2019 Year in Review

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

2019 turned out to be another great year in the realms of amateur experimental rocketry, so without further ado let’s look at how 2019 shaped up.

The year of the student Spaceshots…again
The year kicked off with UC Aerospace (from New Zealand) attempting to launch their two-stage ‘Into The Black’ rocket to 100km in March, hoping to beat USCRPL and become the first student team to launch a rocket beyond the Karman line. Unfortunately, the 2nd stage encountered an ignition problem leaving the team short of their goal.

Come in USCRPL with their 4th space shot attempt and it looks like 4th time was a charm for the team. After 3 unsuccessful launches over the years, the team finally reached space with their Traveler IV rocket in April, thus becoming the first student team to launch a rocket beyond the Karman line. Traveler IV reached 103.5 km and was recovered successfully.

Once again Princeton Spaceshot made it to the pad again this year, this time with two identical rockets hoping for the chance one of them would reach space. The first launch at the end of May from Spaceport America was a success with the rocket being fully recovered, the second rocket was launched a few days later but the second stage failed to ignite.
Unfortunately, Princeton Spaceshot went quiet after these attempts, so either the rocket did not perform as planned or no data was recovered or maybe they just have not got around to filling us all in.
If any members read this, then drop me a line!

2019 also saw the return of the TU Wien Space Team to the Black Rocket Desert to launch their ‘Hound’ rocket with the hope of not only breaking the current European student altitude record but also to reach space. Unfortunately, the rocket broke apart at booster burnout and although the team had a backup rocket, without knowing the cause, did not launch it.

USCRPL remains the only student team have launched a rocket into space.

Liquid Fueled Rocket Palooza!
With the advent of the Base 11 Space Challenge, the FAR MARS Prize and the FAR DPF Challenge, the number of student teams building and firing liquid-fuelled rocket engines and rockets has increased dramatically. Not only are teams firing the conventional LOX/Kero,  LOX/Ethanol engines but more and more are experimenting with LOX/LCH4 (Methane) engines. A part of this comes from the FAR MARS Prize where part of the prize money goes towards a team who flies a LOX/LCH4 rocket, as methane can be found on Mars, advances in these engines might end up helping crewed flight in the years to come.

To list a few of the teams (that have flown and or hot fired),

If I missed your team, drop me a line on the contact form!

All the rest!
Copenhagen suborbitals started to bend metal for their large crewed Spica rocket, I featured on a Claymin’ Space podcast talking all things rocketry, Joe from BPS Space flew his Falcon Heavy for the second time and made some epic silo launched rockets, DARE unveiled their Stratos IV rocket and continued engine testing, Charlie Garcia released a bunch of liquid rocket engine how-to videos, MIT Rocket team tested a P9100 solid-fueled rocket motor plus much more! Click the links on the side to find out what else everyone has been up to.

To 2020 and beyond
Having now graduated from university and working full time, amongst other things I have been finding it difficult to find time to keep my blog updated. I want to keep it updated in a sense of providing you the reader with more than just a copy/paste of a rocket update. I have been trying to figure out where to take it for the future, some ideas are more mechanically minded posts, possibly delve into the realm of ‘newspace’, more libraries of documents, so if you have any ideas of what you want or like to see then let me know on the contact form.

Thanks for all the support and here is to many more rocket launches in 2020!

2018 Year in Review

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

This year has probably seen the most space shot/altitude record attempts of any year since I started this website, thus it has made for an exciting year in amateur and student rocketry.

As well as these I’ll highlight my most memorable events of 2018.

Spaceshots and altitude records

2018 saw three (that I am aware of) space shots and two European student and amateur altitude record attempts.
Starting with the Princeton SpaceShot team, whom in May launched their two-stage SpaceShot rocket from Spaceport America hoping to be the first student team to reach space. Unfortunately, the 2nd stage did not ignite and the rocket coasted to 50,000 ft before being successfully recovered. A second space shot is in the works, so look out for this team in 2019!

