Author Topic: Masten Space Systems Update  (Read 238648 times)

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #40 on: 05/28/2009 06:58 PM »
More updates:

*We've put another 20 firings on the aluminum -2AS engine
*Longest duration 67s at a bit over half throttle
*Swapped the aluminum -2AS chamber into the flight jacket.  Last 12 of those 20 firings were on the vehicle in hold-down mode.
*Performance was a little lower than the copper -2B engine, but that's mostly due to this being an older 15-degree cone design instead of a parabolic bell like the -2B
*Going to try flying with this chamber either today or tomorrow.

Eye-candy:
http://twitpic.com/63o1a


One of these days I'll finish writing up more detail on the MSS Project blog (www.masten-space.com/blog)

~Jon

Offline pippin

  • Regular
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2501
  • Liked: 266
  • Likes Given: 39
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #41 on: 05/28/2009 10:41 PM »
The engine looks cool but I fear for your test stand with all those bricks flying around.
Hm... What does that remind me of... 8)
« Last Edit: 05/28/2009 10:41 PM by pippin »

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #42 on: 05/30/2009 12:13 AM »
Did two more tethered flights today. 

One was a short, 8 second flight testing one of the landing detection techniques that we wanted to try when we move to ground takeoffs and landings.  Our engine ends up being pretty close to the ground, so we want to get it shutoff as quickly as possible once we're firmly on the ground.

The second one was a 30 second flight, doing multiple translations and rotations.  It wasn't perfect (we think we were fighting the tether for part of the flight), but it looked great, and we got lots of useful data.




The second one is slomo, so it's very long.  It's kind of cool seeing many parts where it looks like the movie is frozen until you see the dust cloud blowing by....

We managed to get the vehicle loaded back on to the trailer and headed back to the shop just as it started raining/hailing.

Still have lots to do, and lots of data to crunch, but we're making some more progress. 

~Jon
« Last Edit: 05/30/2009 12:14 AM by jongoff »

Offline savuporo

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4805
  • Liked: 806
  • Likes Given: 282
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #43 on: 06/04/2009 07:54 AM »
hobbyspace reports that you guys did a 60-sec flight today ? Getting close to doing the LLC flights ? Has it landed on its own legs yet ?
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #44 on: 06/04/2009 08:27 AM »
hobbyspace reports that you guys did a 60-sec flight today?

Yeah, it was a good flight.  I'm not sure why the video isn't up yet--they were trying to upload it to youtube when I went home.

Quote
Getting close to doing the LLC flights?

Closer.  This particular vehicle is pretty marginal for a Level One flight.  As-is, we might be able to get just over 90s of flight, but probably without the 55lb goldbox requirements.  We think there's a good chance we can work our way up to Level 1 capabilities with this vehicle, but it'll take some time. 

Quote
Has it landed on its own legs yet?

Not yet.  Though we did do a test flight where we tested one landing detection technique.  Not sure how soon we'll be working our way up to ground takeoffs/landings.  I think that's one of the next things on our list, but we are still wringing out all the bugs we found in the first 8 tethered flights.

~Jon

Offline savuporo

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4805
  • Liked: 806
  • Likes Given: 282
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #45 on: 06/05/2009 11:08 AM »
Quote
Getting close to doing the LLC flights?
Closer.  This particular vehicle is pretty marginal for a Level One flight.  As-is, we might be able to get just over 90s of flight, but probably without the 55lb goldbox requirements.  We think there's a good chance we can work our way up to Level 1 capabilities with this vehicle, but it'll take some time. 
Im tempted to ask if bolting on elongated/taller tanks is an option for this vehicle, or its not that simple/worth the effort ?
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline meiza

  • Expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3069
  • Where Be Dragons
  • Liked: 2
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #46 on: 06/05/2009 01:22 PM »
It's great to follow this!
I hope you can do something to the dust so we can better see the beautiful flights on the videos. ;)
When the control laws are there (and it looks like you're pretty close), the development of the next rocket to hovering status should be very quick. It seems the engines have always been a pretty trouble-free area for MSS.

Offline meiza

  • Expert
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3069
  • Where Be Dragons
  • Liked: 2
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #47 on: 06/05/2009 01:39 PM »
The 60 second flight is posted:

Rock solid!

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #48 on: 06/05/2009 02:21 PM »
Quote
Getting close to doing the LLC flights?
Closer.  This particular vehicle is pretty marginal for a Level One flight.  As-is, we might be able to get just over 90s of flight, but probably without the 55lb goldbox requirements.  We think there's a good chance we can work our way up to Level 1 capabilities with this vehicle, but it'll take some time. 
Im tempted to ask if bolting on elongated/taller tanks is an option for this vehicle, or its not that simple/worth the effort ?

You could, but adding multiple tanks gets to be a headache.  The actual assembling of the vehicle doesn't take that long once you figure out how you're going to do it.  So, we're planning on building two new airframes soon, using aluminum construction.  One using the same sized tanks (but with the lighter frame it would now have a much easier time getting well past 90s of hover time), and the other using some bigger tanks.  We'll give more details when we're actually closer.

