Wednesday, March 21, 2007

For Those Just Arriving...

...Welcome to our blog. Since RLV News has posted a link to this blog and our main site is down temporarily, I thought I'd provide a quick explanation of our project.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) Rocket Project is:
-composed of about 2 dozen undergraduate engineering students in Vancouver, Canada
-developing a rocket that is designed to ultimately reach 100km altitude and be reusable
-planning for first flight to >30,000 ft in October, with incrementally faster and higher flights to follow

The vehicle, Aurora 1, will feature:
-kerosene/lox bi-prop with 1500lbs thrust and augmented spark igniter
-primarily aluminum structure, modular to accomodate different flight configurations
-drag brake/parachute recovery
-microprocessor-based avionics system to control propulsion and recovery systems
-semi-mobile launch platform

To date, we have:
-completed structural design - currently procuring materials
-completed engine design - currently solid modelling
-completed recovery system design - currently sourcing materials
-completed several high power rocket flights using commercially procured solid motors
-completed a wind tunnel model - currently setting it up in the wind tunnel
-nearly completed launch platform design - waiting for wind tunnel results
-raised around $15,000 in grants from the university and over $4,000 of in-kind donations from sponsors

If you have questions or suggestions, please post them in the comments section. Be sure to come back often!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Engine Test Site Update

A quick update on our progress with the engine test stand.

Basically, we are trying to build a 15' x 15' concrete blockhouse on campus in order to test the engine. Sponsors have already agreed to donate most of the materials for the blockhouse, so now it's just a matter of getting the appropriate permissions.

The general steps are:

1) Make a proposal (includes things like purpose, drawings, environmental impact, proposed location, possible alternatives, etc). For the test site, this is roughly 20 pages.

2) Have the proposal reviewed by the Campus & Community (C&C) Planning Review Board for viability. They raise a bunch of concerns that have to be addressed, then if you can convince them that you're taking care of these concerns, they will pass you on to the next step. Concepts like sustainability, noise, aesthetics, and spill containment come to mind. Generally they're there to make sure you've thought of everything.

3) Have the proposal reviewed by the Development people and get a Development Permit.

4) Apply for and get a building permit. This is done with the Permits & Inspections Department of C&C Planning.

To date:

First meeting with the Review Board. Am working on addressing their concerns, next meeting March 29, when I hope to get their approval to move on to step 3.

I am currently working with Rick from Fire Prevention Services and Eddie from C&C Planning (he's the chief building official) to make sure that we satisfy the requirements for getting our building permit. This includes a Fire Safety Plan, as well as ensuring that the building meets the appropriate codes. The overall design will have to be reviewed and approved by a P.Eng with experience in these matters; I am hoping to find an appropriate P.Eng amongst our campus professors.

My goal is to have the C&C Planning Review Board approve the concept on March 29, then move through steps 3 & 4 during April. This includes getting a Development permit, getting proper drawings made, gettinga P.Eng to review them and approve, creating a fire safety plan and having it reviewed by Fire Prevention Services, then get a building permit. My hope is that all this can be done by the end of April, with construction starting in May. All this will mean that we will be about 3 months behind what I had predicted - but I had no idea that a block house would take 3 months to get approved!

Should we fail to get the block house approved, we will be looking at other sites off campus. Powertech Labs has facilities for blowing up compressed natural gas cylinders - the structures they use are also, in essence, concrete bunkers. These facilities are pretty far from campus, but might be a suitable backup option if we can't build our own.

Launch Systems Update

The 3/10th (previously ~1/4th) scale model is complete and mounted in the large boundary layer wind tunnel. Final model checking, sensor setup, and wind tunnel calibration will be done on Thursday. We expect to use test data to determine the rocket's aerodynamic stability margin, used primarily to size the fins and size the launch rail. If the test reveals that our rocket is unstable beyond a certain point we will start planning for the construction of a thrust control system.
Pictures of the scale model wind tunnel tests will (hopefully) be posted Friday.