First launch of "Private" spacecraft

Space X literally JUST launched their Dragon capsule in a demonstration of their ability to fulfill their contract to resupply the ISS and take the place of the Space Shuttle. The military aspect of the space shuttle’s ability to return satellites and bomb ZE RUSSIANS will be fulfilled by the mysterious X-37, which has been very hush hush and just returned from it’s first mission where it spent SEVEN MONTHS in orbit. The general skeptical consensus is that it will loiter in orbit with the ability to deliver kinetic weapons to anyplace on earth with in a very short time span.

Back to SpaceX which is such a big deal since it was founded privately by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk. So if a “private” company is fulfilling a government contract with government oversight at a government launch facility, is it really private? I fail to see the real difference between SpaceX and companies like Lockheed and Boeing, both of which have been making launch systems and ICBMs for years. Since SpaceX is not a publicly traded company yet, it’s a lot easier for it to to give a big FU to government contracts. The main ‘private’ argument that SpaceX really has going for it is the lack of bureaucracy associated with government or public corporations, we’ll see what happens when their first rocket explodes, which will happen at some point.
Anyway here’s the launch:

Now it’ll be really interesting to see what what kind of contracts SpaceX will go after once they perfect their launch vehicles.



With the Afterburner project getting into full swing any illusions I had about a easy cruse to graduation are gone. Our project has gone from frantic to spiteful. The cool part about his project is that us Aero Engineers are getting to collaborate with the schools of Aviation Technology and Mechanical Engineering. However, when times get rough the division got a little too apparent.

Let’s just say that about 7 novel length emails were sent in about the space of an hour, between the AT and Aero people (including some professors). None of which were very cheery. This project is giving us all a little more real world experience than expected. Although in industry, when disagreement happen, the stakes are a little higher than a 4 pound engine and $12,000.
I managed to get some pictures of our work in progress, not of the afterburner though, which currently is a round 30 lb stock of stainless steel about two feet long.

Both pictures show our JetCat P-80 without the nozzle, soon to be area where the afterburner is mounted. Just keep in mind how small this thing is, the entire turbine section in the second picture is only 2.5″ across. So most of our problems have been as result of trying to machine our injectors to such a small size and fit our ignition system within the engine.

Back to School, The Last Time!!

So this time, I promise, is the last back to school blog update. It is incredible the amount of stuff that happens in the first few days back starting up a semester. In particular the moving and shaking that has gone on with our Afterburner project. The project, which last semester made progress at the pace of cavemen doing auto insurance, has now adopted a frantic feeling of ‘oh shit, we’re not even close to being done’. This is a slightly unwarranted notion. We are running short on time, however the competition at the Air Force Research Laboratory is not until May. Giving our team four whole months of time to make progress on our designs and it’s iterations. This should be plenty for some fine young Engineers produced by the Aerospace program at Purdue. Besides, with schools like Michigan and the Air force Academy, it should be a slam dunk for us.

So to the nitty gritty. Like I said our project got jump started by some universal sense of urgency. This included a trip to Honeywell in South Bend, where their fuel control design and landing gear testing divisions are located. For me this was the first time I’ve actually witnessed Aerospace Engineering outside the academic world. To be honest, it didn’t seem all that different, mainly the people at there seemed a whole bunch smarter than us. They gave us some great pointers about our project and revised our fuel system such that we don’t have to regulate pressure, which is very complex and expensive.
After the boring part of the meeting they took us on a tour of the facility, showing us the testing chambers used for the fuel control systems, of which they produce every control system on American fighter aircraft. One of the guys giving us a tour mentioned that when he went to work abroad, he still felt right at home with the set-up of the lab. After working at Purdue’s HPL last semester I know what he meant, upon entering the testing area’s I immediately recognized all the different types of fittings, pressure and temperature transducers. They are all small things but it gave me a feeling that I’ve at least learnt something for the past five years.
The fuel system test cells were cool and all, but after that the showed us where they test landing gear wheels and brake systems. They recently wrapped up testing of the Airbus A380’s landing gear. The video below is from their Rejected Takeoff test, where the brake is tested to it’s absolute maximum. We were shown the brakes for this guy, 6 pizza sized carbon disks, all an inch thick are pressed together when braking. In the test below, they reach excess of 2500 F, and not surprisingly catch fire, and melt all the metal components attached. Keep in mind the drum on the right, is 20 feet in diameter and about 6 feet wide of solid steel.
That’s all for now.


So as it is I have a bit of bloggers block going on. And I can’t fall back to the usual race reports because I have not raced in two weeks. Tour of Champaign is this weekend and Superweek also starts today, Derek and I will be heading up to do the first three weekday races in Chicagoland.

I lieu of a sweet blog post, here’s some video’s of the Soviet’s Space Shuttle. And if you ever wonder why the Soviet space program achieved so many things, more efficiently, and faster than NASA these videos give the answer: Russian disco music.

My favorite part is 2:10 of the second video. Our own Space Shuttle, who’s first flights coincided with Regan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (STARWARS), could be used as a first strike weapon. By changing the shuttle’s re-entry trajectory, it could launch Nuclear weapons at Moscow. From time of launch of the weapons it would take roughly three minutes for the bombs to reach Moscow. This time window was too small for detection and response, meaning it could take out the capital before a second retaliatory strike would be ordered. So, there’s a good reason why the Soviets rushed the development of their own space shuttle.

A Day at Purdue

Purdue is a University with character. It is by no means your average campus. I’ve seen most of the campuses in the big ten, all of the campuses seem to have an aesthetic harmony about them. Purdue is no exception, except it seems to fall short.

Most of my time is spent in the Armstrong hall of Engineering, named after our most popular and reclusive graduate, Neil Armstrong, the man who first stood on the moon, looked back to Earth and said “Fuck you, Commie Bastards, We Win”.

The building itself is built with the same red brick that every other building at Purdue has. But this building brings Purdue into the 21st Century. Not only does the interior have sparse to no furnishings or decorations, but the Spartan interior makes students feel like they are not going to school but going to the future. From the outside the Aerospace building itself looks like it could take off at any moment and belongs in orbit. The strange acute angles that plague the building make this new seat of the Engineering Department the most inefficient use of floor space on the University (besides the Football Stadium, thanks Joe Tiller).

The building lucky enough to be my 2nd most favorite place to spend my time is the Purdue Engineering Library. This is another great place to study. At UofM’s Engineering College there is the 3D sine-cosine field, which is really a grass field that attempts to fuse Engineering mathematics with grass, which results in a turf management nightmare. At Purdue’s Library we have our own sad excuse for Engineering Art: These are no simple neon tube lights, but neon test beakers. The point of this, I still don’t know even though I’ve spent many hours pondering its meaning. The study areas of the library itself is dank and depressing enough to make a Spanish Inquisitor feel right at home. This particular picture is taken on the Mezzanine (fancy, right?). To the left of the picture are the stacks, and on the right are the study areas, separated by thin metal walls that are warm and cozy. On this particular floor, the ceiling is roughly 8 feet tall and the floor is made of metal, which amplifies every step or chair movement . I’ve never been on a submarine but imagine this is as close as I will ever get.

Lastly, thanks to my 12th grade Art History Teacher, every monument, building, or structure in general that has a slender shape could be a phallic symbol . This thought struck me today while passing our schools bell tower. Purdue was founded as an Agricultural school and is now famous for it’s Engineering School (which is a sausage fest itself). This theory fits well, worshiping fertility (ag school) and…………Engineers (thanks Ms. Rohde).