fidelity version of the first stage of the NLV (image [above shows] the full-scale mockup of the FDU alongside the Prospector 3 [on the right]).

See more of the NLV mockup images at the Garvey Spacecraft site.

October 21 , 2004

News brief... The Cal State Long Beach/Garvey Spacecraft group plans a static fire test of a LOX/Propylene Engine on Oct. 23, 2004.

September 30, 2004

Phobos-V launch

Successful strap-on motor launch... Ben Jarvis and Richard Osborne of the British MARS rocketry group reported on the ARocket forum about their firing of a small vehicle with parallel staging of 4" amateur rockets.

See the pictures of the Phobos 5 launch on Osborne's UKRocketMan website. There is also video from an onboard camera that shows the boosters falling away.

Here is an excerpt from his report on the launch that took place at the UK 'K-lob' event last weekend:

The final design uses two interlocking aluminium rings that slide over the outside of the core stage tube, one of which is fixed, and one of which is free to rotate within set confines and is spring loaded. For launch it is locked in place with a hollow pin which is filled with BP and an igniter. The strap-ons have lugs that are held in place by the locked rings. When the igniter is fired, the pin ejects itself, the ring slams round under spring loading and aligns four openings with the four lugs allowing the booster lugs to 'fall' out of the rings. Thrust loading is taken through a second set of lugs at the base of each booster which locate with steel pins into a plate on the base of the core stage, no loading is taken through the release mechanism itself.

Dimensional tolerance and manufacture issues would probably make this exact system somewhat impractical above about 8" diameter core airframes.... but for small vehicles it seems a fairly elegant system.

The system was tested on a custom vehicle this weekend. The test used a 4" core stage about 9ft tall, with two (we felt we'd try two before going for the full four) 4" diameter, 4ft long strap on boosters. The vehicle was almost entirely aluminium though used commercial solid propellants for this flight (thank you Anthony C for that great BP igniter pellet which REALLY helps in clustering :-)

The vehicle used two 250NS solids in the boosters (just to test them under some thrust loading) and a 1200Ns solid in the core stage, predicted apogee was intentionally very low at about 1500ft. The core stage carried two commercial altimeter/accelerometers and a 460 line high-resolution colour 'bullet-cam' video camera and transmitter, looking down the length of the vehicle to observe separation from on-board. A simple digital timer was used to actuate the separation mechanism at T+2 seconds, 0.1 seconds after burn-out of the strap-ons.

The flight was 'largely' nominal and (IMHO) really rather impressive :-) All three motors lit instantly, the vehicle lifted off and rolled gently as it climbed. The mechanism fired at T+2 as planned (the pin can be seen ejecting from the on-board camera) and both boosters peeled away gracefully the moment the mechanism opened. Both boosters deployed parachutes and were recovered, the core stage continued under thrust for two further seconds, then coasted to an apogee of around 1400ft and, despite a partial failure of the recovery system (main parachute not fully ejecting) the core stage was recovered with little damage. As anyone who has seen the Delta on-board footage will know... footage from onboard a rocket showing boosters peeling away is always VERY impressive.

Later versions will use four boosters, more powerful motors, lift-off with boosters only and then "air-lighting the core stage after booster separation".

News briefs... Stephen Holden informs me of the Australian Experimental web site, which has been updated recently with info on the group's projects....

... Steve Harrington of Flometrics reports that the San Diego State student group will launch the Phoenix 2 rocket on October 23rd.

September 16, 2004

Hybrid rocket forum... Check out the new discussion forum dedicated to hybrid rockets: Hybriddyne Forum - Hybrid Rockets

September 12 , 2004

Bi-prop model airplane... Bill Colburn of SORAC sends a report on a "hobby first, a complete bi-prop propulsion system on a model aircraft." Their news pages says that the "engine can be started, stopped and throttled with the standard R/C system." The propulsion system was built by Terry McElheran and Bill.

August 30, 2004

News briefs... Miscellaneous web sites of interest:

... Tripoli West Palm launches The Big Kahuna, Spirit of Columbia built by local high school students: 'Chute fails at 8,000 feet, foiling kids' space project: The payload from a 24-foot rocket that Pembroke Pines students helped build crashes in a field after takeoff, but students and their teacher remain optimistic. - Herald.com - Aug.29.04

August 25, 2004

Flometrics /SDSU update from Steve Harrington:

August 2004 Update for rocket fuel pump
and SDSU student rocket project.

