The J Curve

Saturday, October 01, 2005

XPRS: Big Rockets in the Black Rock Desert

"In terms of sheer coolness, few things beat rocketry."
— Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder

I just had the most exciting weekend of my life.

For those who are not subscribers to my unified Feedburner RSS feed, the links here are to the relevant photos and commentary.

There was a steady stream of high power rockets, all day and into the night. Their roar quickens the pulse. Especially when they fall from the sky as supersonic lawn darts, shred fins at Mach 2, or go unstable and become landsharks. I had been warned about what happens when a supersonic rocket meets a Chevy Suburban.

The Hybrid Nitrous Oxide rockets and Mercury Joe scale model had glorious launches. To get my L1 Certification for high power rocketry, I had to build a rocket and H-size motor, and then successfully recover them after launch. I also tested my rocket videocam and GPS and altimeter systems.

Black Rock Desert in Nevada is the only place in the country with an FAA waiver to shoot up 100,000 feet, way beyond the end of the atmosphere.

I was camping with a member of the 100K team. It is a beautiful rocket, but this weekend a software bug brought the upper stage back to earth as a supersonic ground-penetrating “bunker buster” that tunneled and blasted a cave 14 feet under ground.

My inner child can’t wait for the next one…


  • This is a wicked cool rocket:

    1/16th scale model (working) of a Soviet N-1, which I believe was to be their moonshot rocket. Pretty amazing

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 PM  

  • Awesome link! That’s quite a project.

    I just posted a video of a supersonic shred on Revver. The rocket screamed to Mach 2 on a L-size motor, and the pressure wave ripped the fins off, making it temporarily unstable (corkscrew). You can hear the warning siren (something I was used to hearing by that point =) and the chatter of people spotting the fins and other chunks as they rained down around us. A classic URD – “Unscheduled Rapid Disassembly”.

    Other videos:
    • A Russian Roar ending with “Remember, mortgage before motors.”

    • Big Rocket with N2000 motor

    Videocam on Rocket launched near Stanford (also at Livermore & a dragrace of 2 rockets)

    • My first launch… with Baking Soda & Vinegar


    By Blogger Steve Jurvetson, at 11:23 AM  

  • Steve..

    Just wondering.. have you come across this story on the

    Soyuz 18 flight log.. by Brian Harvey

    By Blogger sarchi, at 5:03 PM  

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