Mining for Rockets. Or, 400mph Lawn Darts.

We’ve posted about the desert search for errant rockets, and finally we have closure.

The Miners, along with Harry Steel and Michel Fathallah from the University of Sydney, covered well over a square mile of scorching desert floor and ravines in search for rocket 28A. Two days of systematically covering the San Rafael desert, sometimes as late as dusk, did turn up five competitors’ rockets, but just a few paint scraps of S&T’s Hyperion. It was as if the missile had left earth for good.
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Facing a 1,300-mile trip back to Rolla, it was time to give up and head home. Harry and Michel only had to drive back to Las Vegas so Harry, a cross between Lawrence of Arabia and a gazelle, gave it one more try. Just “going for a walk,” as he put it.

The Miners’ caravan was nearly three hours east when they got the text; Harry thought he’d found Hyperion! No question in the group’s mind but they had to see for real, so it was an immediate U-turn back to Green River. A quick lunch/planning session and another 20 miles out into the scrub, far past the launch base camp and well into 4WD terrain.

They left the truck on a ridge and hiked another 600 yards south, through two dry creek beds to the GPS coordinates. Just yards from where they found paint-chip remnants was a little piece of aluminum tape sticking out of the sand, still attached to the base of the rocket.
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The nine-foot-tall rocket sustainer burrowed into the sand like a 400 mph acupuncture needle; didn’t even disturb the surface, and it looked like it’d take an archeology major to recover it. Or a pair of shovels, which Jill Davis and Kyle Bruer had the foresight to borrow back in town.

The four engineers-to-be dug a trench sideways into the hillside, then turned to scooping out sand by hand to make sure they didn’t discard any critical payload or data components.
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It didn’t take long to realize the nose cone stopped about 5 feet down, while the payload components were still moving very fast. The rocket motors, vacuum chamber, main parachute and assorted hardware were crushed into a mangled mess of steel, wire, circuits, batteries and plywood. The Aussie’s satellite? Fuggedaboutit. Nose cone? Shattered. Metal rocket tube? Mushroomed like a bullet hitting concrete. Composite tube? Telescoped into itself, then disintegrated.
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They foursome sifted through everything, looking for critical data cards which could help the autopsy. Miraculously they found a nearly-intact video camera and recovered the SD card, and they hope someone on campus can recover the flight images.

Some three hours into the “mining” they hit bedrock and, not finding any more rocket shreds, called it a day. They cleaned up the site and buried the debris in the hole from whence it came. And then drove home to Rolla.

In a few weeks they’ll carefully to peel apart the mess to see why the second stage didn’t light.

Or, as everyone said at Saturday’s all-team picnic, “NEXT year!”

Launch the Rocket. Look for the Rocket.

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Becomes kind of a monotonous cycle. Each launching salvo consists of two to five rockets lined up on the pad. There’s roughly a 10-minute gap between each vehicle blasting off and the next, an interval that assures everything has returned to … [Continue reading]

Who Knew a Rocket Launch Could Be Such a Hassle?

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It’s been 18 hours since Hyperion lifted off from the dusty surface of the San Rafael Desert, and there’s still no sign of the upper stage and its payload experiments. Chief engineer Kyle Bruer has been leading a search party since late this … [Continue reading]

In Rocket Parlance, it’s Called an “Event.”

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Rocket science has its own language. For those raised in the decades of the space race, we had one-, two-, or three-stage rockets. A booster is still a booster, but the second stage is now called a “sustainer.” Whatever. A rocket flight “event” … [Continue reading]

Dawn in the Desert

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It’s just after sunset on Day #3 of the Intercollegiate Engineering Rocket Competition and Missouri S&T’s HPER Rocket Team has been out scouring the San Rafael Desert for the rocket sustainer (second stage) of their errant launch vehicle. More … [Continue reading]

We Interrupt This Card Game for a Few Rocket Launches.

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There's lots of downtime at a rocket event. Rockets fly in salvos maybe an hour apart, so there's plenty of time to sit in the shade and play cards. But when the countdown comes over the PA system everyone steps outside to watch. As short as … [Continue reading]

College Engineering Humor at its Finest

Facebook has become the method of choice to get the word out about what you are doing, so follow this group (and other Missouri S&T design teams) on FB. It's uh, different. Hyperion is the HPER team's 2015 launch vehicle, and the students … [Continue reading]

Pre-flight Briefings

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Day 1 at IREC is all about getting organized, starting with an all-hands-on-deck briefing about safety, judging, safety, outreach, safety, launch procedures, safety, rocket recovery operations, and more safety. The rest of the morning was … [Continue reading]

Rockets Away!!

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Members of the Missouri S&T High Power Engineered Rocket (HPER) Design Team will be the next generation of rocket scientists, and they’ve moved up in class and complexity this year by entering the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition … [Continue reading]

It’s Late. Missouri S&T’s Two Formula Teams are Bone Tired but Happy.

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In S&T’s first Formula Electric event, the Miners didn’t make it on to the track, but they had lots of company. Of the fifteen or so electric vehicles on site only three or four passed tech inspections. Of that group, only two attempted the … [Continue reading]