This past weekend, I traveled with the USC Rocket Lab to the desert in Black Rock, Nevada (the largest stretch of flatland in America) to attend an event known as BALLS. At BALLS, a group of amateur rocketeers gather once a year to show off the rockets that they have been working on. Rockets ranged from 4 feet to 20 feet, and reached altitudes between 20,000 feet and 100,000 feet!

While the drive up took 14 hours, it went by fast since I was asleep for 12 of them (that’s what happens when you pull an all-nighter in the name of building rockets!). The drive took us through many of the different regions in California and allowed for a little bit of site seeing on the way up. My favorite part of the trip was driving just past Sacramento through the forests and mountatins: the view was incredible!


Once we did get to Black Rock, we set up our camping gear, hung out around a campfire, and then went to bed. The next day, we woke up early in the morning and setup our rocket and launch tower so that others can come by and look at it.

Our 30 feet launch tower: the largest structure we've ever built

Our rocket Traveler in its launch tour.

Conversely, we started roaming the line of trailers to check out everyone else’s rocket. The most interesting one to me was the one that had a hybrid motor (both solid and liquid propellant). It was also cool to see all of the launches but sad that we couldn’t launch as well. Unfortunately, in order for us to launch our rocket, we needed an FAA waiver which we could not receive. But we still received a lot of good insight from all of the people there as to how we can improve our fabrication methods.

We continued to socialize with each other and goof off (doing donuts in the desert are the best) throughout the day and night. Sunday morning, it was time to pack everything up and make the trek back to Los Angeles. The next time we head back to the desert, we’re gong to space!

Everyone packed up and getting ready to leave