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Space

Brian Walker (aka Rocket Guy) Fires Back 340

Last week, you asked "Rocket Guy" Brian Walker questions about his quest for a taste of space, which he's carrying out the old-fashioned way: by building a rocket and recovery vehicle in his backyard. He's gotten back to us, despite a heavy schedule including a talk for the American Institute of Aerospace and Astronautics, with answers to the 11 questions we sent over, so read on below before you start sketching your private launch facility.

1) Exotic Fuels
by cybrpnk2

Amateur rockets don't get to space or orbit because they're generally limited to low specific impulse solid fuels. Is there much of a gain in specific impulse to be obtained by further research into hybrid (ie, plastic/nitrous oxide) propellants? How about exotic chemicals (buckyballs, multi-atomic nitrogen, fluorine for example) - any route for amateur utilization of these?

Brian Walker / Rocket Guy: I am using 90% H2o2 because using it as a monopropellant is the safest method of propulsion for my particular rocket. There is no chance of a catastrophic explosion or fire. This alone eliminates about one half of all standard problems that are encountered for any rocket flight.

2) operational testing?
by Nehemiah S

What kind of testing have you done for your design(s)? Wind tunnel tests, computational fluid dynamics, flying scale models, etc? I've also noticed that your design has changed considerably since the first time you were featured on Slashdot, and as an aerospace engineer myself it would be interesting to know what your design criteria were and how you arrived at them.

RG: My design has changed because I do not profess to be an aeronautical engineer of any sort, and as I have proceeded, I have allowed myself to make the necessary changes resulting in a better design. A number of people have a called me on several design concerns, and I listened. As for wind tunnel tests and the like, no. The rocket is near perfect in its shape, and for what I require it to do (go up and down in a relatively stable manner), it is fine.

3) Cowboy hat?
by micromoog

In case something goes wrong, are you planning to take with you a large ten-gallon cowboy hat to wave around on reentry?

RG: No, I'll be wearing a space suit, and a cowboy hat would not be a wise fashion accessory.

4) What about John Carmack's project?
by tswinzig

Have you discussed rocketry with John Carmack and his friends at Armadillo Aerospace? They plan to eventually fly a manned rocket as well.

RG: Met John in Arizona back in April. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for him. We are opposites -- he is very methodical and is a computer genius. I am not. Between my Dyslexia and ADHD, it was a miracle that I made it through school at all. I simply don't have the same mental drive as Mr. Carmack does, so I do things the way that work best for me, and 18 licensed toys have served me well.

5) Funding vs technology
by Andy_R

How much of your project requires technological innovation on your part, and how much is just a question of raising funding to duplicate existing technology that governments have already researched?

RG: 90% of what I am doing is the result of simple refinement from what has been done, time and again, over the past 50 years or so. Remember, I am not trying to orbit the earth. It is a simple elevator ride for 20 minutes.

6) Rocket Industry Efficiency
by Local Loop

Which parts or subsystems did you make, or have made, yourself, that you wish could have been purchased off the shelf for a reasonable price?

Which parts or subsystems do you think are candidates for standardization in the coming personal rocket industry?

RG: I have purchased (and will purchase) a number of components like parachutes, valves and fluid handling components, and the like. There are a great deal of parts that can be used right-off-the-shelf. As for which parts could become standardized for personal rocketry, I am not really in a position to know.

7) What's Next.
by DA_MAN_DA_MYTH

Say you are successful, and I hope you are. What's next? Do you try it again only higher? Also any plans of donating your rocket to the Smithsonian? This would definitely be considered Air & Space history and be worthy for all to view. Or on the other hand after are you looking for monetary gain? Something like pay 12 bucks to see Rocket guy's Rocket?

RG: I want to move on to a commercial launch operation which would allow a "for profit" venture to begin producing money for future development funds. The first step is "Rocket Skydiving" -- simple, catapult launched giant water rockets that can take a load of skydivers to 15,000 feet in under a minute. This would be safer than airplanes. As time progressed, we would introduce bigger and higher flying rockets, which would eventually allow non-skydivers access to 80-100 thousand foot high flights in small winged return vehicles with pilots. I would be happy to donate my capsule to Smithsonian.

8) Engine Work? by Anonymous Coward

Seems like you've done lots of mockups and landscaping, but I haven't seen any work on the actual engine (other than a single picture of it).

Having seen all the trouble with catalyst packs and such that other projects have had, how come you havn't done any test firings yet?

Have you even tested your pneumatic launcher?

RG: My facilities here are big, and I have had to continue to grow and improve things. "Landscaping" here has been minimal, and for the control of dust more than anything else (the Oregon High Desert is a dusty place). I have 15 rocket motors currently, one 2500 pound thrust motor, 6, 135 pound thrust motors (for capsule separation from fuel tank), and 8, 55 pound thrust motors (for capsule stability/guidance).