~Jon

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #49 on: 06/05/2009 02:31 PM »
It's great to follow this!
I hope you can do something to the dust so we can better see the beautiful flights on the videos. ;)
When the control laws are there (and it looks like you're pretty close), the development of the next rocket to hovering status should be very quick. It seems the engines have always been a pretty trouble-free area for MSS.

Well, we've had a pretty good record of getting the engines to the point where they're firing, but I definitely think this latest engine is substantially better and better controlled than we've ever done in the past.  Now that we have the basic building-blocks in place, I think you're right that things will go faster now.  As people saw with Armadillo, once you have the building blocks in place, putting them together in new configurations goes pretty quickly.

~Jon

Offline savuporo

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4805
  • Liked: 806
  • Likes Given: 282
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #50 on: 06/05/2009 09:08 PM »
Yeah, but its taken Armadillo years to gain any real altitude ... not critizising, just an obsevation. It looked like they were almost close to try for an original X-Prize, but so far they havent managed to fly above the birds.
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #51 on: 06/05/2009 11:53 PM »
Yeah, but its taken Armadillo years to gain any real altitude ... not critizising, just an obsevation. It looked like they were almost close to try for an original X-Prize, but so far they havent managed to fly above the birds.

To be fair to John and crew (we are after all friends even if we're competitors), the Lunar Lander Challenge came out right as they were gearing up to try higher altitude flights.  And that's been a huge distraction to them for awhile.  That said, they also flushed out a lot of bugs in that time that would've killed an altitude vehicle.  Lastly, there's just the reality that flying at high speeds and altitudes is likely a lot harder than just hovering. 

We've all got our work cut out for us, but it's good that Armadillo's finally getting the chance to put some altitude and speed on their vehicles.  Hopefully we'll be doing so too sometime soon.

~Jon

Offline NUAETIUS

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 427
  • Liked: 1
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #52 on: 06/07/2009 01:42 AM »
What is Masten's long term idea of how to use your family of vehicles?  Reusable sounding rockets, suborbital tourism, or orbital small sat deployment, or manned launch?

Is the current long term plan for Masten to keep building larger and stronger vehicles until you have one vehicle that goes all the way up, an inline "stack" of two or three of your vehicles, or a modular triangular design like Armadillo is proposing?

“It has long been recognized that the formation of a committee is a powerful technique for avoiding responsibility, deferring difficult decisions and averting blame….while at the same time maintaining a semblance of action.” Augustine's Law - Norm Augustine

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #53 on: 06/07/2009 02:24 AM »
What is Masten's long term idea of how to use your family of vehicles?  Reusable sounding rockets, suborbital tourism, or orbital small sat deployment, or manned launch?

Our primary market focus is the unmanned science/R&D/educational launch market.  We may also do the nanosat launcher upper stage concept (or launch someone else's if someone else wants to develop one that can fit on our vehicle).  We've got ideas on how we want to go past that point, but just getting to a reliable, commercially operational suborbital vehicle is going to keep us busy for quite some time yet.

Quote
Is the current long term plan for Masten to keep building larger and stronger vehicles until you have one vehicle that goes all the way up, an inline "stack" of two or three of your vehicles, or a modular triangular design like Armadillo is proposing?

For suborbital applications we're still aiming for the first of those three options--a single stage, multi-engine design.  Our original concept back in 04 when we first decided to start this was a 10klb GLOW vehicle called XA-1.0.  It would've had 12 pump-fed engines (8 "verniers" and 4 "mains) that would haul 100kg to 100km.  At this point about the only things that are still the same is the name and the nominal payload goal.  Pending lessons learned from the next two or three subscale vehicles, it looks like XA-1.0 may very well end up being pressure fed, about half the size originally expected, and using 4 or 5 engines...

~Jon

Offline Harlan

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
  • Liked: 9
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #54 on: 06/07/2009 02:48 AM »
Jon, interesting. I always enjoy reading about your progress. We (meaning humanity) have been doing rocket science for a full lifetime now. Clearly, you guys at Masten have learned a lot in these last few years, given how much you've changed your design. What is it about building rockets that is so unpredictable? Are there aspects of the science (or the art) that don't communicate well from team to team, so they have to be perpetually re-learned? Are there facts, or tools, or histories that, in retrospect, would have minimized the amount of tinkering you needed to do? Or is it just that your goals are so different from previous projects that you really were exploring a whole new subspace of rocketry?

For suborbital applications we're still aiming for the first of those three options--a single stage, multi-engine design.  Our original concept back in 04 when we first decided to start this was a 10klb GLOW vehicle called XA-1.0.  It would've had 12 pump-fed engines (8 "verniers" and 4 "mains) that would haul 100kg to 100km.  At this point about the only things that are still the same is the name and the nominal payload goal.  Pending lessons learned from the next two or three subscale vehicles, it looks like XA-1.0 may very well end up being pressure fed, about half the size originally expected, and using 4 or 5 engines...

~Jon

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #55 on: 06/07/2009 03:47 AM »
Jon, interesting. I always enjoy reading about your progress.

Thanks!  One of these days I need to put up a blog post with some pictures showing how things have evolved.