Princeton Space Shot launch (Credit: Doug Gerrard)

Up next was the launch of Stratos III from DARE in July, aiming to reclaim the European student altitude record. The 15 kN thrust, 8.2 m long hybrid rocket, unfortunately, disintegrated 20 seconds into flight from its launch location in Spain, an official report on the cause has yet to be released. The team never the less are powering forward with Stratos IV in full development which is expected to fly to 100 km before the end of August in 2019.

Stratos III and team (Credit: DARE)

USCRPL once again tried for another space shot, Traveler III was the team’s 3rd attempt and with all their experience to date looked to be the one to break the record for a student launch to space. Unfortunately, a communications protocol error led to the rocket launching without the avionics package turned on, therefore no telemetry or recovery was possible. The rocket was heard to come in ballistic and knowing the time delays along with simulations, Traveler III was predicted to have reached space. The team continues work on Traveler IV for another shot in 2019!

Traveller III launch (Credit: USCRPL)

TU Wien Space Team launched their first attempt to break the European student altitude record and even to reach space. The Hound, the team’s 2-stage rocket lifted off from the Black Rocket desert in Nevada on September 24th, hoping to smash the University of Stuttgart’s current European altitude record and also reach space. Unfortunately (the word of this post) the sustainer failed to ignite due to an incorrectly wired igniter fail safe for when the rocket is on the pad, the unlit sustainer coasted to 42,650 ft before being successfully recovered along with the booster.

The Hound Launch Team (Credit: TU Wien Space Team)

FAR MARS Prize
When this was announced it looked to be the perfect stepping stone for student and university teams’ wanting to progress their liquid rocket development in what seemed like an achievable prize. It did succeed in progressing liquid rocket engine development, especially LOX/Methane but the timeline proved to short with only the UCLA Rocket Project attempting a launch for the competition.

That launch only lasted ~7 seconds before the Odyssey II rocket had a rapid disassembly mid-flight. This was pinned down to torsion on a welded fitting on the fuel tank.

For an added $50k of prize money you could attempt the competition with a LOX/Methane rocket engine, two teams pursued this and had some very successful engine tests. The SDSU Rocket Project successfully tested both a regenerative and ablative engine, Purdue SEDS had great success with their Boomie Zoomie rocket which featured an innovative coaxial tank design and ablative 1125 lbf (5004 N) engine.

Most of the teams’ will be trying again for 2019, with the first launch dates scheduled for early March, hopefully, all teams’ make it to the launch pad, follow here to stay on the pulse!

Flight of the Falcon Heavy…the BPS.space one 😉
Voted on my Twitter poll as the best rocketry event of 2018, Joe of BPS.space does not fail to deliver.

Truly a feat of engineering, the 1/48 scale rocket featured active guidance with 3-DOF at liftoff, booster separation and an actively guided 2nd stage. The rocket demonstrated the advanced capability from the in house designed and built Signal flight computer, of which you can purchase for yourself!. Joe has a whole series of videos covering the build so I suggest you go over and check out his YouTube channel to catch up!
Keep a watch out on BPS.space for 2019, I am sure Joe has a whole bunch more epic projects in the works, for a fact I know he does!

The Rest
Other notable events of 2018 included the launch of Nexo II from Copenhagen Suborbitals and the beginning of the BPM-100 rocket engine campaign that will power their manned Spica rocket to 100 km. Curt von Delius launched his 2-stage PHX4 rocket to over 200,000 ft in June, the video is worth a watch!. The MIT Rocket Team launched their Hermes 1 rocket to 32,400 ft, the entirely in-house built rocket and motor performed flawlessly. SEDS at UCSD completed their Colossus test stand and hot fired their Ignus-II 3D printed bi-propellant rocket engine.

And to round it all out I successfully tested my spark torch igniter culminating in 14 tests, a ton of data and a very happy chap.

2019 promises to be a very exciting year, with more space shot attempts from old and new teams early in the year, will 2019 be the year a student team reaches space?
Keep visiting Mach 5 Lowdown to find out and thanks for all the support for 2018!