Monday, June 29, 2009

The search for Little Joe III goes on.

Dick Stafford of Dick's Rocket Dungeon linked me to
this illustration he posted a couple years ago.
Is this the shape of Little Joe III?  
The search goes on.
It's certainly conjecture in the illustration since it shows
3 possible versions, and it shows a generic Apollo style
escape tower on the cone.
I would discount the 2 segment SRB version outright.
Even if ATK had already developed it, it would be
expensive, and offer only one performance  profile.
Version 2 with the 2 surplus Minuteman 1st stages
would be neat, and answers the above problems a
bit better.  Now version 3 with the GEM-60's, that's
the ticket!  Load'er up with however many strap-on's
needed for a particular test, and let'er rip!
Quantity discounts when ordering by the truckload.

BTW: Dick ran a stability sim on a 3"dia modroc of
the MLAS in my previous post.
Check it at:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

And I thought Little Joe's were cute!

The Mercury program had Little Joe.
Apollo had Little Joe II.
They were built for inflight testing of the escape towers
under multiple flight conditions, in order to man-rate
them as crew launch abort systems in the event of post
launch emergency. Ares-IX is currently configured with
a LAS tower with a conical capsule shroud. NASA is
working on a block II version with a bulkier but
aerodynamically much better ogive shroud.
I spent over a day searching and reading what I could
find, but I couldn't find much of anything on the Ares I
LAS tower testing. Some pics of motor ground testing,
and a couple vague references to pad abort testing, but
no Little Joe III so far.

Now enter the MLAS, The Max Launch Abort System.
BTW; Max doesn't stand for maximum but for Maxime
Faget, a Mercury program engineer and patent holder
on the Mercury escape tower.
With the improved aerodynamics and the rocket motors
imbedded in the shroud itself, this is touted as being
much lighter, and I daresay, simpler too.
Call it an Ares I LAS Block III I guess.

And the MLAS test vehicle?
Wahoo!  I want to build one!
The MLAS test vehicle is currently awaiting it's 1st
flight on a pad at Wallops Island VA having sat through
several weather delays throughout June.
The C of O chart above illustrates the first flight profile,
just high enough [1 mile] to test launch, stability,
separation, the recovery system and Dataq..
Later tests would use live abort motors at various
speeds and altitudes, both higher and lower.

If Plan B shuttle, in the post below, ever gets flown
with an Orion capsule on board, this'll be the LAS
needed for the job.

I wonder if the Soviets ever had any LAS test vehicles?

Friday, June 26, 2009

NASA's Grand Plan B

NASA's future manned spaceflight programs are under review by the Catherine Commision.  There are development issues with the current Ares1/Ares5 systems.  Perhaps, the most important of which is the large time gap between retirement of the shuttle and scheduled
1st flight of the Ares 1 to the space station.  Of course this time gap could easily grow larger.

So NOW NASA unveils a stopgap measure based on shuttle hardware.  It looks a lot like the Shuttle-C which gets mentioned.  I consider the timing just a bit creepy, since I've heard nothing of Shuttle-C in the last 10 years, except my own post, a week before this hit the news.

I'm not going to go over the whole system, since this article link is fresh.  Just a few interesting points. Unlike Shuttle-C, NASA is proposing this as a manned system as well, with the new Orion capsule riding inside the fairing, which consequently would look a
bit different from the picture above.  The comment about cost savings from reusable main motors being a myth is quite interesting.  I'll need to digest that one further before emitting a response.  Of course, this system fits my vision of modularity that I expounded
upon in my previous post.  Finally, as I said then, this sort of thing could've been flying years ago, saving the orbiters for the missions that really needed them.  I don't mean to sound bitchy, I like it better than the Ares 1 system.

6/28/09--Update;  After a lot of googling, I found multiple references to Shuttle-C and Plan B, mostly dating from around 2005.  That's still damn recent in shuttle years, but near the infancy of the Constellation program.

BTW; Dog years are 7:1, Shuttle years are about 5:1, therefore the shuttles are not dogs.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shuttle Kvetch

Two possible versions of Shuttle-C.

Anyone who knows me, or who's read this blog, should
know that I love anything that flies, from paper
airplanes and match rockets to the Voyager probes
currently coasting in intersellar space.
I don't hate NASA, or the Shuttle. As those of us who
know anything about it know, the blame isn't all on
NASA's shoulders. For the sake of brevity [too late]
NASA will do for now.
Part of this first rant is going to spill onto the
International Space Station as well. More on the ISS
in the next installment.

I am mad at NASA for the way they screwed up the
shuttle program nearly every step of the way, until
it's admittedly too late to do anything about it.
What angers me most is that it's an obviously modular
system, and yet this is the most underutilized
feature of the system.

Ok class... who here knows that the original strap-on
boosters were supposed to be hybrid motors?
Huh, what happened? I admit I'm a hybrid proponent,
bigtime, but that floored me when I found out.
Hybrid motors are great because they are a lot simpler
and cheaper than liquid fuel boosters, and broadly
speaking, a LOT safer than liquid OR solid boosters. A
hybrid is vastly simplier than a bi-liquid system and
doesn't carry all that liquid kerosene or hydrogen that
makes such a pretty fireball. While a hybrid is more
complicated and heavier than an all solid rocket motor,
it's still safer because, if there's a problem, you can
shut them off.
Unfortumately, Hybrid tech was still very immature at
the time, it would still be a few years before AMROC
tested their big ones, and those weren't big enough.
However, there was no reason the shuttle couldn't fly
on solids initially, while Hybrid R&D was fast tracked.
Modular remember? The Hybrid strap-on boosters might've
been flying in time to avert the Challenger disaster.

