AIAA Rocket Report
What a way to spend a summer.
2010 AIAA Young Professionals
Rocket Launch Competition Write-up
Designing a payolad is not as easy as it sounds. And it doesn't even sound easy. The first time my Dad offered me the chance to design one my immediate
response was simply, "What the heck is a payload?". After hearing what the project would be about, I started setting up a team to help me in the design and
construction of this payload. While I asked about five different people for their help, Sloane and MIchael were the only ones that showed up, or even really
We started the first meeting confused but excited. All of us were just finishing up our year at SHP, with just a couple finals left. Carl, Austin, and Bala all met us
at my Dad's work, which would eventually become our workshop (thanks again Dad). Bala then proceeded to outline the project to us, setting us a budget and
size/weight restrictions. We had to make our payload fit in a five by three tube, and be under two pounds. With our limits set, we immediately threw ourselves
into the design stage, which would end up being the hardest step. We thought of cramming flares, gps, or even a helicopter into our payload. After weeks and
weeks of refinement however, we learned of the K.I.S.S. principle, (Keep It Simple Stupid), and we decided to just stick with a camera. Sound easy? Well it
wasn't. We needed to figure out what angles we wanted, and what camera we could use. We settled on a tiny Muvi camera, about the size of a flash drive,
purchased for about seventy bucks. The angles, however, were much trickier. After lots more arguing we finally decided on two: looking down the side of the
rocket for take off and then a freefalling sweep after apex. We then placed the camera on the bottom of our payload, and devised a periscope system to allow the
rocket to see down. The camera would film the mirror view for the first part of the flight, then when the parachutes deployed the payload would be ripped out with
the nosecone and would hopefully film the rest of the rocket falling to earth.
That, at least, was the plan. It seemed like every meeting unforseen problems would arise, eating up valuable meeting time. One especially frustrating problem
was that with our placement of our first mirror, every time we inserted the payload the edge of the mirror would graze the camera, hitting the power button on the
camera and therefore turning it off. We argued for hours on how to fix the situation, not wanting to damage the fragile camera. Our fix was incredible however, as
when Sloane was trying to remove the payload from the rocket tube the payload slipped, snapping the mirror in the perfect spot to resolve the problem. The rocket
slowly came together however and the weekend of the launch was suddenly upon us. Michael had departed a few weeks earlier, and would therefore miss the
launch. So Sloane, Dad, and I loaded up into the car and headed to the Reaction Research Society.
After a lengthly tour of Edwards Air Force Base and a long night of camping the launch day had finally arrived. Up first, we headed down to the launch pad to
assemble our rocket. More parts came as other team members joined, and by nine thirty we were ready to launch. We headed for the bunker and waited
anxiously as the coundown sounded 3....2....1.........nothing. Our rocket sat on the pad, not moving an inch. We came out from the bunker, took the rocket off the
launch rail, and soon discovered that the ignition charges had not set off the motor. We then proceeded to make our own ignitors out of black powder and
cardboard and again placed the rocket on the pad. The countdown again sounded 3,,,,2,,,,1,,,,,BOOM! The rocket was gone in a flash, quickly ascending to 2500
feet. Then the secondary motor failed to ignite, causing the rocket to stop its flight 10000 feet early. The payload deployed.....but the main chute did not. The
secondary stage crashed to the ground, splitting into many different pieces of cardboard. Our payload was safe though, with all footage recovered. It even had a
nice soft landing in a bush!