Happy summer everyone and to all who have served in the armed forces I say Thank you for your service! Memorial Day had just passed and I try to always honor the fallen and thank the people currently in service or the people who have served for their contribution to my nation’s freedom.
This month was spent finishing up the laced parachute load cable that weaves through the chassis of Sonic Wind LSRV. I think that in an emergency situation it will come in handy to take the extra time to build a system like this into the car. What it essentially does is put the parachute opening and pulling shock loads very close to the Cg of the car so there is very little destabilizing lever moment from the chutes moving around in the wind stream. Weaving the cables makes the loads snuggle the chassis like a shoe lace snuggles a foot. Here are a couple of photos of the completed system.
Next I began building the combination hold down/load structures that will hold the forward six Titanium pressure vessel spheres into the chassis. I had to hand dress out each pressure sphere with a grinder and various grits of sandpaper in order to take out every little nick and scratch. These scratches and nicks will be weak points when the sphere is under high pressure and could lead to failure. Most of these spheres will be filled with Helium gas to about 2,200 psi. (Which is standard K bottle filling pressure) and they have a burst pressure of 6,000 psi. But I am simply not taking any chances with any of my equipment and want everything to be done to the best of my ability. Building a hand built supersonic rocket car is like building a Stradivarius violin and every piece has to be hand selected and hand worked in order to get the best results. Results I would trust my life and others to.
Some of these Titanium spheres, whom were destined for project Gemini spacecraft, are over a half of a century old and have been sitting under piles of heavy metal scrap at various salvage yards for many, many years. A couple of them I personally dug out of the mud where they were abandoned nearly twenty years ago. So even though they are made of Titanium and are very tough they have to be handled with tender loving care. That work done, here are a couple of photographs of the spheres and the hold down/ load brackets now under construction. The brackets are being fabricated from various wall thickness 4130 chrome moly tube and MIG welded together
The purpose of these brackets is to not only to anchor the spheres rigidly into the chassis but to use the tremendous strength of the spheres as load structures in the chassis in order to make it even more rigid overall. They are mounted forward because their static weight will contribute to the forward movement of the vehicle’s Cg during a run.
Michael Hughes and I have been having a ton of fun lately testing his steam rocket engine. It is a real runner and I am proud of him as I watch him working hard and teaching himself to become the premier steam rocket builder in the country. We performed two static steam rocket engine tests this month: One firing horizontally at about half thrust and you can see the video of that firing on You Tube at “Steam Rocket Test. mpg” It was shot by “Stroker” John Nijssen a local street and race car engine builder who comes by now and then to hang out with Mike. Stroker John builds big power V-8s, check out his website at www.strokerengine.com.
Mike’s little blue Ford Ranger pick up truck which was used for the engine test is about two inches shorter now as the impact of the steam rocket against it crushed both of the bumper mounts. The test stand had a flexible load of 4,000 lbs using 4- 1,000 lb. load springs at the front of it as sort of a primitive load cell. The rocket engine test stand was mounted to the truck rigidly and staked down with stakes going down three feet into the Earth. Then the entire ensemble was wedged against a cargo container with an aluminum plate as a wedge so there would be no movement, or so we thought. There was to be but a slight moving of the engine in the stand against the springs. But BLAM! As the engine came on it slammed those springs shut like a screen door banging in a hurricane and then proceeded to crush the truck. This was unexpected as this was to be only a half thrust test. So that motor really kicks even much more than we thought it would!
Next Mike set up a near full power test at the launch inclination angle of 45 degrees. He welded a square steel tube structure to the container and put 41 gallons of water in the engine. Test day we were visited by a Japanese UCLA rocket propulsion student and her husband who had some rocketry questions to ask me and they were there just in time to watch the test. The engine came on for four and a half seconds at greater than 4,000 lbs of thrust and tore a 5 foot wide by 18 inch deep hole in the desert floor. Everyone quickly got down low as the ripped up mud was thrown over a wide area and Mike was amazed with the power of it all. I call these surprising types of rocket tests “Reality Check Rocket Tests.”