I don't know what is being referenced by "all the trouble with catalyst packs..." Peroxide reaction engines have been around for years, and follow specific scientific formulas. Some people are trying to make changes to get higher thrust, etc. As for the launcher, yes, it works perfectly. I have done the tests to demonstrate the amount of "push" it can develop. At 40 psi, it delivers 2000 pounds of push, and when the launch sleeves have cleared the launch tubes, there is only about an 8% loss of volume. As for a full test, there is a catch 22. In order to fully test the launching of an 1100 pound payload, I need to have a fully recoverable system on board, or I will destroy whatever is launched. I am in no hurry to do this test, and will do so when I am ready.

9) future of private industry space travel
by crystalplague

I, like a lot of people, are quite skeptical about the success of your project. However, let us assume that you have launched yourself, everything went perfectly, and you are resting safely back on earth.

What do you think this will do to the future of space travel? Do you think this will set a precedent for the private industry to get involved in space travel?

RG: Regardless of people's skepticism, I am pursuing what is (and has been my dream) for my own purposes. I appreciate the importance that so many other's have placed on this effort, but I would still do it if I was alone and no one was watching. However, due to the number of people who have made comments, I do expect my experience to encourage more private participation in the field of private space industry.

10) Had to be asked...
by Dirk Pitt

How does it feel to be the only person in history preselected for the Darwin Award nominations?

RG: I do not recognize any such nomination. To my understanding, the recipients of past Darwin Awards have been stupid people doing stupid things. My project is not a candidate for such. I am not doing this because i am bored and looking for fame and fortune. On launch day, if I've any inkling that I might not survive, I simply won't go.

11) Legal issues? by crow

Have you ran into any legal issues with your rocketry? Have the government had any significant impact (pro or con)?

RG I recently met with the FAA in DC, and they are very supportive, and want to be in a position of actually being able to issue me a launch license. They have been following my efforts for the past several years, and offered to be of any assistance I need to do things legally. I was very impressed and excited by just how receptive and supportive they were.

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Brian Walker (aka Rocket Guy) Fires Back

Comments Filter:
  • by Ransak ( 548582 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:35PM (#3871932) Homepage Journal
    I recently met with the FAA in DC, and they are very supportive, and want to be in a position of actually being able to issue me a launch license. Anyone else see this coming? A DMV for homebrewed rockets?
  • Hmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by GodHead ( 101109 )
    That about clears up everything, doesn't it.

  • by BRock97 ( 17460 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:42PM (#3871979) Homepage
    Q: In case something goes wrong, are you planning to take with you a large ten-gallon cowboy hat to wave around on reentry?

    A from RG: No, I'll be wearing a space suit, and a cowboy hat would not be a wise fashion accessory.

    Me thinks he completely missed the clever reference to Dr. Strangelove [imdb.com] here. Pitty...
  • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:44PM (#3871990)
    Does this sound like a state fair ride you'd want to take?
    The first step is "Rocket Skydiving" -- simple, catapult launched giant water rockets that can take a load of skydivers to 15,000 feet in under a minute. This would be safer than airplanes.

    "Simple, catapult launched giant water rockets" which you would ride from, say, sea level to 15,000 feet in less than a minute and then jump out of.

    Safer than which "airplanes," exactly?

    • Does this sound like a state fair ride you'd want to take?

      HELL YES!!!!

      The wife probably wouldn't approve, but I'm not sure that would be enough to stop me...

    • Re:Water Rockets?? (Score:3, Informative)

      by skroz ( 7870 )
      Assuming constant acceleration, that'd be almost 3 Gs for sixty seconds. Fairly uncomfortable for the average joe.
    • Re:Water Rockets?? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Blindman ( 36862 )
      I just did a few calculations, and unless my usage of math is way off, travelling a distance of 15,000 feet in 60 seconds corresponds to an average speed of 250 ft/s which should be about 170 mph. I haven't calculated the G forces yet, but it sounds like no one on that water rocket would be able to jump out much less live after the ride. I do recognize that the mortality rate depends more on the accleration than the speed, but for now I'm assuming an impulse.
    • Uh, people jump out of airplanes all of the time. Rocket guy simply thinks that he can get skydivers to 15,000 feet cheaper and safer than the folks with airplanes. Skydivers would probably appreciate that.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    That's the sound of my crackpot detector going off. A lot of the responses sound like he's some perpetual-motion energy machine salesman. "I don't know anything about engineering, all I want to do is make a big rocket. But I don't feel like testing it. And I don't want to do any math. But I've got a theme song!" (paraphrased)

    What the hell, let the guy light his candle, thing will probably fly up 100 feet, flip over, and drive itself into the ground at a good speed. Maybe it'll help convince other people that building manned rocket's should only be done by really smart people with serious engineering expertise and a serious budget.

    • by cnelzie ( 451984 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:54PM (#3872057) Homepage
      ...should have never attempted to build a flying machine. I mean, what were they thinking?

      They didn't have any high-level aerospace engineering degrees, did they? Oh yeah, those didn't exist back then...

      -/-
      • Erm, it's possible to build a plane which is fundamentally stable. Anyone who's built a paper plane can show that. But it is NOT possible to build a rocket that's fundamentally stable. A rocket is fundamentally UNSTABLE, and what keeps it stable is a complicated control system. That control system requires a whole lot of maths to get it right. You ignore that, you go the way of all those rocket demonstration films you see, where it just spirals into the ground at full speed.

