May 23, 2001

Cal Poly Space Systems Successfully Flies 10-foot StarBooster Model

On Sunday, May 20, 2001, the Cal Poly Space Systems (CPSS) club successfully launched a 10-foot demonstration model of StarCraft Boosters, Inc.'s "StarBooster", a next-generation reuseable launch vehicle, at "Dairy Aire 2001", an annual model rocket launch held at Maddox Farms southwest of Fresno, CA. The club is under contract with NASA to model this particular design. CPSS is based at the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

The 10-foot, 80-pound (take-off weight), 12-inch diameter rocket was propelled by an Aerotech M1939 motor. At apogee, the pilot took control (remotely from the ground, of course) based on verbal feedback from an observer with binoculars. At this point, the rocket was about 3500 feet up. When the rocket pitched over "at the top" it passively dumped about 2 gallons of water ballast (pictured at right is the rocket being "watered"), thus moving the somewhat forward center of gravity for rocket configuration to a more rearward center of gravity for glider configuration. With propellant spent and water dumped, the vehicle now weighed less than 70 pounds.

The now-glider vehicle was allowed to dive for a short period in order to gain airspeed, at which time the pilot successfully pulled it out of the dive and flew it in a horizontal position, including a beautiful 360-degree slow turn. Then another dive was executed to regain airspeed, and once again, the pilot successfully pulled out of the dive and flew horizontally for another short period.

At this point, the vehicle was below the planned minimum altitude of about 1500 feet, so the parachute ejection was initiated from the ground. The rear-deployed drogue chute pulled out the main, and the StarBooster floated to the ground where it sustained minimal damage on a nose-in impact.

Being the third flight at this scale and configuration, the rocket was numbered 2001C.

Visit the CPSS web site where details and photos will become available as processed over the next few days/weeks. A 1-minute-40-second mpeg video (8.7 megs) of the successful flight from launch to landing is available at their web site. Pictures on this page were taken during preparation the day before (Saturday, May 19, 2001), except for the picture below which is of the actual launch on May 20th. The launch on Saturday was aborted on the pad when the drogue chute prematurely ejected.

Dr. Dianne DeTurris, CPSS Advisor and StarBooster Project Principal Investigator, 805-756-1515
Paul Barthel, CPSS President, 805-786-0153
Trevor Foster, CPSS StarBooster Project Manager, 805-431-9740

[See December 8, 2001 launch of a dual-Starbooster configuration.]