Rocket Science Still a Tricky Thing

As I read an article on the Virgin Galactic Crash it led me to search for more. Apparently all is not well with the plans for commercial space flight over at Galactic …

The SpaceShipOne rocket motor didn’t run like a Lexus, it was a cranky, shuddering, shaking, vibrating motor, which towards the end of the burn sounded like a screaming cat” Read more here:

Their rocket engine has always been, well, a ‘rocket engine’ with the types of issues and performance you get with these things. They run rough and you really feel it. And now they’re trying out a different fuel formulation to try and boost the power. Which some suspect might be part of the reason they had a recent mid flight crash. Loss of craft and loss of life.

Back in 2007 there was an accident at the company whose spacecraft is being used, Scaled Composites. That on-the-ground accident involved a tank of nitrous-oxide exploding and a few people being killed.

The motors they were using were solid fuel type. A rubber based fuel. The motor they are using now is a scaled up hybrid-version that uses a plastic-based fuel. Essentially nylon.

Apparently solid fuel motors suffer from inconsistent burn rates which leads to rough running. Hybrid motors differ from solid fuel motors in that they can be switched off by closing the valve on their oxidizer.

Even after decades and decades rocket motors are tricky things to make. And things will still go boom – the Galactic accident was the second one suffered by private space launch that week.

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