The powerful hot steam rocket thrust instantly liquefied the ground beneath the rocket nozzle and tossed the dirt and rock debris as well as some wooden pieces of the test stand nearly a hundred feet away. The high velocity debris blew out Mikes little blue pick up truck’s rear window and side mirror. If any pick up truck ever deserved to be called a “Rocket Truck” this little son of a gun is and has all the scars to prove it! You can see the video of this test on You Tube at “Mad Mike Rocket Test 3”. Here are a couple of photos of the test stand set up with Mike and John Nijssen and the students standing and gaping at the aftermath.
We will do two more tests with about 60 gallons of water in the engine and if they both go well we will consider the steam rocket engine “operational” and it will be installed into the flight rocket. Mike takes one more step towards his life long dream of being able to leap over mountains and canyons in a rocket!
Something on the negative side of life I want to warn people about is that my ex associate Ken Mason may be using my name to acquire rocket propulsion parts for another LSR team. Ken has aligned himself with the Australian- Aussie Invader 5 land speed record team but word has just gotten back to me that he may be buying components or getting them for free by using my name and the Sonic Wind LSRV program name to trade on. So be careful and don’t sell him or give him anything if he is using my name as I have nothing to do with him and haven’t for well over three years now. When I run into him again if I ever do, we are going to have a big problem about that.
Another neat thing I did last month was to attend the award ceremonies of the Flight Test Historical Foundation. These are the “Excellence in Aviation awards.” These were given to various Honorees. They were David Hartman, Delford M. Smith, Dr. James O. Young, Major General Joe Engle, Colonel Joe Kittinger and Dr. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
Some of these people you may not know but Joe Kittinger is the guy who jumped out of a balloon at 102,800 feet in 1960 and has done so much for aviation medicine I can’t even remember it all. Joe also fought in Vietnam as an F-4 Phantom fighter pilot, was shot down and spent time at the Hanoi Hilton. He was the first man to fly the Atlantic Ocean alone in a balloon and was even considering driving a land speed record rocket car at one time. He is an absolute American hero and a hero of mine personally. He is currently working with the Red Bull Stratos program and helped design the equipment needed to allow Austrian Felix Baumgartner to jump from a balloon at 120,000 feet which will happen this August. Here is a photo of me and Colonel Joe Kittinger.
I was lucky enough to be sitting at a table with the Red Bull project Stratos head and chief engineer Art Thompson and he and his family were a delight to talk to. Art is the brains behind the whole Stratos project. He told me so much about the program and the dive that Felix will attempt that I was mesmerized. The Stratos jump isn’t just a simple fall but a controlled track that Felix will have to maintain for a long, long time. In theory Felix will actually exceed the speed of sound with just his body in that fall at somewhere around 105,000 feet in altitude. I was amazed at the complexity of the whole thing. It is one of those things that sounds simple but is not at all. Here is a photo of me, Art Thompson and Humphrey Bogart (picture on my tie). After hearing all about this fantastic project all I can say is Good luck and Happy Landings guys!
Next I was talking to Major General Joe Engle. He has flown over a hundred different types of aircraft, flew the space shuttles Enterprise and Columbia and was even one of the pilots of the North American Aviation X-15 rocket plane. When I told him I was building a car that would use the same XLR-99 rocket engines that were used on the X-15 rocket plane he was blown away and asked… How in the heck did you get your hands on those engines?” I told him that twenty years ago all that stuff was sold for scrap metal. He just shook his head and wished me luck on the project and said he would be watching the program. He was great guy and it was hard to believe that he was a Major General as he was happy, genuine and humble. I get along well with high ranking military men, always have and know many personally. I always give respect where it is due and I was in a room literally full of Generals of various ranks. Here is a photo of Major General Joe Engle and myself.
