Update 2/28/2016 – Of Rocket Models and Men

Hi all!

This past week at LPRD Rocketry, we’ve completely moved around our test stand so that it now incorporates a force plate which will (hopefully) allow us to measure the performance of our engine. In theory, regardless of how hard it explodes and whether that explosion is contained, we should get a reading of some sort.

LPRD Rocketry team members working on modifying their test stand

Similar to last week, we also did some more testing involving our injector and flow rates. The data from that is available here for anyone interested.

Separately from that, our parent student group, Tesla Works, hosted a Friday night project where they put the manpower to use helping us build some small kit model rockets with which the Flight subteam will later go on to prototype. The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry… but hopefully not this time!

Lee of LPRD Rocketry holding up his constructed model rocket

What a beautiful model. And the rocket’s pretty cool too.

Fleet of rockets build for prototyping for LPRD Rocketry by Tesla Works

I present to you: the LPRD Rocketry fleet

We’re getting closer and closer to our test with Orbital ATK. Next Saturday, we’ll run a dress rehearsal where everything will be operated as if we were at the proving grounds. We’ll hopefully catch any last minute issues in time for our Test Readiness Review on Sunday, and then only one week until Spring Break and testing!

To those non-members interested in going: the number of individuals we can bring is limited, but there may be room for a few. Contact me if interested.

David Deng

Subteam Spotlight: Launch

Launch team has been primarily occupied this semester with upgrading and updating our test stand and procedures for the test with Orbital ATK. As you probably know, the stand now allows for some throttle control and will hopefully offer force measurements. Many thanks to Dan Gates, who has been helping us poor college students. Having a mechanic on hand is really quite useful, and our test stand looks infinitely better for it!

LPRD Rocketry upgraded test stand which now allows for force measurement

In addition, we’re starting to look towards upgrading our test stand. We’re looking to make the test stand capable of delivering cryogenic propellants which would allow us to increase the density of our oxidizer. Sam worked on finding the cold-compatible parts to make that happen, and Paige and Michael are looking into getting our hands on some liquid nitrogen to develop our experience and capabilities with cryogenic materials and test the feed lines of the test stand with cold fluid flowing through.

Apart from that, Tyler and Jame are looking even further into the future and developing/designing a vertical test stand which would allow us to test a rocket engine/rocket vertical configuration.

Member Spotlight: Michael Schmit

Michael Schmit of LPRD Rocketry

Hello, my name is Michael Schmit, and I am currently a sophomore majoring in Aerospace Engineering. I decided to join LPRD because I was interested in gaining some hands on experience working through design challenges to create a finished product. I chose to pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering because I’ve always been fascinated by outer space, and would love to help design spacecraft to allow us to expand our knowledge of the universe. When I’m not busy doing school work, I also enjoy hiking, biking, reading, and listening to music.

Michael Schmit of LPRD Rocketry

Michael Schmit

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Update 2/21/2016 – Testing Time! (a.k.a. Controlled Failing Time!)

Hi all!

We’ve been pretty busy this week. This weekend, we spent some time testing out injectors and igniters in preparation for the engine firing that will (hopefully!) come during spring break. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so I suspect a thousand pictures at 30 frames a second should be worth much more than anything I can write here!

The igniters are pretty simple; just a nichrome wire which will be wrapped (or wrapped around) some cotton soaked in kerosene. When we put 24 volts across the wire, it draws a decent amperage and glows red-hot, igniting the cotton and kerosene. It’s pretty similar to the design we were planning on last year, but it doesn’t use pyrogen, so we don’t run into restrictions bring it in and out of the proving grounds of Orbital ATK.

Nichrome wire igniter for LPRD Rocketry liquid propellant rocket engine close-up coil

A twelve inch coil after use, but still intact

Subteam Spotlight: Engine

The engine subteam will be spending the majority of this semester working with CAD softwares and simulation softwares in an attempt to fully understand the processes going on within the rocket engine. ANSYS and Autodesk CFD are our current simulation softwares of choice, and Autodesk Inventor is our CAD software. With any luck, we’l be able to incorporate advanced design features which will boost the performance of our engines through injectors which will allow us to control the combustion properties of the engine and engine geometry which gives us the most bang for our buck in terms of specific impulse and fuel efficiency.