Quote
We (meaning humanity) have been doing rocket science for a full lifetime now. Clearly, you guys at Masten have learned a lot in these last few years, given how much you've changed your design. What is it about building rockets that is so unpredictable? Are there aspects of the science (or the art) that don't communicate well from team to team, so they have to be perpetually re-learned? Are there facts, or tools, or histories that, in retrospect, would have minimized the amount of tinkering you needed to do? Or is it just that your goals are so different from previous projects that you really were exploring a whole new subspace of rocketry?

A little bit of all of those.  While there are a few decent introductory texts in the field, none of them are really good enough to teach a rookie how to build a rocket vehicle.  You can learn a lot historically, but most of the really useful information (especially the "why did they take this approach instead of the other" bits) are proprietary or hard to find.  Those "why's" are very important, because sometimes the reason is no longer valid (due to changing technology), or based on bad luck (you'll see one company that absolutely avoids one approach because they had a bad experience with it, while another company uses that approach for almost everything), or based on different goals (we're trying to put reusability and reliability ahead of performance, which goes against typical aerospace practices), or the reason might not actually apply in your situation (it turns out for instance that some of the lessons we learned from XCOR actually cause problems in throttleable engines, so they had to be adapted).  The other problem is that of the very small number of VTVL projects out there, only DC-X has very much information available, and only part of it is relevant to a much smaller, pressure fed LOX/IPA vehicle.

That said, we were a rookie team starting this, and we made our fair share of beginners mistakes.  We probably could've learned better from others' experience, but that also doesn't seem to be a guarantor of success either.  I have a friend who runs another VTVL company, that will only hire industry veterans.  His philosophy is that you study out the options, do the trade studies, come up with *the* correct design, and then you go build it.  Flight testing is only to verify that you did your analysis correct.  I don't know.  Maybe that approach actually works if you have enough cash and have an experienced enough group.  But I think that especially when it comes to newer things like RLVs, that humanity as a whole doesn't know how to do them properly yet, and that it is still going to be a learning experience...and for a team like ours, we definitely do try to learn from others wherever we can, but I'm no longer cocky enough to think that even if there is *a* correct design that I'd be able to come at it any way other than via lots of hardware iterations.

Did that even remotely come close to answering your question?

~Jon

Offline Jose

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 176
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #56 on: 06/07/2009 03:16 PM »
Not speaking for Harlan, I found it very informative and well-written.  Thanks.



Offline Swatch

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 272
  • Official Aerospace Engineer as of June 13th, 2009
  • Cincinnati
    • ProjectApollo/NASSP: Virtual Systems and Flight Simulation of the Apollo Program
  • Liked: 23
  • Likes Given: 16
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #57 on: 06/07/2009 05:51 PM »
This last page of responses have been REALLY interesting!

Hi Jon,

You said you've moved from pump fed engines to pressure fed...
Do you eventually want to go back to pump fed or do you feel confident pressure fed won't limit you in the long run?

Also, how much fun is it doing rocket science?  (I just finished my last year of college, so this is 'research' on my career as of 1 week from now)  ;)
Ex-Rocket Scientist in Training, now Rocket Scientist!
M-F trying to make the world of the future a smaller place through expanding horizons...

Offline Harlan

  • Member
  • Posts: 46
  • Liked: 9
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #58 on: 06/07/2009 09:56 PM »
Did that even remotely come close to answering your question?

Speaking for myself, yes, thank you!

It's really to a treat to be in an era where there are a number of small, relatively open teams working on these problems. (Versus two or three large secrecy-obsessed nations...)

Online jongoff

  • Recovering Rocket Plumber/Space Entrepreneur
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 5993
  • Lafayette/Broomfield, CO
  • Liked: 1946
  • Likes Given: 669
Re: Masten Space Systems Update
« Reply #59 on: 06/08/2009 02:18 PM »
This last page of responses have been REALLY interesting!

Thanks!  Though Michael may be a bit annoyed with me discussing things here instead of on the company blog.

Quote
You said you've moved from pump fed engines to pressure fed...
Do you eventually want to go back to pump fed or do you feel confident pressure fed won't limit you in the long run?

We are interested in trying out pumps in the medium-term, but it's looking like they aren't necessary to reach 100-200km.  In other words, once we have the money to start work on them again on the side, we'll do them in parallel with our main vehicle development program.  If we can have them ready soon enough they might be brought on for the actual XA-1.0 vehicle, or maybe they'll end up being rolled in somewhere between there and XA-1.5...

Quote
Also, how much fun is it doing rocket science?  (I just finished my last year of college, so this is 'research' on my career as of 1 week from now)  ;)

Fun enough to help me put up with occasional high levels of ambiguity about things like paychecks.  :-)

Seriously though, it's a lot of fun.  There are plenty of good rocket companies out there, but this is one of the few where I not only get to design rockets (as well as propellant tanks, valves, and a host of other things), but I also get to test them and fly them.  And the group is small enough (4 FTEs, 1 part-timer, and 1 intern) that I get a lot of say in things (for better or for worse).

~Jon

Tags: