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Amateur Rocket Scientist to Shoot into Space

By Crashnbur in MLP
Wed May 09, 2001 at 07:59:04 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

This story is so inspiring that I cannot think of anything better to say than the words that are written in the article - especially not at 1:00 in the morning. Check out the New York Post article about Brian Walker, a college dropout and a self-made millionaire that has built his own rocket with which he will send himself into space...


And curse me for finding this article on slashdot.

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Poll
This man...
o ...is an inspiration! 15%
o ...is going to hurt himself. 57%
o ...stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night. 15%
o ...is Brian Walker. 11%

Votes: 84
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Related Links
o Slashdot
o New York Post article
o Also by Crashnbur


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Amateur Rocket Scientist to Shoot into Space | 45 comments (30 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
H2O2 rockets (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by beowulf on Mon May 07, 2001 at 01:19:23 AM EST

I very much doubt that the rocket will work as it's supposed to.

Hydrogen Peroxide rockets don't give that high of a specific impulse, which means that it has a low payload capacity. Ande don't get me started on steam rockets.

I predict an explosion on the pad, or that the rocket will go up 5 feet, and then crash down.

crash & burn indeed (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by xdc on Mon May 07, 2001 at 01:50:14 AM EST

IANARS, but I'm inclined to believe your assessment. Although I admire wannabe astronauts and people who build rockets, the article portrays this man as a reckless and naive individual.

I realize that this must be a very expensive endeavor as it is, but it's almost certain suicide to attempt to launch oneself into space without first thoroughly testing and refining the vehicle. I fear that "Rocket Man" is going to become "Toast Boy".

(IANARS = I am not a rocket scientist^TM)

[ Parent ]

Ah, censorship being routed around at it's best. (2.23 / 13) (#2)
by Type-R on Mon May 07, 2001 at 01:45:46 AM EST

I love that...

"If they are not going to grant me permission to launch, I'll just take the whole thing across the border to Mexico," Walker says.

Puttin' it to the man!!! :)



Yeah.. (4.50 / 2) (#10)
by RangerBob on Mon May 07, 2001 at 09:06:57 AM EST

And if they gave him permission, and the rocket exploded as it more than likely will, the US gov will be called under fire for it. Come on, this damned if they do, damned if they don't attitude is silly and has got to go.

[ Parent ]
Going abroad (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by Vulch on Mon May 07, 2001 at 01:45:49 PM EST

Going to Mexico to launch is one way round FAA (or whoever) restrictions, but only if he never comes back.

As far as the USA government is concerned, its citizens are bound by USA law wherever they are in the world. Moving to Mexico means he not only still has to get exactly the same permissions to launch from the relevant USA government departments, but the Mexican equivalents too, as well as an export licence. And they really, really don't like you exporting big rockets...


[ Parent ]
Going abroad (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by mcherm on Mon May 07, 2001 at 03:08:00 PM EST

As far as the USA government is concerned, its citizens are bound by USA law wherever they are in the world.
true

Moving to Mexico means he not only still has to get exactly the same permissions to launch from the relevant USA government departments, but the Mexican equivalents too
false

It is true the US laws apply to US citizens abroad, but the FAA does NOT regulate flights in foreign airspace. So he can zip around on an upside-down flying carpet for all they care, so long as he stays out of US airspace. Of course, the Mexican authorities may not agree...

-- Michael Chermside

-- Michael Chermside
[ Parent ]

NYP a little late (4.50 / 4) (#4)
by Seumas on Mon May 07, 2001 at 02:01:20 AM EST

Wow. The New York Post was a little late in talking about this guy. He's been planning this for a long time. I remember reading about him on Slashdot over a year ago. And I still doubt he'll ever get around to launching himself as much as I doubted it then. If he does do it and is successful (yeah right!), it could certainly push us toward a space privatization revolution a hundred times more powerful than that rich guy who payd $20mil for a few days in the ISS.

I do hope he makes it, even if I doubt he will. Once there is money to be made in a relatively short-term business-plan for space, private companies will do what NASA and the government have completely failed to do. Perhaps there's even a chance that the awe-inspiring emotion will spread around again like something we haven't seen in decades (when was the last time you saw a shuttle launch make big news anyway?).
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

Ummm (none / 0) (#44)
by RangerBob on Fri May 11, 2001 at 08:55:41 AM EST

I haven't posted a good rant in a while, but it's Friday, so I'll bite. Yeah, I support NASA, and yeah, I'm tired of goofiness that flies around online.

Um, hello, it's not NASA's job to commercialize space, that's what private companies are for. NASA exists as a research and development organization. Yeah, they get paid to carry things into space, but that is one of their funding mechanisms to be able to do more exploration and research. If it would make them money, the private sector would have already been up there. But it's still too expensive right now, so they don't. This is why you can't fly to the moon.

I'm really tired of the mentality that I see of people online. It takes two general forms. <whine>NASA is evil and shouldn't be spending so much money on space</whine>. Number two is <whine>NASA is evil since it's their fault we haven't commercialized space</whine>. Of course, I'm not implying that a lot of people just want to whine so NASA is damned if they do and damned if they don't.... NASA is just the convenient whipping boy because people don't want to go around to the private sector and ask why they haven't done much yet. Yeah, NASA has vehicles and launch facilities. So go ask the private sector why they haven't developed the same infrastructure in all of these years. Reguardless of the whining, corporate America could build their own infrastructure if they had wanted to now. But going up is still too damned expensive, but surely NASA doing things like continual research on cheaper means of going up and down is evil and has no benefits to the private sector.

You know what's really funny? If NASA had no ties whatsoever to the government, people wouldn't blame them, they'd still blame the government. This is the mentality that is truly amazing. There's no damned conspiracy to keep business out of space. There's no big Men in Black or Illumaniti stopping you from flying. Businesses know what makes money, more so than a bunch of people posting around online.

As far as making the news, space travel HAS become routine. Asking why launches don't make big news is like asking why intercontinental plane flights don't make big news anymore. People have lost interest, there's no novelty since it happens so often. People do this with everything, not just NASA launches.

So what they charged so much for a private person to go up. This is another damned if they do, damned if they don't type of thing. If they did make it cheap for everyone to go up, then people would freak whenever an accident happens. But if they make it expensive so that Joe Blow can't afford it, people still freak. People's egos aside, it's not trivial to shoot something up into space. If it was as easy as people on K5 and Slashdot have made it out to be, why haven't THEY made their own space programs yet? So they charge a lot of money to let some guy go. Each lauch costs a lot in the first place, so this probably isn't such a rip-off as it seems.

[ Parent ]
RocketGuy's website (5.00 / 4) (#5)
by Seumas on Mon May 07, 2001 at 02:02:16 AM EST

The guy (cool photos and stuff, too) has a web site at RocketGuy.com.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.
Some words... (3.71 / 7) (#6)
by Signal 11 on Mon May 07, 2001 at 02:03:07 AM EST

Slashdot carried this article about 6 months ago. This may be a updated version of the same story. In short, the slashdot posters concluded that the rocket is aerodynamically unsound and will likely break apart structurally shortly after liftoff, making this gentleman a very nice Darwin Awards candidate.

The second problem is that the fuel mix is unstable. They tried this first with the German V2 rockets, with limited success. There's a reason the NASA space shuttle does not use this technology - it is prone to failure, unstable, and difficult to control the reaction. Hydrogen Peroxide is also very dangerous to organic matter, like people. Our soon-to-be Darwin Award winner will likely survive just long enough after liftoff to become part of a spectacular failure as the rocket collapses and the fuel spills into the cabin, eating his skin off.

Yay for amateur space work. Send a dog up first, stupid.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

I don't think this guy will win a darwin award... (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon May 07, 2001 at 03:01:43 AM EST

...unless he's such a moron that he doesn't have an unmanned test flight before he trys to fling himself into space on his brightly colored homemade rocket.

If he does decide to skip a test flight, and test the thing out manned, he better get a darwin award if he dies. Heck, if he lives, he should be committed to a mental instituation for having suicidal tendencies.

[ Parent ]

Yes, he will. (5.00 / 2) (#12)
by Signal 11 on Mon May 07, 2001 at 09:45:19 AM EST

...unless he's such a moron that he doesn't have an unmanned test flight before he trys to fling himself into space on his brightly colored homemade rocket.

That IS what he's planning to do....


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Can you... (none / 0) (#26)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon May 07, 2001 at 06:42:18 PM EST

...nominate someone for a Darwin Award before they die? Maybe they could have those hooters girls present it to him before the launch...

[ Parent ]
Drinkable V2 (5.00 / 3) (#17)
by Vulch on Mon May 07, 2001 at 01:36:31 PM EST

The V2 actually used liquid oxygen and alcohol, not hydrogen peroxide. For some reason there was usually a high evaporation rate from the alcohol tankers.

Peroxide isn't that dangerous either. Long term storage can be a problem as impurities tend to make it degrade, but the British Black Arrow used kerosene and peroxide succesfully in an orbital launcher.

The Me163 Komet rocket powered fighter of WW2 used peroxide as a mono-propellant in the trainer version, but the active service version used a peroxide and hydrazine bipropellant which was noted for blowing up at the slightest bump (like landing) and hydrazine does indeed do nasty things to organic material.

Dilute peroxide is sold as an antiseptic, and slightly more concentrated as hair bleach (hence peroxide blondes) so in the case of a cabin spill the pilot is likely to come out as a hyperactive disinfected blond. :-)


[ Parent ]
Not quite... (none / 0) (#40)
by scheme on Wed May 09, 2001 at 02:06:12 AM EST

Peroxide isn't that dangerous either. Long term storage can be a problem as impurities tend to make it degrade, but the British Black Arrow used kerosene and peroxide succesfully in an orbital launcher.

Actually concentrated peroxide is a very good oxidizer and has a tendency to react violently with organic materials. 35% pure peroxide will burst into flames when it hits organic stuff. To get anything more concentrated, you have to either make it your self or setup camp next to someone you is willing to manufacture it for you since peroxides are unstable and explosive at concentrations higher than 35%.

As a rocket propellant, peroxide is provides a decent oxidizing agent but has the drawback of being very dangerous. He would probably be better off with a solid propellant of some sort.


"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein


[ Parent ]
Media Whore (none / 0) (#14)
by xamichee on Mon May 07, 2001 at 10:59:54 AM EST

<i>Due to increased demands on Rocket Guy's time by the media the launch will be delayed until May 2002.</i>
<br>  Judging by the amount of attention this has been getting, some people might think that would be worth whatever he has spent building this rocket.<br>
  Has any part of this rocket been shown to be functional?

Rockets with the nozzle on top (none / 0) (#16)
by weirdling on Mon May 07, 2001 at 01:31:09 PM EST

I fear for what his own rocket wash will do to the stability of the rocket. Yes, Goddard did use this ploy, as did the English in early military rockets, but the stabilizer was not critical to the design. With that much weight hanging under even a low-specific-thrust rocket, I expect it to snap in two not long after launch or slowly erode the neck. Since he's not going into space actually, he won't have to worry about crisping himself on re-entry, but I doubt he'll get more than a few hundred feet up before catastrophic failure...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Re: pendulum guidance systems (4.00 / 2) (#34)
by Phaser777 on Tue May 08, 2001 at 03:06:18 PM EST

Here's a web page about the problems of putting the engine at the top. Basically, unless everything is perfectly centered and balanced and the wind is 0, the rocket will eventually tip over and go on a short horizontal flight, and hit the ground. The same thing frequently happened with some of Goddard's rockets, IIRC.

I think this guy'll be lucky if he survives.

---
My business plan:
Obtain the patents for something (the more obvious and general the better)
Wait u
[ Parent ]
I admire suicidals like this. (4.33 / 3) (#25)
by John Milton on Mon May 07, 2001 at 05:03:41 PM EST

In this day and age of I just want to be safe, I have to admire people like this. Why did NASA get such bad press because of Challenger? If you told me that there was a good chance that the shuttle was going to explode, I would still be on it when it left. I'm so sick of the weeny mentality we have to day. The overgrown boyscouts of Nasa wouldn't dare leave the earth without their microwaves. It seems as if our money market society is just unwilling to be daring.

Editorial note: I saw this on slashdot too. I know how you feel. I've showered several times, but I still don't feel clean.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Yeh.. (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by CyberQuog on Mon May 07, 2001 at 10:08:51 PM EST

I think this sums it up:
"If I die, I die," he scoffs. "I'd rather die trying this than spend the next 40 years bitter that I never made the attempt."

This guy has balls


-...-
[ Parent ]
Fearless, Brave, or Stupid: take your pick (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 08, 2001 at 03:45:49 PM EST

While I will agree that there is something to living without fear of death, one has to wonder if at some point certain people are not simply stupid.

[ Parent ]
Yes there is a line. (none / 0) (#37)
by John Milton on Tue May 08, 2001 at 09:36:21 PM EST

I think the main thing is that you shouldn't be dangerous just to prove your brave. I think that was what The Song of Roland was about. When does honorable courage cross over into sheer stupidity. To me, you have to have something in your life that your willing to die for. You don't have a reason to live unless you have a reason to die. If your willing to die for anything, that is different. You just don't care.


"When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." -Elizabeth Cady Stanton


[ Parent ]
if only... (none / 0) (#41)
by barrym on Wed May 09, 2001 at 08:33:36 AM EST

... we all lived by this philosophy. It's not just that he has balls, it's more that he doesn't want to regret anything. Imagine sitting in your chair when you're 80 .... "I coulda been a contender" - much better to have actually done something and not regret it.

[ Parent ]
12,000 pounds of thrust? (none / 0) (#28)
by fluffy grue on Mon May 07, 2001 at 09:43:03 PM EST

Jeeze, doesn't this guy realize that 12,000 pounds of thrust means that he'll be experiencing at least DOZENS of g-forces? He'll be squished like a bug.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

12,000 isn't that much (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by Phaser777 on Tue May 08, 2001 at 08:52:51 AM EST

For comparison, an F-16 does around 23,000 pounds of thrust at full afterburner. He'd better make his rocket pretty light if he wants to get anywhere before running out of fuel.

---
My business plan:
Obtain the patents for something (the more obvious and general the better)
Wait u
[ Parent ]
Mass (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by fluffy grue on Tue May 08, 2001 at 10:57:49 AM EST

An F-16 has a lot more mass than what this guy's rocket seems that it does. I haven't looked at this guy's specs in too much detail though.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Hrm? (none / 0) (#39)
by delmoi on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:42:41 AM EST

12,000 pounds of thrust...least DOZENS of g-forces

It depends on how massive the rocket itself is. I'm assuming he's not going to be have all of that force directed only on himself..
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
This guy is a friggin' idiot (none / 0) (#33)
by MarkCC on Tue May 08, 2001 at 12:17:29 PM EST

I love the quote on his website about how he doesn't need to worry about re-entry friction or navigation control, since he's going straight up but not sideways.

Idiot? (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by ttfkam on Wed May 09, 2001 at 11:49:22 AM EST

Sorry dude, but he's right. He will not be going the extreme speeds of the Space Shutle, satellites, et al. He's not going into orbit and will not be reaching orbital velocity. He is just going up and down. The reason NASA doesn't do this is two-fold. Without orbital velocity you can't deploy satellites; you can only come down. The other reason is that for items leaving orbit, it is easier to use the Earth (and other planets) as a slingshot to reach escape velocity than to use brute force (going straight up).

The lack of a navigation system is only worrisome because of drift due to wind. At that altitude, he could end up a fairly large distance away from where he started.

However if he burns up, it will not be because of re-entry; it will be because his rocket exploded.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Makes Sense (5.00 / 6) (#45)
by Signal seven 11 on Fri Jun 01, 2001 at 06:51:43 PM EST

According to his plans, a pickup truck will be waiting to drive him to a group of bleachers where fans and 12 Hooters bar girls will pour champagne all over him.
Okay. If you think that will extinguish the flames.

Amateur Rocket Scientist to Shoot into Space | 45 comments (30 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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