Setup file for ANSYS simulation of LPRD Rocketry liquid propellant rocket engine injector ANSYS simulation of LPRD Rocketry liquid propellant rocket engine injector showing streamlines ANSYS simulation of LPRD Rocketry liquid propellant rocket engine injector with contours showing pressure drop

Thanks to Stephen Pham for his hard work on these simulations. Haven’t quite gotten it right, but we’re getting there!

Separately from that, we’re also working on a ceramic rocket engine with another student group, Material Advantage. You may remember us helping them with a mold last week.  In any case, the mold is finished and looks stunning.

LPRD Rocketry ceramic rocket engine prototyping mold

How pretty!

LPRD Rocketry ceramic rocket engine prototyping mold

Thanks to Material Advantage for their work on that! Unfortunately, the oven they were going to fire the engine in is waiting on maintenance, so we’ll have to wait a little while until we have a physical product. Just a prototype, so don’t get too excited just yet! Hopefully we’ll have a full size one soon and ready to fire though!

David Deng

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Update 2/14/2016: Forget Arrows; Cupid Shootin’ Valentines Rockets in Kerbal Space Program Tonight

Hi all!

Happy Valentines Day! Unfortunately, this time around, we don’t have any CAD valentine hearts like we did last year.

What we do have is a big update and a ton of news. Our meeting with OrbitalATK this week went well, and we’ve tentatively planned a test firing sometime during the University of Minnesota’s spring break, or approximately the week of March 14th.

We have a ton to do to get ready. We’ll be creating and testing some novel new igniters involving nichrome wire, cotton balls, and kerosene. Hopefully that’ll happen either this Saturday or next. With any luck, fire will happen in a very controlled manner. Its slightly different from the igniters we were planning on way back last year, but the same general concept.

This Saturday, we’ll also be running some flow rate tests on our injector.  We caught some mistakes earlier on with the injector hole sizing, but that should be fixed now. We just want to confirm.

In addition, we’ll be switching over our test stand so that it can measure force, something critical to figuring out just how successful our rocket engine is. We’ll probably be doing that next Monday evening and Tuesday morning, and hopefully testing it out the Saturday after (February 27).

After that, we’ll hold a dress rehearsal on the 5th of March, a Test Readiness Review on the 6th, and be ready to go for the week after. Fingers crossed! This will be the first time we ever throttle our engine up to 100%. With any luck, we’ll also have a ceramic rocket engine to fire courtesy of a materials science student group here on campus.

LPRD Rocketry scaled down mold casting for ceramic rocket engine

Making a prototype mold to test manufacturing techniques for our ceramic rocket engine

Matias aggressively cleaning up after helping make LPRD rocketry mold for ceramic rocket engine

Aggressively cleaning

Subteam Spotlight: Flight

I think it’s about time to introduce the newest subteam of the bunch: the flight subteam.

LPRD Rocketry flight subteam as of January 2016 having almost completed their first ever high power model rocket

The LPRD Rocketry Flight Subteam

These guys are working on learning the skills needed to eventually build our very own liquid propellant rocket engine. Of all the subteams, these guys are probably working with the most ambitious goal and the one furthest in the future. The above picture was taking during winter break, when they made their very first high power model rocket out of a kit (Madcow Torrent, it’s called). It’ll be used to eventually test the electronics the Avionics subteam is developing.

The video guide LPRD rocketry used to build its very first high power hobby rocket

Our Lord and Savior Video Guide – Ellen

Now that it’s mostly complete, we’re working on taking a look at an asymmetric thrust rocket engine, starting with some basic calculations and simulation before moving on to some prototyping with small kit rockets.

Glen Smith of LPRD Rocketry applying epoxy to our first hobby rocket

The big issue that the flight subteam is dealing with is the relatively low thrust to weight ratio that our liquid propellant engine can obtain. Because we don’t have the avionics to guide the thing, we need to get it off the launch pad at a fast enough speed that aerodynamic forces keep it flying in an upward direction, but that means we need additional thrust. Originally, we were thinking about using staging (with a very powerful solid first stage) or clustering solid boosters, but both of those have issues.

The basic idea: we want to see if we can fly  a rocket that is composed of only one liquid propellant engine and one solid booster. In theory, this will let us avoid the troubles of both staging and clustering.  With only one solid, we don’t have to worry about them igniting at different times. With only one stage, we don’t have to worry about starting an engine in the air while it’s flying.

