22 miles straight up in 90 seconds

Those little Estes rockets you built as a kid just got blown out of the water.

In response to the Carmack Prize to launch an amateur rocket above 100,000 feet, [Derek Deville] and the rest of the Qu8k team launched a 320 pound, 14-foot-long rocket through 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Unlike our little toy rockets from years ago, more than half of the entire rocket is fuel. This isn’t a plastic or salami-powered hybrid rocket, though. It’s an entirely solid fuel rocket. The fuel grain is specially made for this rocket in a cylinder-with-fins shape that ensures an even burn through the entire flight.

The payload included 2 timers, an accelerometer, a cosmic ray detector (check out the Geiger tube) and 4 GPS units required of the Carmack Prize. The video from the on-board camera shows a fantastic flight, only partially obscured by the plastic aeroshroud that melted when the rocket was going about Mach 3.

Videos of the entire flight and a ‘highlights’ reel are available after the break.


Comments

  1. Alex says:

    Wow!

  2. that1guy says:

    I’m going to imagine there’s some kind of cool inspirational October-Sky-style back story here.

  3. Charlie says:

    Totally awesome!! Congratulations on a perfect flight!!

  4. Chris says:

    How much did something like this cost? That is absolutely INSANE.

  5. Pup says:

    I’d love to check out their website but it’s absolutely overloaded with huge images that blow up my browser. >_>

  6. mikuslaw says:

    I’m speechless. That looks really professional and the amount of design and planning that had to go into that several minutes of flight had to be enormous.

  7. The Cageybee says:

    That might just be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

    Take off reminded me so much of a SAM launching. Wow, just wow.

    Would love to see a vid with the telemetry data super imposed.

  8. maloushe says:

    “through 99% of the earth’s atmosphere”

    Measured how?!

    • Aaron says:

      99% of the diametrical thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere, which is to say, 99% of the distance between defined sea level and the defined point at which Earth’s atmosphere ceases.

      Sheesh. Pedants…

    • Jon Neal says:

      I can’t reply to your other post due to nesting limits, but the rocket went into the thermosphere (which starts at 80km).

    • Taylor Alexander says:

      I imagined it was by total atmospheric mass – since once you get up high there’s plenty of linear distance before the end of the atmosphere, but almost all of the mass of the atmosphere is beneath you (in the spherical shell beneath you, that is).

      But I imagined that because I know thats the most impressive sounding metric, and its the best way to make something sound better. Perhaps this was such a badass achievement they didn’t need any fluffy verbiage to make it sound better.

  9. PoisonWaffle says:

    Wow, that’s incredible! The clarity of the HD cameras just makes it so… stunning, I guess.

    Major props to these guys. That must have been a massive undertaking, and the results of it are nothing short of incredible.

    The speed on that, though… wow. Goddard barely even got close to mach 1… these guys just blew past it and kept on going.

    Very well built, well executed, and well documented.

    Great work, guys!

    • cjameshuff says:

      This is an impressive project, but Robert Goddard was probably quite familiar with similar rockets, having used solid rockets in his work on rocket nozzles. He started working with liquid fueled rockets because of the limitations of solid fuel rockets like this one. It’s easy to get large amounts of thrust out of a solid rocket, but solid fuels can not come close to the efficiency of liquid fuels. Goddard’s work was largely centered around the engines and control of the vehicle…he unfortunately severely lacked funding for building large rockets for most of his career.

      The cameras, GPS, etc though…that would have impressed him. Or even just the simplest of the electronics…control was a problem in early rockets, often using mechanical timers and such that caused all sorts of problems. James Van Allen came up with a true hack in the 1950s when his balloon-lofted sounding rockets kept failing to fire…he figured the cold was causing the clockwork timers to freeze up, so he put heated-up cans of orange juice in the gondola and wrapped it with insulation…blankets, IIRC.

  10. Gorgeous! Beautiful! This was a dream of mine while I was still in middle school. To see that it is actually possible to do it with a homemade rocket makes me feel all warm inside.

    Thank you so much!

  11. DjKiDD says:

    Those GoPro cameras are amazing

  12. Hotrodder says:

    I wonder how fast a 1200lb car would go with 4 of those rocket motor’s within the 1/4 mile…

    • Suidae says:

      Disregarding wind resistance and mass changes due to fuel mass loss, a 1200 pound car would be accelerated in about 2.5 seconds to about 720 mph in a quarter mile.

