Sunday, May 24, 2009


For several weeks in May, Rivers seniors embark on self-directed independent study projects that can involve anything from volunteering at a soup kitchen to running a marathon. Over the next few weeks, we will be periodically checking in with a handful of students to learn more about their experiences. Today, we hear from Ian Brownstein, who is working on fulfilling his level I and II certification for rocketry.

Since the completion of my Mini BBX rocket I have been preparing it for its inaugural launch. The rockets electronic parachute ejection system and its electronic upper stage motor ignition system have been the cause of the majority of my problems. The company that sells and produces the rocket, Public Missiles Ltd., no longer sells the igniters necessary to use these systems. I have gone through dozens of online rocketry suppliers and have only found one that sells the necessary component for both of these systems. Sadly the parts may not reach me until mid-June because they are HAZMAT materials but even this wait will not delay my launch date scheduled for mid-July.

I have also begun working on my second rocket, the Tiny Pterodactyl, which is a two-foot tall rocket that can achieve transonic speeds (almost the speed of sound). I am hoping to break the sound barrier by preparing the rocket to hold a recently released motor that is bigger than those previously tested on the rocket but will still fit into the motor mount. To prepare it for this type of flight I am going to fiberglass the entire rocket using a cloth that, when mixed with epoxy, dries into a fiberglass material. I am planning epoxying the rocket tonight and fiberglassing it tomorrow but the completed rocket should look like the image below (which is the rocket fully assembled without epoxy to test that the parts all fit together correctly).

In addition I traveled to Vermont last Thursday to test out my new launch pad with a rocket I built last summer. Although I lost the rocket in an unexpected wind, the pad worked beautifully shooting the rocket at an almost perfect trajectory while only sustaining minimal burn marks, which traditional pads suffer from after every launch. I once had a pad that sustained so may of these burns that the bottom of the pad had a 2-inch diameter hole by the time I retired it. A video of the launch is at the top of my post with a few comments from those who witnessed the flight from a different edge of the field.

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