Lastly, Dr. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin came up to the podium to get his award. You all remember Buzz as the second man to walk on the moon and he was on the famous Apollo 11 flight with Neil Armstrong which was the first to land on the lunar surface. They flew the “Eagle” lunar module down into the Sea of Tranquility in July of 1969. Buzz appeared much smaller and beat than I remember him a few years ago when I talked to him in Yorba Linda, California at the Richard M. Nixon library. Watching him peering over the podium I thought that maybe they should have gotten a shorter podium. Here he is sitting at his table.
Although I thought his award acceptance speech was kind of funny in a sarcastic sort of way it also seemed a bit angry. I wasn’t sure if it was attributed to the fact that maybe they should have brought him up about two Martinis earlier, he was just pissed off about something or maybe he has taken a few too many hits lately in his life. Whatever the reason he was definitely different.
Now, I look at Buzz as a hero and an American Icon. I have nothing but a deep respect for him, his accomplishments and his contributions to science. After thinking about his speech for awhile I said a prayer for him and maybe you should too. He was quite different from the guy I talked to a few years ago and didn’t seem at all like the guy who prayed to God and performed the Holy Eucharist on the lunar surface after touch down.
In life I have learned that some people love to be exalted and that is strange to me. I tend to become embarrassed when people praise me or my work and will avoid people who do it too much. I have come to realize that a lot of “successful” people like to kid themselves that everything that happens to them is of their own doing. I’ve heard people say things like… ”I work hard” or “I make my own luck.” Yes, hard work helps but not very many people have any idea of what real hard work is. If you think you work hard spend a day with me busting out concrete with a sledge hammer or setting 250 lb. beams two stories in the air. I guarantee you that 90 percent of these so called “hard working successful people” wouldn’t even show up to work the next day. I laugh when I hear wealthy or successful people claim that they are “self made.” Whether or not they want to admit it they know in their hearts that 50 percent of what has happened to them is attributed to just plain dumb luck. And God Almighty controls all that, believe me. So if you want to be exalted for being self absorbed go somewhere else as I have no time for that.
Here is a quick reality check human math lesson: There are only two supreme forces in the Universe and they are Love and Fear. Hate is a product of fear. I.e. you hate spiders or others because you are afraid of them. Next, the only example or illustration of Love is giving of oneself. The more you give the more you show Love. You wake up every morning and the Lord God who is Love gives you the entire Universe. What you do with it is entirely up to you.
Fearful beings will hoard and grab on to everything that comes their way because they are cowardly, afraid to be without and have no faith in God or their fellow man. They are sort of like trying to save a drowning man who will climb up on top of you to save his own life and drown you in the process. Fearful people never have enough where as Loving people always think they have too much. Sometimes we all have to look into the mirror and ask ourselves which supreme force governs our lives and then make a change.
Astronauts, famous test pilots and movie stars are usually chosen from a big group of equally qualified and capable people. Most of the final choices are political in nature and can be chalked up to nepotism as most times it’s not what you know but rather who you know. Many times they just happened to be standing in the right place at the right time. Some Colonel points to a second lieutenant he thinks can do the job and says….”You, you are the guy who I will allow to volunteer for this special program.” Next thing you know you are a legend! The fun stuff that happens to you in life is simply a gift from God Almighty. How about thanking him for it sometimes instead of trying to convince people that you are special in some sort of way? In God’s eyes we are all special in some way.
That said I think some people need to listen to an old Beatles song and favorite of mine. This song helped me out a long time ago when I had some personal problems of my own and was tripping and stumbling through what seemed an endless amount of chinga at the time. The lyrics are quite informing and I think there is a real life lesson here for just about anyone, the song goes like this….
There is nothing you can do that can’t be done-
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung-
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game-
There is nothing you can make that can’t be made-
No one you can save that can’t be saved-
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be YOU in time-
All you need is love… All you need is love…
All you need is love…Love…Love is all you need!
These lyrics have been a life lesson for me in the past and I believe need to be heard by so many people that I seem to be meeting nowadays. Besides the “ever so true” lyrics the melody is fantastic. You sing this song one time and if you get it, you will sing it the rest of your life, I guarantee it. The “operational” key phrase to remember here is…”Love is all you need”……Waldo