Cal Poly Space Systems Launches Double StarBooster ConfigurationSan Luis Obispo, CA - The Cal Poly Space Systems (CPSS) rocket club of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo entered the next testing phase of its StarBooster program by launching a dual-StarBooster configuration. The StarBooster is a reusable fly-back booster conceived by StarCraft Boosters, Inc. and designed to act as dual strap-on boosters to a separate center stage that would go on to orbit. CPSS demonstrated the airworthiness of a single 10-foot StarBooster model during last school year's efforts (see May 2001 story), and is now tackling the complications of modeling the ultimate 3-piece design.
The rocket, consisting of two 3-foot StarBoosters (red and blue) strapped to a center stage (white), lifted off the pad powered by the single motor in the center stage. Moments later, the two StarBooster engines were "air started". Only two of the three engine plumes are clearly visible in the picture. The third was indeed active, just obscured from view (actually, upon close inspection, a faint orange can be seen through the smoke beneath the blue StarBooster). This portion of the flight successfully demonstrated the stability of the configuration during liftoff and the early moments of the flight. The rocket did experience some deviation from "straight and true" which will be studied to determine the cause (assymetric engine thrust/timing, assymetric lift from the wings, etc.).
The pyrotechnics designed to release the StarBoosters at apogee did not fire. Fortunately, the parachute had been sized with this eventuality in mind, so the entire rocket configuration glided safely back to earth as a single unit. Initial inspection suggests that a wire to the pyrotechnic charges had come loose under the g-loads of the liftoff.
The patriotic color scheme also had a practical design intent. Had the StarBoosters separated as planned, the remote-control pilot of each unit would have had to be able to readily spot the StarBooster he was controlling. Color differentiation was important.
CPSS expects to launch this configuration again early in 2002.
Dr. Dianne DeTurris, CPSS Advisor and StarBooster Project Principal Investigator, 805-756-1515
Trevor Foster, CPSS StarBooster Project Manager, 805-431-9740