        Grab.
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @01:26PM (#3872260)
          At most any toy store you can buy a simple water rocket for about ten bucks. It will have a complex guidence control system commonly refered to as "fins."

          If all you want of your rocket is for it to go up in a vaguely straight line this is all the guidence system you really need.

          Anybody who has scratch built model rockets can demonstrate for you how simple empirical tests can be used to insure aerodynamic stability. Any arrow can demonstrate such stability in practice.

          KFG
        • by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @02:08PM (#3872616)
          Erm, it's possible to build a plane which is fundamentally stable. Anyone who's built a paper plane can show that But it is NOT possible to build a rocket that's fundamentally stable. A rocket is fundamentally UNSTABLE, and what keeps it stable is a complicated control system. That control system requires a whole lot of maths to get it right.

          As long as you're in the atmosphere, it's trivial to build a stable rocket (just put fins near the back; check Estes' model rocket building guide for the detailed CP/CM explanation).

          Outside the atmosphere (above a few tens of kilometres), it still doesn't take more than second-year engineering. You have a device to measure your angle off the vertical (be it a gyro, laser gyro, or a horizon-sensing camera), and you have a classic feedback control system that tries to make that angle zero.

          Two op-amps and 50 cents worth of parts and you have your control system. The trick is making sure it's damped enough not to destabilize itself, but that's not horribly difficult either.

          In summary, as long as you're not trying to do anything complicated, "Rocket Science" isn't as hard as you're painting it.
        • Rockets can easily be made to be aerodynamically stable - control systems are only needed for a rocket that is not aerodynamically stable during flight (ie one that has no fins or is moving too slowly for the fins to correct flight path.
          • Yes, rockets can be aerodynamically stable. But there's a difference between stable and controlled.

            I've had model rockets that were aerodynamically stable, but sure didn't end up where I wanted when a gust of wind came up during the flight. The nose turns into the wind, and the rocket usually lands in a distant tree rather than in the area I had "planned". Granted, it might take a much larger gust of wind to cause the same problem with a full-sized rocket...

    • well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @01:05PM (#3872131) Journal
      Maybe it'll help convince other people that building manned rocket's should only be done by really smart people with serious engineering expertise and a serious budget.

      i would say that he have a "serious" budget...

      remember - private industries doing space travel (or, shoot self up and down in rocket in general) costs magnatudes less than certain budget guzzling government organizations.

      and don't diss on the man because he is not what you consider smart. many mechanics and car tuners (old days, anyhow) knows a lot about practical knowledge without ever finishing high school.

      i think it is much more important that this man is doing something that he really wants to do and puts the dedication and effort behind it. this, i believe, is the smartest thing you can do, because you avoid the "death bed oh i wish i did this and that" syndrom. this action/decision alone is "smarter" than most of the folks out there stuck in their misery ridden lives and keep pushing the things they really wanted to do into tomorrow, and tomorrow again

    • Making a stable rocket isn't all that tough - the aerodynamic theory you need to succeed is pretty basic. Building engines is a little harder but then like he says the information is out there for anybody who wants to find it. So as long as a) his rocket is stable (easily determined), b) his thrust to weight ratio is high enough and c) he doesn't have a catastrophic engine failure it should work fine.
      • by virg_mattes ( 230616 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @03:10PM (#3873106)
        I really don't want to sound insulting, but being a model rocket hobbyist alone does not qualify you as a rocket scientist except in the most basic sense (if you're also an engineer, my apologies). Contrary to your experience, building a stable rocket frame capable of lifting more than 100 pounds is not only not easy, it's never been done. One of the things you're not dealing with is liquid fuel. To find out how hard it is to stabilize that, do this experiment (which I've done several times). Build a 6 foot frame about 2 inches in diameter. Put as much engine on the tail as you wish, and put an eight ounce weight in the nosecone. make the center two feet of the rocket a plastic tank, and half-fill it with water. Then launch. If your rocket gets more than twenty feet off the ground before it falls 20 degrees off launch vector, you can count yourself one heck of a designer (and I'd love to see your tank design). The other thing you're not used to handling is fragile airframes. A cardboard tube doesn't seem like much, but if you want to try building a rocket where the power-to-stress ratios are the same as a full size launch vehicle, build your next rocket out of drinking straws and construction paper. Also, keep in mind that a model rocket turning twenty degrees off its flight vector will fly in the wrong direction, but a full size rocket doing the same thing will generally collapse from the shear force. This is what makes the ability to design a complex guidance system so difficult. He makes no mention of his methods, but someone who does not have any engineering experience cannot typically design a functional gyrobalancing guidance system. Hell, people who are rocket scientists work on these things for years, and most guidance systems are designed for specific frames, so it's not very easy to "borrow" someone else's design for your own frame.

        I wish him all the luck in the world, but not calling in some engineering expertise for review is asking for trouble.