LPRD Rocketry using Kerbal Space Program to simulate an asymmetrical thrust rocket both engines firing

Pictured: “Proof of Concept” #KSPSimulations

LPRD Rocketry using Kerbal Space Program to simulate an asymmetric thrust rocket with only liquid firing

Pictured: A “simulation” still flying straight! #totallylegitimate


Member Spotlight: Guarav Manda

Gaurav Manda, the Avionics subteam leader of LPRD Rocketry

My name is Gaurav Manda and I’m a sophomore in Electrical Engineering. I joined LPRD so I could get some hands on experience on various sensors and electronics. Apart from LPRD I’m part of the IEEE student group and I’ve also recently joined the UMN HASP(High altitude Student Payload) team and I’m hoping to be able to help out with some of their electronic systems and hardware. Space research has been of interest to me ever since I was in middle school. This has stemmed from reading books written by authors including Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku and Carl Sagan. As an EE, my goal is to improve communication systems on spacecrafts to facilitate safer and more efficient space travel. This being my interest, my focus would be on wireless communication and RF.

Avionics subteam meeting ' selfie' of LPRD Rocketry

Gaurav Manda

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… flying porta-potty in southern Michigan, apparently

Ever wondered what a porta-potty would look like if it was strapped to rockets and flying several hundred feed in the air? You and at least 30 other people, it seems.

Some crazies (or geniuses, depending on your point of view) from Three Oaks, Michigan decided that they wanted to fly a porta-potty, and there isn’t a damn thing Isaac Newton or the Feds can do to stop them. Luckily for us, Associated Press has so many reporters, some lucky bloke gets to cover this “news” instead of the presidential race. Though I suppose it’s a bit difficult to determine which is the more bizarre and interesting.

We haven’t launched anything (yet) at LPRD Rocketry as of 2/09/2016, but we’re on our way. The ignition of our student-built amateur rocket engine was one small step. Pretty soon we’ll be flying as well! If they did it, surely we can.

David Deng

Update 2/7/2016: Getting back into the swing of things

Hey all!

We had a little  bit of fun at this week’s general meeting. As you may or may not know, we do a little design, team building, or communication activity at the beginning of each meeting. This week, some poor blind individuals had to navigate a minefield (of chairs), verbally directed by someone who could not see the field, who was in turn informed by someone who could not speak. Havoc may or may not have ensued.

LPRD Rocketry members participating in minefield team building and communication exercise

Notice the 3 different strategies to avoid bodily harm by the minefield runners (the three whose faces you can see). Chest, groin, none. Brave man, Matt is (Beatles shirt). I will say that some walls were run into. No worries though, everyone’s beautiful faces (and the rest their persons) remained unharmed.

Everyone got through in the end at a blistering pace of about 3 feet per minute, but no one managed to avoid running into the mines. In a situation like ours, where we’re feeling our way around rocketry in the dark, communication can sometimes become just as difficult when everyone is working with new concepts. We had a great conversation afterwards about the importance of precision in communication, practice in the actual situation (test as you fly), and everyone agreeing upon the methods of communication beforehand.

LPRD Rocketry General Meeting Selfie

In real news, we will be visiting Orbital ATK this Tuesday for a coordination meeting. With any luck, we will have a test firing set up within the next couple of weeks! If you want to check out the results of our previous testing and see some pretty awesome pictures and video, you can find that here.

Without any further ado, let me cede the stage to the first subteam spotlight of the semester! No member spotlight; that will be back next week.

Happy Lunar New Year, by the way!

David Deng

Subteam Spotlight: Avionics

We’re back after hibernating during the winter and we’re currently deciding on everyone’s tasks and goals to be accomplished during this semester. This was our white board after brainstorming ideas and mapping out a timeline based on future test flights using solid propellant rockets. We intend to test out each new addition to our system (the ultimate goal being an autonomous system capable of controlling itself) on each of these relatively easy flights to determine their stability and reliability when subjected to extreme conditions.

LPRD Avionics subteam goals and plans for semester listed out on whiteboard LPRD Avionics subteam's agenda for the next week to finish planning out the semester's work

Lucas, one of our new team members, who’s a Comp Sci grad student has written this wonderful application that would live plot data received over a serial communication bus thus allowing us to monitor data from various parts of the rocket engine. Currently this is just running some predetermined functions, but eventually we would get multiple sensors to be placed around the engine and the rocket body whose data would then be monitored on this application. Lucas is happy to share this application which is on Github, and you can access it here.

Telemetry UI used to test LPRD rocketry wireless communication programmed by Lucas Kramer

More updates to follow as we work on our wireless controls and our goal of developing an autonomous system.

– Gaurav Manda


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