SpaceX Lands First Stage Propulsively Back at Cape Canaveral

About 2 minutes prior to me writing this on Dec 21, 2015, SpaceX just made history by landing the first stage of an orbital rocket. Congratulations to SpaceX for this marvelous feat of engineering. Their hope is that this will significantly reduce the cost of access to space and catalyze a new wave of innovation in space.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Landed at cape canaveral after first landing of first stage of orbital rocket

SpaceX Falcon 9 Landed at Cape Canaveral: Photo Credit SpaceX

While this is certainly a phenomenal progression in mankind’s quest in space, have caution before proclaiming the next paradigm shift. Don’t forget that the US Space Shuttle had the same goal, and some optimistic individuals even claimed that it might bring the cost of space access down to $10 per pound into orbit. Due to the long refurbishment process, the Space Shuttle ended up sending cargo to space for around $10,000 per pound.

Of course, the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Space Shuttle are entirely different machines using entirely different strategies for re-usability. Personally, I’m rooting for SpaceX to usher in a new golden age of low cost space access.

David Deng



Update 12/13/2015 – Hibernating For the Winter

Hi all!

As you probably know, finals have come to the University of Minnesota, and with them, the students have all dug themselves study holes to disappear into. That means we’ll be taking a little hiatus on blog updates until the spring semester. We still have an exciting update from the avionics subteam in store for this update, so don’t run off yet.

Happy holidays, and good luck on finals!
– David Deng

Subteam Spotlight: Avionics

First LPRD PCB schematic as originally designed by Gaurav Manda

First LPRD PCB schematic as originally designed by Gaurav Manda

This is the first PCB, our team member, Gaurav, has designed in his life (career). This is also the first electric board for LPRD team.  Gaurav has put lots of effort into this design as we can see. He used EAGLE to  design this  pcb board. We will put this to our control panel to reduce the circuits and wires.

PCB Layout from eagle as designed by Gaurav Manda

PCB Layout from Eagle

This is the front face of actual board layout of the pcb board simulated by the program.  We have sent the design to a company and will hopefully get it within a few weeks!

Test stand electronics connector wiring layout

Test stand electronics connector wiring layout

As you may or may not know, we used to have about a dozen separate wires that all needed to be connected together correctly for engine operation. When we bundled them all together, this is the layout we used. Glen Smith wired and soldered the wires into the connectors. This is his hand drawing layout to record the pins wires information.


Member Spotlight: Vaughn Weirens

Photo from Washington DC Trip July 2014 Vaughn Weirens

My name is Vaughn Weirens, I’m a Junior majoring in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics with a minor in Astronomy here at the University of Minnesota. I am a member on the LPRD Rocketry Launch Team. I joined LPRD Rocketry because it seemed like a fun project to learn about rocketry and engineering while also trying something fun and unique to rocketry. I am also involved with the AIAA Space Transport Design Competition here at the University. My hobbies include reading, board games, video games, playing the bass guitar, and learning more about space and science. I hope to take the experience I gain with me from the University and from LPRD Rocketry to work in the Astronautics Industry designing rocket systems, hopefully propulsion systems. I am inspired by the works of science fiction authors such as Isaac Asimov and H. G. Wells as well as scientists and engineers such as Bill Nye, Carl Saga, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and organizations and companies like NASA and Space-X. My dream is to be one of the people that helps make the warp drive/hyperdrive/Alcubierre drive a reality.


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Update 12/6/2015 – Showcase and New Flight Subteam

Hi all,

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this on the blog, but TeslaWorks (our parent student group) had a showcase where they displayed all of their projects for the public. We had a showing and did a little bit of a demo of the test stand. Just water and nitrogen, no fire!

Anna Koene examing LPRD Rocketry rocket test stand control valves and pressure during cold throttle test in TeslaWorks showcase

Anna intently examines the control valves during our cold throttle test

The showcase was quite a success, starting with the fact that no hospital trips were required. There was a fire truck at one point, but this time, it wasn’t our fault! Honest. We’ve managed to simplify the wiring down far enough that even children could operate it – like we mentioned in the subteam spotlight in this post. So we let the children operate it (from a safe distance). And they were delighted.

In separate news, we’re starting up a new subteam! The LPRD Rocketry Flight Division will be working on building a hobby-scale high powered rocket to house our eventual engine! We’ve had a brief meeting already, and we hope to really get kicking with the new year. For those of you hobby rocketeers out there, we’d like to invite you to participate! Just send us an email at and let us know you want to help.

This basically means that we are closer than ever to achieving an actual, real-life, flying liquid propellant rocket engine. It’s feasible. If we get regenerative cooling down (which it looks like we will) and the tank weights down (which it looks like we will), we could theoretically strap this thing into a rocket within the next year and a half. This is ludicrously exciting. Let me just go and sit down a bit.

David Deng


Member Spotlight – Sophia Litkewitsch

Sophia Litkewitsch by a lake

Hi! I’m Sophia, a freshman at the University of Minnesota studying aerospace engineering. I was immediately drawn to LPRD rocketry because it provides some hands on experience in a field I’m interested in. (Who doesn’t live rockets??) Outside of aerospace engineering I’m pursuing a Russian minor. Having been raised in a bilingual household with English and Russian, and having studied French for 5 years, foreign language in general is of great interest to me. I also love reading, music, spending time with friends and family, and the oxford comma.


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