        Virg
        • There are / were very large rockets (e.g. german V2 / russian scud a/b) - i.e. missiles using similar liquid fuel using only aerodynamic surfaces and relatively simply gyroscopic guidance systems. None of this technology is new or complex by modern standards.

          They may not be capable of hitting a target as precisely as a cruise missle but they are more than capable of a simple suborbital flight.

          I don't believe I suggested making a full size rocket out of cardboard tubes either I'm fully aware of the fact that as the scale increases so do the stresses on the airframe.

          Try taking your tube - filling it with a sponge like material and then adding the water. Not such a great design problem when you think about it.
          • More Rocketry (Score:3, Informative)

            by virg_mattes ( 230616 )
            > ...missiles using similar liquid fuel using only aerodynamic surfaces and relatively simply gyroscopic guidance systems.

            Both of your examples are not capable of getting high enough for this guy.

            > None of this technology is new or complex by modern standards.

            Nor is it very useful for this guy. The guidance systems used by V-2 rockets were (unsurprisingly) designed to stabilize V-2s, and as I said before, simply lifting a design from a different frame usually doesn't work.

            > I don't believe I suggested making a full size rocket out of cardboard tubes either I'm fully aware of the fact that as the scale increases so do the stresses on the airframe.

            The example I provided was more to illustrate that one of the major problems with big-scale rockets is that the guidance system can't be "good", it has to be "great" because the stress forces from pivoting just a tiny bit out of flight line are sufficient to demolish all but the heaviest designs, something model rockets simply don't suffer from.

            > Try taking your tube - filling it with a sponge like material and then adding the water. Not such a great design problem when you think about it.

            This one is actually on the books, because a few builders thought that a saturated medium would make for low-splash fuel tanks (when it was proposed, sloshing fuel was a major guidance problem, as most rockets at that time burned kerosene). However, the design failed miserably, for two reasons. First, it was very difficult to get the fuel out of the medium when you needed it to burn (something my experiment doesn't address, but that a liquid-fueled engine must do). Second, When the medium was subjected to the G-forces of launch, it would simply squash down to the bottom of the tank, which caused the top portion of the tank to be only liquid (back to the sloshing fuel problem) and putting severe stress on the bottom of the tank (which caused more than one tank rupture with resultant kaboom). So, it's a good idea, but I must send you back to the drawing board.

            Virg
    • I don't like this attitude that there is one right way to approach engineering and science, and that's rigid adherence to the slow and tedious process you learned in school.
      I believe (from my admittedly limited world view) that many brilliant people do a lot of great thinking by intuition, not by arthmetic. I have heard from some (legitimate? who knows) source that Einstein had trouble with math.
      Yes, setting up some nice looking equations and testing out your device or theory certainly is good for reassuring yourself, but I think in this circumstance the only way to prove it works is to do it.
      I think this guy has a good idea of the concepts involved in launching himself and is being thoughtful and careful in his approach. And it seems like he's got some very respectable (to the parent poster's limited view of who is respectable) supporters.
      Finally, I have to say that the reason I made this post at all is because I feel that this guy probably is a little bit of a crackpot, and I can relate to him (I would describe myself as a crackpot as well) and that finally it is us crackpots who have the really "good" ideas on this planet and who actually get stuff done because we ignore people like the parent poster.
    • I am using 90% H2o2 because using it as a monopropellant is the safest method of propulsion for my particular rocket. There is no chance of a catastrophic explosion or fire. This alone eliminates about one half of all standard problems that are encountered for any rocket flight./

      This is just flat out bullshit. Peroxide works as a monopropellant because it has a positive heat of formation: When H2O2 breaks down into H2O and O2, it releases heat. The problem is that, at high concentrations, if the breakdown process starts, it can easily run away. Excessive heat or inappropriate contamination or just bad luck can start the process. It may not techincally be a "fire" but you aren't going to be able to tell the difference if you're sitting on it when it happens.


      I don't know what is being referenced by "all the trouble with catalyst packs..." Peroxide reaction engines have been around for years, and follow specific scientific formulas.

      Yes, peroxide rockets have been around for years. And in fact there is a well documented problem with the peroxide poisoning the catalyst bed. This isn't an issue if you don't care about reusability (and I doubt he does), but he obviously hasn't done much research if he hasn't at least encountered mention of this issue.

    • Re:Ding Ding Ding (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kymermosst ( 33885 )
      Sigh...

      I've met Brian, and he's legit. He DOES do his homework. When he claims not to know much about engineering, he's really being modest. Anything he doesn't understand, he learns. Anything he thinks he needs to make his project successful, he does. Example: Cosmonaut Training.

      I have a friend who helps him from time to time, and my friend is a veteran of aerospace design, from his father being an aircraft mechanic, to him working for companies like Aerovironment, and working on experimental NASA craft.

      I have also personally seen Brian's equipment, designs, engines, and facilities, and am quite confident in his ability to make his project succeed.