      Wind resistance is probably pretty stiff though, so it would probably take a bit longer than 2.5 seconds to actually get up to those speeds.

      Also, most cars aren’t really designed for the sorts of wind loads that near-mach travel presents or for 13g acceleration, so you may encounter some, ah, call them ‘structural integrity deficiencies’ very shortly after ignition.

      • nicodemus says:

        That’s why you build it into a Delorean. The stainless steel body has a beneficial effect on the flux dispersal.

      • Hotrodder says:

        Awesome – maybe my thought of 4 rockets was a little over the top. I figured that after looking at the rocket data in a bit more detail…

        2 motors should be capable of 300+mph, low 4 / high 3 second passes over the standing quarter – should be enough to take the current record of 386mph in 3.5 seconds set by Sammy Miller with a Hydrogen Peroxide rocket car.

  13. kiran says:

    awesome stuff, how far is outer space from there??

  14. Cricri says:

    After a lot of pointless contraptions that people make “because they can”, I’m glad I keep on checking HaD to see this gem: simply amazing, congrats to all those involved!

  15. hmbemis says:

    FANTASTIC!

  16. anyone says:

    need moar rocket posts like this

  17. smoketester says:

    Bravo!! I love it when a plan comes together:)

  18. wardy says:

    I was expecting all kinds of shaky video, dropouts, bad sound and ultimately a disappointing end. None of those things are present in this video.

    Absolutely wonderful to behold. This really gives you a feel for how tiny our planet is and also how beautiful.

    An amazing achievement – something to tell the grandkids about for sure.

  19. Microguy says:

    Now THAT is impressive!
    Too bad people like Von Braun and Goddard were not around to see stuff like this. They would have been thoroughly impressed also.

  20. ejonesss says:

    in today’s day in age with terrorism on everyone’s mind you probably need some serious permits to use the rocket.

  21. Niru says:

    Good enough for me. :)

  22. Oscar says:

    This was extremely entertaining to watch. What an accomplishment.

  23. John M says:

    The next time he should lift the launch platform to near 100,000 ft using some sort of weather balloon array and then launch the rocket. Ignoring the logistics of having a successful launch, perhaps space would then be attainable..

  24. Tweeks says:

    John M:
    All sounds fine and dandy, but in a rarefied or non-existent atmosphere, rocket stabilization becomes a bit more problematic since fins do little to no good for rocket stabilization. So you’re left with either vectored thrust (or vectoring jets) or some sort of gyroscopic stabilization. Neither of which is non-trivial.

    Lots of folks are flying high power now. We just started up a HP group here in western VA:

    http://nrvr.org/photos/2011-09-10-11_NRVR-VAST-Launch-WEB/

    Here’s a cool on-rocket HP video from the big 12foot rocket we launched on an L2300 motor:

    http://nrvr.org/photos/2011-09-10-11_NRVR-VAST-Launch-WEB/2011-09-10-11_nrvr-vast-launch/dscf6298m_flv.jpeg.html

    The only diff between that rocket (going a mile up) and one going 22 miles up is thrust:weight ratio (more oompf) and burn time. Burn long enough with at least a 5:1 ratio and you’ll eventually pass mach and get way up there.

    Tweeks

  25. kevin mcguigan says:

    Where was the launch site? It looks like the dry lake bed between Las vegas and Searchlight Nevada.

  26. DainBramage1991 says:

    Very cool, excellent engineering work indeed! And was that APRS they were using to locate the rocket afterward?

  27. A Mees says:

    It landed only 3 miles from the launch site! Unbelievably good! When I was a kid, my Estes rockets would fly 500 ft up and a mile out! I lost more than I retrieved.

  28. NavyMech says:

    WOW! Got a ton of attention in the shop tonight with this video. How much did that motor cost and who built it? Thanks for posting this!

  29. VEC7OR says:

    Kerbal space center anyone ?

  30. DudeGuy says:

    Awesome

  31. Galane says:

    Why the camera shield melted was because they ran out of time to make a cast metal version so they put the 3D printed plastic one on. I would’ve just said, “Give me a ball peen hammer, a piece of sheet metal, a small anvil and a drill.” and banged out a usable shield in a few minutes, with holes to attach it using the same fasteners their fancy part was planned to use.

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