What a busy weekend! It is not often I have the pleasure of working with another VSA! Myself, Alex Coco, and the rest of the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory traveled over 13 hours to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to the largest dry lake bed in the world with high hopes of becoming the first student organization into space! With three designated flight windows, we were sure to meet our objective and accomplish goals dating back to the founding of the lab.
Included in my 14 hour, Thursday morning drive involved a 2 hour Costco shopping spree with the intent of buying enough food to feed 65 hungry mouths. It was single-handedly the largest food purchase I have made in my life! When we finally arrived onto the desert, we got a good night’s rest and tackled Friday refreshed at a brisk 6:00 AM pace. The usual bustle on launch days was now replaced with an odd calm. We all had our tasks to complete and could work efficiently to integrate all the components of the rocket together. I was so excited, this was the day the lab had waited for. A culmination of work over 4 years had placed me within reach of accomplishing the lab’s founding goal.
Out on the desert, I worked on the Propulsion Team to ensure the motor integration went smoothly and the proper safety precautions were taken. Once the motor was integrated, I worked on designing the igniters for the rocket. It is an awesome feeling, working and hanging out with other passionate engineers looking to make history. While working we experienced over 30 mph winds, dust storms, and rain! Despite this, we were finally ready to launch! In order to do so, there must be clear skies in case the rocket returned, ballistic to Earth, and no visible in or outbound traffic. Of course, upon inspection, it was cloudy, and a train was visibly making its way along the base of the mountains. With one eye on the moving train, one eye looking for a break in the clouds, and another eye on our flight window, we finally got the “Okay, to launch” signal from the Federal Aviation Administration! Traveler took to the skies!
From the Operations Trailer, the view was spectacular as Rocket Propulsion Laboratory alumni and current team leads took a moment to marvel at their work. However, Traveler’s flight was cut short, preventing it from reaching the Von Karman line, marking the edge of space. I was disappointed, but knew we learned a great deal from the launch and am much more confident the next (very soon) launch may in fact place us in the history books as the first student organization in the world to reach space.
I could go on and on about the interesting and fun times I experienced while with Rocket Lab and in the desert for launches, but I must cut this segment short. I have a deadline to meet–I am currently machining the rocket fins for Traveler 2.0!
(Propulsion Team: UP, UP, & AWAY)