  • I admire what he's doing, but reading his answers I'm having second thoughts about my optimism for his success. He simply doesn't answer the first question, and in another say's he's "no genius." Rocket Scientists have that expression about them for a reason, it takes a lot of know how and intelligence to do something like this safely and successfully, just look at how bad the rockets were on junkyard wars...
    • Reminds me of when we were at a physics convention and one of the guys (who was not quite at master level) took on a street hustler chess player in a match. Hustler-guy wasn't quite up to winning, though the game looked close. Some businessman comes up to watch, and finds out we're physicists and starts going on about "rocket scientists testing their wits against a guy on the street"... we felt insulted. The NASA and Boeing and Lockheed guys who do rockets are just dumb engineers after all!

      The point being, there are lots of much harder things to do in life than building a box that just goes up and down off some fire in its tail. NASA and Boeing and Lockheed people like everybody to think it's really really hard and expensive and requires all those fancy engineering studies, but it really doesn't. Go check out your local hobby store for model rockets, if you don't believe me.
      • Model Rockets? We're talking about launching a person, not a model rocket. When's the last time you... ugh.. nevermind, it's not even worth arguing.
      • I await word of your successful sub-orbital shot using a scaled up Estes kit. After all, if it's that easy, why don't you do it and put all of the naysayers to rest?

        Unfortunately rocket engines don't scale real well. What works in a small $5 kit won't work for a manned sub-orbital, or even worse, orbital rocket. Nor can you build a regeneratively cooled liquid fueled rocket engine and expect to make the parts small enough to drive a tiny rocket.

        All of these problems have been solved, of course, by people willing to do the necessary math and engineering studies. Even so, they like to have a few test flights before they man-rate the vehicle. One of the big risks NASA took with the shuttle was the lack of unmanned testing. The Russians weren't willing to accept that kind of risk and flew Buran unmanned first. Early models have this tendency to fail rather spectacularly. That might not be so bad when there's a $20 million satellite on the top, but when there's a human payload involved it smarts. I'd think a lot more of this guy if he was planning at least one full-up unmanned test with enough telemetry installed so he has some chance of knowing what went wrong when it does.


        • What works in a small $5 kit won't work for a manned sub-orbital, or even worse, orbital rocket. Nor can you build a regeneratively cooled liquid fueled rocket engine and expect to make the parts small enough to drive a tiny rocket.
          Obviously the materials and details are different. But fundamentally, you're doing the same thing. When I put together an Estes kit, I don't worry about the construction of the engine, I just buy a $2 engine and plug it in. That's basically what Rocket Guy here is doing, though he's buying a few more off-the shelf components and having to do a bit more detail work than you would with a 1 lb 2-ft rocket made of cardboard, there's absolutely no reason he shouldn't have every expectation of success.
          • > When I put together an Estes kit, I don't worry about the construction of the engine, I just buy a $2 engine and plug it in.

            This isn't the same by a long shot. When you built your model rocket, where'd you put the fuel tanks? Oh, and how did you stabilize the frame when you filled it with liquid? This guy isn't building a solid rocket booster, so comparing it to your local model rocket will just get you a busted-up pile of rocket debris. Also, as I stated in another post, if you want comparable stress-test ratios build your next model rocket out of drinking straws and construction paper, and let me know how the launch goes.

            It's the "detail work" where the engineering knowledge comes in.

            Virg
  • New pole (Score:5, Funny)

    by asavage ( 548758 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:49PM (#3872024)
    The Rocket Guy will:
    • Blowup at liftoff
    • Spin wildly out of control
    • Get squished on landing
    • Land successfuly
    • Wait for CowboyNeal to try it first
  • by Nehemiah S. ( 69069 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:50PM (#3872033)
    2) operational testing?
    by Nehemiah S


    What kind of testing have you done for your design(s)? Wind tunnel tests, computational fluid dynamics, flying scale models, etc? I've also noticed that your design has changed considerably since the first time you were featured on Slashdot, and as an aerospace engineer myself it would be interesting to know what your design criteria were and how you arrived at them.

    RG: My design has changed because I do not profess to be an aeronautical engineer of any sort, and as I have proceeded, I have allowed myself to make the necessary changes resulting in a better design. A number of people have a called me on several design concerns, and I listened. As for wind tunnel tests and the like, no. The rocket is near perfect in its shape, and for what I require it to do (go up and down in a relatively stable manner), it is fine.


    Very informative, thanks. But i am curious: how can you say it is near perfect if you haven't tested it? Hope you give more info than that in your talk to the AIAA...

    Good luck.

    neh

    • "near perfect in its shape"

      He just wants to make sure it looks good. Which is completely undersatndable.

      Hell, if I was going to die burning in a blaze of fire, I'd like my spaceship to look purty too.
    • how can you say it is near perfect if you haven't tested it

      I suspect he has read the literature, which very carefully documents the various shapes that are useful for capsules and for rockets in general, and which are ideal for specific purposes. Then he likely built his capsule and rocket to match those shapes. Unless he's trying to develop new shapes, that should be sufficient for his purposes. (Kind of the way I would not do hydrodynamic modelling to build a rowboat.)

      • (Kind of the way I would not do hydrodynamic modelling to build a rowboat.)