After Challenger, NASA and Rockwell put heads together
and decided what improvements to make before building
a replacement orbiter. Bravo!
Of course having a large inventory of huge orbiter
components in storage helped speed construction. Endeavor
really is a B model orbiter. The other 3 orbiters received
the same upgrades wherever possible. After Endeavor flew,
and the fleet upgrades were finished, they should've sat
down AGAIN and planned an even better orbiter. Not just a
Challenger replacement, or 2nd Endeavor, but an eventual
fleet replacement, or supplement. Maybe a real departure
from the earlier orbiters, certainly more maintainable.
Modular!! As these new orbiters came on line, the older
units could be retired to museums. Read COLUMBIA!!!
If NASA had done this, the fleet would still be modern,
if not cutting edge, today. Hell, this still could've
[should've] been done when the SSTO initiative fell through.

At some time NASA had plans for Shuttle C. This would've
been an unmanned wingless cargo version. Little more than
a cargo bay with motors and guidance. Three reasons for
building it were to be able to fly heavier or larger loads
when needed, like station segments, and to reduce man hours
in space when not needed. Third would be hazardous payloads.
After Challenger, liquid fueled payload boosters were
outlawed for the shuttle for crew safety reasons, reducing
the types of missions STS could support.
Using Shuttle-C, station segments would be released in orbit
near the station, then crews would retrieve them for
assembly. Before the station was manned, they would've placed
2-3 modules in orbit, then sent up a manned orbiter, with
supplies and other components, to do assembly. Of course,
today the segments might be docked autonomously.
I always thought you could make even bigger station segments,
and attach the guidance/thruster package, and motor pack to
the segment couplers at each end, then fly it in place of an
orbiter. The flight components would be removed and saved,
eventually flying home in an orbiter cargo bay for reuse.
Of course either scenario assumes you want the STS system
involved in boosting the major station components anyway.
Read Saturn!!
The shuttle bay is dinky compared to a Skylab, and Skylab
was no strain on the Saturn V. I do not advocate resurrecting
the Saturns after all this time, they really are dinosaurs now.
I am saying we should never have fully retired them.
Incremental improvements have kept Atlas, Delta and Titan in
the air longer than Saturn's been on paper.

Plenty of folks like to second guess NASA and I'm genuinely
sorry to be lumped in with them. However I've had these opinions
for years, and even shared them with a few NASA engineers, who
happened to agree. Not just because I'm a size 2 1/2 biker
maniac either. It feels good to finally write and post this.

I'm sure this post could still use more editing, but if I held
onto it any longer it would turn into a book.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blue Tube Advancing the Rocket Hobby

The Blue Phenix 4.0

In a recent post to an EX rocket group I belong to,
Randall J. Ejma of Always Ready Rocketry, made the following
announcements; [somewhat edited.]

Due to amazing demand and positive feedback, ARR has
drastically reduced pricing for Blue Tube! These are
NOT sale prices; these are the new regular pricing!
Check out your nearest dealer first at;
Or order directly from ARR. New pricing takes effect
immediately and is almost 40% less expensive!

Also, ARR has recently released;
Six Electronics bays from 38mm to 6 inch, and four new kits
making 5 total.

The moment Randall announced Blue Tube on our group, in
March, I had to post back about whether it would make a
good liner for EX motor making.

The following is the recent post of his test results.
[again, some editing]

Hey guys,
I know a number of you have been asking.
We've gotten some 54mm and 75mm casting tube and liner
sets w/Blue Tube as the liner. We've static fired 2 motors
and flown 1 so far and it has proven to be a far less expensive
alternative to convolute phenolic, it just needs to be thicker
for it to workin a motor design where spiral wound phenolic
isn't good enough.  It just gets too toasty for it.
As a replacement for spiral wound, it seems to work so far,
but when you throw lots of Al and unusually high pressures,
the chance of burn through is fairly high. It would probably
need to be thicker.
I fired a K-550W clone in a Loki case and I could stand on the
liner after firing and it held me up.  Worked perfectly.
But, another test w/a high isp, high pressure, high temp
design that normally only workes w/a convolute liner,
burned through Blue Tube.

That's a pretty good description of Blue Tube's limits inside a
motor. It appears to fall between the capabilites of spiral
phenolic and convolute phenolic.
I'm curious enough to try some in a couple of my motors
when the sizes I need become available.

One final update; Balsa Machining Service has joined the growing
list of Blue Tube dealers, and is offering laser cut tube slotting of
Blue Tube.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Great Rocket Photos

I first got the link here at Dick's Rocket Dungeon.
I was enjoying the Hell out of it when I realized that the current
display is time sensitive so I thought I'd better share it while I can.
Photo Synthesis is dedicated to science protography and
photographers, so before long the feature will change. This is not
Steve Jurvetson's or Alex Wild's site. I'm looking forward to
whatever Photo Synthesis features next though.  In the meantime,
the pics and vids of successfull flights are great, the  unsuccessful
ones are awesome. Some of it's real pyro porn.