Be sure to check out the rocket fuel pump website. It has been updated with more papers and movies.

I will be talking about our rocket adventures and the pump in at a JPL sponsored workshop in Pasadena,California on September 3.

We will have a booth with the SDSU rocket project (www.sdsurocket.org) at the Space 2004 conference.

There will be a working model of the pump in the booth and I will be giving a paper on the pump at the conference on Sep 28.

The paper shows that for a booster which uses the pump, the performance in terms of payload to a given deltaV is as good or better than a turbopump.

In the meantime we are building a new pump model that is optimized for pumping LOX at 30+ gpm and 600 psi.

Also, the students completed a static fire test of their rocket on June 24th. A launch is planned for October, contact me for details if you want to see it.

Student rocket Static Test photos, movies and data:


The top view video is not very good, the camera was vibrating too much.


Raw data and calculated ISP from the test

August 4, 2004

Garvey/CSULB NLV mockup.... John Garvey sent the above photos (click on them for larger versions) of the full-scale Nanoscale Launch Vehicle (NLV) mockup built by Garvey Spacecraft and the Cal State Long Beach Aerospace Engineering Dept. The "effort included integration of all major vehicle elements and rotation of the mockup into a vertical orientation. Follow-on tasks include continued development of key subsystems, mechanical GSE definition and pathfinding of logistics and field-site operations."

A NLV would launch up to 10Kg to low earth orbit. The rocket would target the "academic and small payload users market."

The top two photos indicate the size of the vehicle and the bottom image indicates the size relative to the Prospector sounding rockets that the team has launched over the past couple of years. More photos available on the NLV Mockup page.

July 19, 2004

Student rocket launch... The Pathfinder Rocket, designed and built by students at the University of Cincinnati, Casper College and the Natrona County School District, under the tutelage of John Wickman, was launched On July 17th At NASA Wallops Island Test Facility. Preliminary data for the flight of the 17 foot long, 8 inch diameter, 328 pound rocket indicate that it reached about 16k feet after "oscillation of the rocket raised the aerodynamic drag forces dramatically."

July 16, 2004

Rocketry prize status.... I got an updated link for the High Performance Propulsion Award - a $2000 amateur rocketry prize - sponsored by John Carmack and Christian Antkow. The winning system must provide:

  • At least 2600 m/s effective exhaust velocity, calculated as totalNS / ( massInitial - massFinal )
  • A mass ratio of at least six for the propulsion system (engine, tanks, valves, etc) calculated as massInitial / massFinal
  • At least a three second burn time and 1000 NS total impulse, although both figures would likely be higher.

The award has been available for more than 3 years.

July 15, 2004

CALVEIN test results.... John Garvey reports on the recent LOX/propylene engine test and Prospector 2 rocket flight carried out by the Garvey Spacecraft/Cal State Long Beach team : CALVEIN Field Tests - Garvey Spacecraft Corporation - July.11.04. Also, there are more pictures of the Nanosat Launch Vehicle (NLV) Mockup. (CALVEIN is the California Launch Vehicle Education Initiative.)

July 6, 2004

Rocketry course.... An entire 26 lecture college level course on rocket propulsion is currently available at AE 6450 Rocket Propulsion, Dr. Narayanan M. Komerath - Georgia Tech - Fall 2004

July 4, 2004

Rocketry regulations... Alan Boyle reports on the effects so far of the regulations imposed on rocketry after 9/11: Rocket ruckus revisited - Alan Boyle/Cosmic Log - July.2.04. Thankfully, they have not caused the fatal disaster many feared. However, I think it's clear that they will seriously hinder the growth of an important educational activity that should be encouraged rather than discouraged by the government. ...

... John Wickham leads a group of students in the development of a sounding rocket that will launch from Wallops Island: Local rocketeers prepare for Virginia launch - Casper Star Tribune - July.3.04. The Pathfinder Rocket will fly on July 14th. The project involves students from the University of Cincinnati (Ohio) and from Casper College and Natrona County School District in Wyoming.

Continue to June 2004


Other Advanced Rocketry News Sites:
Amateur Rocketry Society


The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG





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