        Yes your are right. You probably wouldn't do hyrodynamic modelling. However, I'll bet you would at least throw the boat into your pool to make sure it floats. This guy doesn't really seem interested in doing even that step.
        • It sure appears to me that he is going to test...just not till he's ready, and is fairly sure it (testing) won't destroy all his equip.

          Seems reasonable to me...

          Cheers!
  • by sedawkgrep ( 142682 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:53PM (#3872051)
    who expect this guy to actually have a personality?

    I figured somebody who created all these cool toys, and then decided to build his own rocket would be an intriguing and compelling individual. Not to mention I expected him to get the Strangelove reference and have some humor to add to the responses.

    Instead we're left with curt, almost cookie-cutter answers that anybody here could've predicted.

    Definitely not one of the better interviews. Why is it kernel-hackers can be so entertaining and the Rocketman and Bruce Campbell come off as such duds? :-)

    sedawkgrep
    • Simple answer... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cnelzie ( 451984 )

      Bruce Campbell and the Rocketguy both live wild on the outside. People like that tend to be a little dry on the inside.

      On the other hand, a kernel hacker tends to live a pretty dry outside life, but is filled with all sorts of insanity on the inside. (I mean who else would want to kernal hack?) [Just kidding!]

      -.-
    • Why is it kernel-hackers can be so entertaining and the Rocketman and Bruce Campbell come off as such duds? :-)

      There are a lot more kernel-hackers to choose from, so attention tends to focus on the entertaining ones. If you picked two or three at random, I bet they'd bore most people to tears ... and not just for the length of a quickie text-based interview for some geeky website, either.

      Besides, geez, look at the questions he was asked. Not exactly great material to work with. I've seen more inspired questions on Entertainment Tonight.

    • by CommieLib ( 468883 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @01:56PM (#3872523) Homepage
      I think the fact that you find kernel hackers entertaining explains the disconnect...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      jeez, maybe his answers were curt because many of them were clearly mocking him. Even the clever^H^H^H^H^H^Hstupid Dr. Strangelove reference could only have been asked by someone who thinks the whole project is lame and doomed to fail.

      I'd be annoyed too if a bunch of self-proclaimed slashdot geniuses asked me lame question. A Better post might have started: "am I the only one... who expected people here to ask more intelligent questions?"

      there's a reason why the "socially-clueless computer geek" stereotype still survives....
    • by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @03:10PM (#3873107)
      Brian Walker mentions in the article that he has dyslexia and ADHD. Writing is not usually the best way for such people to communicate. My g/f has severe dyslexia, and although she's is a very insightful and extremely knowledgeable person, she doesn't come off at all well in any written venue.

      I think it's ironic that here on Slashdot, that there seems to be so little tolerance or understanding of people who might have different ways of thinking and expressing themselves.

    • He even says so on his site and in the posting:
      "He's gotten back to us, despite a heavy schedule"
      He doesn't have time to spice up his commentary for a bunch of hackers from a site he's probably never heard of until recently. Cut him some slack- if you were getting ready to shoot yourself into space, while recently married and an adopted son, you'd probably be freakin' busy too!
    • This is a guy planning to strap a rocket to his butt and shoot himself thirty miles into the air. You expected him to joke about it. I think that it is unfortunate that /. sent so many questions over that made fun of what he is doing. Personally I am surprised that he answered at all. I know that I wouldn't have.

      /. asked stupid questions that made fun of what this guy is trying to attempt, and he answered with pat answers, what do you expect?

  • by Kaz Riprock ( 590115 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @12:58PM (#3872083)
    Brian Walker / Rocket Guy: I am using 90% H2o2 because using it as a monopropellant is the safest method of propulsion for my particular rocket. There is no chance of a catastrophic explosion or fire. This alone eliminates about one half of all standard problems that are encountered for any rocket flight.

    a) Oh shoot, I probably shouldn't have made the fuel tank out of silver.

    b) ...and my wife always wanted to be a blonde.

    c) I'm building a rocket in my backyard. Where in the hell am I supposed to get buckyballs and multi-atomic nitrogen, smart guy?

    d) The other half of the standard problems are eliminated by leaving the rocket science to the brain surgeons.

  • title (Score:4, Funny)

    by tps12 ( 105590 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @01:03PM (#3872118) Homepage Journal
    Rocket Guy Fires Back sounds like a gay porno. I'm all for widening slashdot's readership and exploring new journalistic niches, but I think this is going a little too far.
    • Just look at the first q/a:

      Q: Amateur videos don't get me into space or orbit because they're generally limited to low budget toys and props. Is there much of a gain in viewer impulse to be obtained by further research into hybrid (ie, plastic/latex) bodysuits? How about exotic themes (buckyballs, multi-man nitrous fun, man-flouride for example) - any route for amateur utilization of these?

      Brian Walker / Rocket Guy: I am using monoxonil-9 because using it as a monolubricant is the safest method of lubrication for my particular rocket. There is no chance of a catastrophic breakout or burning. This alone eliminates about one half of all standard problems that are encountered by a man on my rocket flight.

      (I can't believe I'm posting this. If it's modded down, I SO deserve it.)
  • It should be pointed out that there are several competing "Darwin award" sites, which are all simply hit generators and timewasters. Blah.

