Since 1942, when Werner von Braun launched a 2-ton rocket engine (and the deadly V2 rocket) into space, more than 5,000 rocket launches were launched, many of which were NASA, some Chinese and Russian space agencies, and, more often, SpaceX and other commercial space flights.
But Cal Liquid's Poly Rocket Lab at Cal Poly Pomona wants to be the first university team to rise above 45,000 feet and into space in the future.
PCMag was invited to meet with the team's racket, Bronco, her aerospace engineering team, and Dr. Frank Chandler, an assistant professor at the College of Engineering, who teaches aerospace design, motor and computational fluid dynamics.
"I'm from [1950s] October sky "Professor Chandler told PCMag when we arrived." Inspired by the first launch of Sputnik to get into a rocket. I spent 40 years in the aerospace industry, first at Rockwell International, and then at Boeing, just as they finished the Apollo program. During this time, I worked on many NASA programs, including those with the space shuttle, carried out a mission, carried out analyzes during rocket launches, and made sure that the astronauts who had risen were about to return. ”
In the conference room of aerospace technology, we sat at a briefing from Dr. Chandler to a subset of a team of 70 people: Richard Picard, Alfredo Herrera, Tatsuya Danno, Colby Truong, Eric González and Jesus David Montes – all students studying aerospace, engineering, mathematics or physics.
Then we all approached building 13, where the Laboratory of Structures is located. This is a large hangar type building equipped with rocket equipment: tools, sensors, tubes, valves for transporting cryogenic rocket fuel, bow cones, parachutes, tail fins and raw materials – from wood to high-tech carbon fiber on various workbenches.
Now Bronko 1 is in pieces, as the team is working on it. But when fully stretched, it is 15 feet tall, weighs 115 pounds, has a liquid methane engine, aluminum / fiberglass skin, Cygnus Ablative Cooled Engine, and is funded by $ 1.67 million from the National College Resources Foundation.
Here are some of the teams talking about their particular area of responsibility on Bronco 1:
Alfredo Herrera on electronics Bronco 1:
Colby Truong on the Bronco Liquid Fuel System 1:
Eric Gonzalez on the Bronco 1 engine:
Richard Picard on the test module Bronco 1:
Tatsuya Danno on the Bronco propulsion system 1:
Bronco 1 passed several tests last year, including one at the beginning of this year at the Lukern plant on a lake in the middle of the Mojave Desert, at an altitude of 2848 feet.
"That night, the test team stayed here rather late in the lab, doing preliminary tests," Alfredo Herrera told us. “Then we left at 4 o'clock in the truck, which we borrowed from the College of Engineering. For safety reasons, the rocket was broken, and we collected it on the spot. ”
“We place the more fragile components in protective cases of the Pelican,” Richard Picard added. "Others we wedged between the ice chests in the back of the truck."
When they arrived in the Mojave Desert a few hours later, the team disembarked from their vehicle fleet and received an education, each subgroup with its own list of tasks. They worked for more than two hours, until they were ready to take it to the starting railway.
"[We] I went to the Rangemaster, told him what site we were going to launch, put it on there, set up altimeters and ran a safe distance, ”Picard said.
Satisfied that all security checks were performed, Rangemaster initiated a countdown and Bronco 1 rose. Here is video from the day spent by team member Eric Gonzalez on his phone. If you are working, turn off the speakers – this is loud,
Here is a view of the launch from the ground. Warning: LOUD!
Video loan to Eric Gonzalez. pic.twitter.com/8hqcJgzbyk
– CPP Liquid Rocket Lab (@CPPLRL) May 21, 2018
“Then we all just prayed that the parachute would open,” said Tatsuya Danno. “You start to see him jump, and then“ pop ”is an amazing feeling.” The parachute is equipped with a GPS transmitter, so the team can find the rocket and return it to the laboratory.
Bronco 1 is constantly being tested. "Our next one will be the first" test of the engine of hot fire, "explained Jesus David Montes. Every part of the rocket needs testing, and this is the easiest thing to do – and more efficiently – to do each separately. ”
“We must ensure that our electronics can handle cryogenic temperatures,” said Gonzalez, “and that all plumbing and parts function correctly. The next test environment will be held on campus, taking at least two dozen components, including solenoids, valves, and liquid nitrogen through them, up to minus 286 [F] so that nothing hangs under these conditions. ”
if you are follow CPPLRL on Twitter, they will post updates from this test day and poll for the team.
After that, everything is focused on achieving one goal: the FAR-Mars Launch competition on March 2-3, 2019. Co-sponsored by Mars Society (Denver) and amateur racket friends (California), the competition took place earlier this year in the Mojave Desert, but no one won the top prize of $ 100,000.
“This is because launching a liquid fuel rocket above 45,000 feet is a complex and complex task,” said Professor Chandler. “But if some team can do it, in 2019, that's all. This is a great group of engineers. I think that all of them should go to the gradient school, and I know that ahead of them lies ahead in the aerospace industry. ”