May 20, 2002

CPSS Launches and Flies Back Two StarBoosters in a 3-Rocket Configuration

Fresno, CA - Cal Poly Space Systems (CPSS) rocket club from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo succesfully launched and recovered a three-rocket cluster with two glideback boosters and a centerstage on May 19, 2002 at "Dairy Air" near Fresno, California.

Pictured at left is the rocket on ascent. The data-transmitting antenna is visible bending in the wind coming out of the back/top of the yellow StarBooster about halfway up the body from the tail. [Photo by Jeff Engelman.]

The rocket system, consisting of two 5-foot StarBoostersTM (yellow and green - Cal Poly colors) strapped to a center stage (white), represents a step on the path to ubiquitous reusable launch vehicles. It lifted off the pad powered by a single Aerotech L-850 motor in the center stage.

At apogee after a nearly perfect vertical ascent, the onboard altimeter measured +2073 feet and the pressurized CO2 charge to separate the vehicles was released. At this point, the two StarBoosters were on their own, each under remote radio control by pilots on the ground. Shortly after separation, the parachute on the center white stage was ejected and that segment drifted in as focus shifted to the yellow and green StarBoosters.

The flight of the green StarBooster was relatively short lived as it was headed in the direction of the crowd. The pilot initiated the parachute ejection, and it floated safely to the ground.

The flight of the yellow StarBooster lasted considerably longer. The pilot pulled the vehicle up into horizontal flight and had positive control the entire flight, though it proved somewhat sensitive to roll control and performed a few rolls during its flight. The booster was carrying about $2000 worth of electronics which captured data throughout the flight. The data was transmitted to the ground in realtime, and will be analyzed to reconstruct the entire flight trajectory. Unfortunately, during the intensity of the flight, the pilot hit the switch that ejected the parachute slightly too late (about 50 feet off the ground), and the landing was rather hard at about 45 degrees. The nosecone took most of the impact, with only superficial damage to the body. The separation mechanism, the electronics and the control surfaces were intact and the rocket can easily be repaired for another launch.

Pictured at right, CPSS members work on installing the electronics in the yellow StarBooster. The R-DAS (Rocket Data Aquisition System) included GPS, three axis rate gyros and three axis accelerometers, as well as standard pressure and temperature sensors.

At left are two pictures of this May 19, 2002 liftoff.

The StarBooster is a reusable fly-back booster concept conceived by StarCraft Boosters, Inc. and designed to act as dual first stage boosters to a separate center stage that carries a payload to orbit. CPSS demonstrated the airworthiness of a single 10-foot StarBooster model (1/3 scale) last May (see May 2001 story), and had already launched two three-foot cluster models in December, 2001 (story) and March of this year.

CPSS Contacts:
Dr. Dianne DeTurris, CPSS Advisor and StarBooster Project Principal Investigator, 805-756-1515
Trevor Foster, CPSS StarBooster Project Manager, 805-431-9740