    Darwinism is concerned with the suitability of creatures to their environment (long-armed creatures are selected when fruit hangs from tall trees, etc).

  • by sh00z ( 206503 ) <sh00z@NoSpam.yahoo.com> on Friday July 12, 2002 @01:08PM (#3872160) Journal
    I am using 90% H2o2 because using it as a monopropellant is the safest method of propulsion for my particular rocket. There is no chance of a catastrophic explosion or fire. This alone eliminates about one half of all standard problems that are encountered for any rocket flight.
    I missed the solicitation of questions the first time around, but because I *am* a rocket scientist, and just in case Rocket Guy is reading, I beg him to be careful.

    The leading theory on what caused the explosion of the Kursk [cnn.com] is the H2O2 propellant in a torpedo (NOT a warhead!)

    (Here's another link) [i12.com]
    ...and another [bbc.co.uk].

    • I doubt he's reading, but I happen to agree. Anyone who thinks that any form of propulsion that powerful has no chance of a serious catastrophe isn't paying attention.

      Not to be a bore, but look at car engines. Fairly small amount of propellent (gasoline), fairly well understood technology (internal combustion), and still there are hundreds of risks. They are as safe as they are simply because of decades of excellent engineering.

      I just hope this guy will use every safety measure he can get his hands on. I'd hate to see this being a publicity nightmare.

      -WS

    • The leading theory on what caused the explosion of the Kursk [cnn.com] is the H2O2 propellant in a torpedo (NOT a warhead!)
      It is much more than a theory: it is simply awaiting Putin's signoff. A quick lexis-nexis search (i love google but when you've got this for free... ain't interesting that Russian papers have a whole section called "Security"):

      Copyright 2002 Agency WPS
      DEFENSE AND SECURITY

      July 5, 2002, Friday

      SECTION: SECURITY

      LENGTH: 679 words

      HEADLINE: "THE TORPEDO HYPOTHESIS" AWAITING PUTIN'S SIGNATURE

      SOURCE: Izvestia, July 3, 2002, p. 2

      BYLINE: Konstantin Getmansky

      HIGHLIGHT:
      THE KURSK TRAGEDY: INVESTIGATION IS OFFICIALLY OVER.

      BODY:
      All I's have been dotted and T's crossed in official investigation of one of the worst underwater catastrophes of the 20th century, death of the nuclear submarine Kursk. Vice Admiral Valery Dorogin, Duma Deputy and commission member, revealed some details of the protocol on the cause of the catastrophe signed last Friday.

      "Explosion of components of fuel of a 65-76 torpedo" is to be blamed. Commission chairman Ilya Klebanov announced that the explosion in its turn had been caused by a leak of hydrogen peroxide, a component of torpedo fuel. Klebanov had announced that the commission "agrees with a single hypothesis only, explosion of a "fat" 650 mm torpedo" after the previous meeting of the governmental commission in St. Petersburg on June 19. The official protocol the commission signed last Friday indicates that the submarine Kursk was killed by explosion of components of 65-76 torpedo fuel. The explosion caused a fire and high pressure in the first compartment, and the rest of the ordnance detonated. The commission is of the opinion that the first explosion killed all servicemen in the first compartment and some in the second. The rest got concussions. The second explosion killed the submarine.

      Roman Kolesnikov (ex-submariner and father of Captain Lieutenant Dmitry Kolesnikov of the Kursk): The fact that a fat torpedo went off was known several days after the catastrophe even by wives. They merely analyzed everything they had been told by their husbands who did not want to sail out with the torpedo. According to what information I have compiled, many men knew that the torpedo was problematic. It had been dropped in the process of loading. Torpedoes like that should be ruled out immediately. Unfortunately, the Kursk was being readied for an autonomous sortie. Somebody must have wanted the submarine to be as formidable as possible.

      The official act indicates the cause of the catastrophe. According to Klebanov, the explosion took place because of leaks of hydrogen peroxide, a component of torpedo fuel. This nuance kills the collision hypothesis.

      A great number of conclusions of the governmental commission are classified. Kolesnikov is confident that it may mean one thing only. The commission must have found out identities of the men who directly or indirectly are to be blamed for the tragedy.

      Kolesnikov: So many signatures are to be collected before a submarine sails out! Relatives of the crew asked for participation in the governmental commission. We have never even got a word in reply. We did not intend to send wives to the commission, you understand, we meant professionals who served in nuclear submarines themselves.

      According to Kolesnikov, the commission never established the officials to be blamed for the failure to rescue survivors. Officials announced that survivors lasted only 6-8 hours in the crippled submarine.

      Kolesnikov: The men, relatives, who visited Severomorsk when the Kursk was lifted to the surface and tugged to the shore, told me there were bodies discovered in absolutely dry compartments. Three-day long bristles were found on some faces...

      According to what information the Izvestia has compiled, Supreme Commander-in-Chief and President Vladimir Putin is supposed to endorse the official protocol now. It is in his power to refuse or to accept the conclusions.From our folders:65-76 engines work on the reaction of fuel and concentrated hydrogen peroxide. The first two figures designate torpedo caliber in centimeters, the last two the year of design. The torpedo is almost 9 meters long and weighs almost 2 tons. According to some reports, the warhead weighs 500 kilograms, according to others, almost 700 kilograms. Its velocity is 70 kph. The torpedo is intended for the use against large surface and underwater combatants and powerful coast fortifications like naval bases from a distance of up to 70 kilometers. According to what information is available at this point, the decision to remove torpedoes of this type from the Navy was made two years before the Kursk tragedy.

      ORIGINAL-LANGUAGE: RUSSIAN

      LOAD-DATE: July 05, 2002

    • Not only the Kursk but it sank a British submarine a while back which is a) why NATO suspected an HTP explosion and b) no NATO torpedoes use HTP because of the understood dangers.

      His statement about monopropellants shows a basic misunderstanding. This frightens me. Monpropellants are more reliable, but they are inherrently less stable.

  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @01:11PM (#3872173) Homepage Journal
    It has already been proved that this can be done using only the technology that was available in 1960s Russia, so it's not exactly rocket sci^H^H^H^H^H erm... It's not as if there is anything groundbreaking about the science here, as he says in the answer to my question.

    His achievement will be in showing that his trip can be done affordably by a private individual, not that it can be done at all.
    • Yes, it was done using 1960s tech. Rocket-firing was actually done even earlier with German V1 and V2 rockets, which is why the US brought in the German rocket scientists (despite petty little niggles like them being war criminals) to man its space program.

      The problem is that this guy won't even use 1700s technology. His water-catapult idea shows a fundamental failure to do basic calculations of Newtonian Laws of Motion. This does not bode well for his rocket launch. Maths is a totally fundamental part of all engineering - even the Wright brothers used it, they didn't just bolt the plane together and hope it worked! So saying "I don't like maths, so I'm not going to bother working out this" is basically saying "I'm going to die bcos I can't do this calculation". Kudos for putting his life on the line, but I reckon he'll be dead if he's ever allowed to fly.

      Of course, if he is obviously going to crash and burn then the FAA will put the stoppers on this. And then he'll say "But I was all ready to go, it's not fair, it's all their fault" when in fact it's his own fault for not having done it properly.

      Grab.
      • One nit: The V-1 wasn't a rocket. It was an unmanned airplane loaded with explosives. Hence the nickname 'buzzbomb'.
      • How did this parent get modereated up? Three of Grabs posts are +4 or more, yet none of them are remotely correct! He didn't read the part about the catapult, (it catapults a water rocket, thus it doesn't need to achieve a very high velocity) and he ignores the simplicity of the design. V2's worked just fine without fancy control systems; it's just plain not necessary if your tragectory is simple.

        I agree that math is a fundamentally important part of engineering, but some things work just fine by trial and error.

      • The biggest danger isn't that he'll get grounded by the FAA before his launch and then whine about it.

        The biggest danger in that regard is that he'll crash and burn in a big, dramatic fireball. Following that, there'll be the inevitable lawsuits and Congressional hearings, followed by a bevy of completely unnecessary regulations and legislation aimed at "protecting amateur rocketeers" by basically making it illegal to do private space launches.

        They'd essentially make the non-technical stuff so difficult that private space exploration would die on the launchpad.

        Of course, that would also have the effect of protecting the government's own near-monopoly on the lucrative satellite launch business, but that's a different issue.

  • What the heck? If it worked for these guys [imdb.com]...
  • Comments:

    60%: some witty remark about how he will die
    20%: something about how this interview sucked
    15%: mathmatically disproving his statments
    5%: posts like this one.

  • aAAAAhEEEEMMM.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by GeneralEmergency ( 240687 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @01:26PM (#3872258) Journal
    uhhh...

    It was highly concentrated H2O2 that did in the Kursk. Nasty stuff.

    Just thought I'd mention it.

  • Bah... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by forty_two ( 147348 ) on Friday July 12, 2002 @03:38PM (#3873282)

    Those questions are terrible. If I were the interviewee, I'd probably send them back with a note like, "uh...get real." Darwin Awards? Dr. Strangelove? Yeah, that's the HARD-HITTING stuff there, guys. Way to go. Next, why don't you lecture us about the state of amateur rocketry in post-Columbine, post-9/11 America?

    Not everybody cares about the pop culture to which many of you cling, and indeed some of us actively despise and avoid it whenever possible. You are not cute, hip, or funny.

    If that weren't bad enough, now I have to sit and watch a bunch of backseat undergraduate engineers naysaying this highly motivated and dedicated individual who is actually doing something! Hey, well, if you don't think he will make it then cool. You are welcome to try and prove his task impossible by throwing numbers and formulas around that you have a marginal understanding of, but that doesn't make his success any less likely. He may not be an engineer, and I know that the engineer's ego is a large and dangerous creature, but please...he's doing something cool and fascinating and intriguing. You're not. Deal with it in some other way than with judgement values and boringly predictable jealous criticism.

Ya'll hear about the geometer who went to the beach to catch some rays and became a tangent ?

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