We see the Earth, now.
October 10, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

On September 30, 2011 at 11:08am, Derek Deville's Qu8k (pronounced "Quake") launched from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to an altitude of 121,000' before returning safely to earth. Above 99% of the atmosphere the sky turns black in the middle of the day and the curvature of the earth is clearly visible. Direct video links inside. posted by lazaruslong (24 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
posted by ph00dz at 11:21 AM on October 10, 2011

Awesome stuff. Reminded me of this commercial...
posted by BobbyVan at 11:24 AM on October 10, 2011

For an amateur rocket using solid fuel, a ten second burn is impressively long.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:24 AM on October 10, 2011

Just imo, but the long version is worth the watch. Swapping to different full length HD go-pro angles was pretty sweet.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:25 AM on October 10, 2011

Very neat. Between this and kites and balloons and model planes and model helos and ordinary planes and helos, regular people have a lot of options for capturing their own aerial imagery.

What does it cost to build a rocket like this?
posted by Nelson at 11:27 AM on October 10, 2011

That's about the most awesome thing I've ever seen. Robert Goddard would be proud!
posted by brenton at 11:30 AM on October 10, 2011

I love the Black Rock Desert. It's our national Crazy Shit district.
posted by theodolite at 11:31 AM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Try this at home.
posted by Splunge at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2011

Kinda funny that they have the Quake icon considering that Carmack is into amateur rocketry, isn't he?
posted by symbioid at 11:36 AM on October 10, 2011

Oh ha! I see it's the "Carmack Prize" Uh - yeah. OK, NVM!
posted by symbioid at 11:36 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

This beats the crap out of those old Estes rockets I would launch (and inevitably lose) when I was a kid.
posted by tommasz at 11:39 AM on October 10, 2011

This was a launch for a $10K prize offered by John Carmack (thus, the reference to Quake.) The requirements were simple -- 30 days advanced notice, GPS proof of over 100,000AGL flight, and safe recovery of the rocket intact.

He was very flexible --- you didn't need a continuous GPS plot, just one confirmed fix at altitude, and something like a bent fin, or (presumably) the melted camera shroud wouldn't disqualify you.

Presuming they gave the required notice -- and given that they'd need to work the FAA to get the restricted area in place before the launch, that seems likely, I'd bet that shot got them both very cool video and ten grand.

Performance -- 80 seconds to 121Kfeet, or an average of 1512.5 feet per second, or just over 1000mph. 121Kfeet=36km or 23 miles above the earth's surface. A very impressive shot. Then again, with a Q class motor -- 4000lbfs thrust for 8 seconds -- you can expect the thing to leave in a hurry.

What does it cost to build a rocket like this?

I would guesstimate about $5-10K in raw materials, plus a few thousand for electronics. However, this is nothing compared to the time you need to spend to learn how to build these safely, and the tooling you need to build them with.

I would not be surprised if it was over half a million, once you counted a reasonable per-hour salary and test/training/tooling cost. The good news is most of that can be spent over multiple rockets.

The first thing to do is to build some small model rockets, and then, if you are still interested, get into High Powered Rocketry. This will give you the experience you *will* need before you take on these extremely powerful rockets. I'm just guessing at the fuel fraction, but they were at 320lbs at liftoff, so I'd guess about 60 pounds of that was the actual rocket (the rest was fuel) and they just hurled that 60 pounds 23 miles straight up.

There is a lot to learn before you can do that safely. :-)
posted by eriko at 11:41 AM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting it.

This is the best video I have seen since the Joseph Kittenger video.

Awesome stuff. You made my day.
posted by 4ster at 11:45 AM on October 10, 2011

... and the Burning Man folks cleaned up nicely, too.

I imagine the licence you need to store that amount of explosive in your garage is pretty exotic. re. straight up - Anyone know why a thing that has travelled 46 miles would land only three miles away? I'd have thought even a slight deviation from vertical, or aerodynamic force off the fuselage, or significant wind at altitude, would have taken it many miles off launch point and I didn't see any course adjustment mechanism.
posted by falcon at 12:13 PM on October 10, 2011

Neato. What strikes me as awesome is that this is, in principle, nothing more than a much larger version of those Estes rockets. The nose cone attached to the rocket body with a parachute. This scales up surprisingly well.
posted by chemoboy at 12:14 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is cool and awesome.

On the other hand, isn't this exporting lethal technology that could be used by terrorists? Palestinians might observe that 121 km straight up is a long way on a ballistic trajectory.
posted by three blind mice at 12:14 PM on October 10, 2011

Could he launch that from a balloon (or the center of a three balloon platform) about 10 miles up?
posted by codswallop at 12:22 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Very cool. Thanks for sharing, lazaruslong.
posted by homunculus at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I pulled up the observed weather for that day. The first cloud layer they hit was at 7000 ft AGL (the elevated cumulus). The rocket got there in 9 seconds. The next cloud layer was a cirrus layer at 20,000 ft, and the rocket got there in 15 seconds. At about 22 seconds it looks like it ascended into the stratosphere (at 43000 ft that day in Nevada, as measured by radiosonde)... I approximated this where you see the shift from a hazy air mass into a clearer, dark-skied environment. Kind of pedantic, I know, but it really shows off the capability of this rocket.

Of course it's got nothing on the military Sprint anti-ballistic missile, which expended half a million pounds of thrust in just over one second. I don't know how that thing didn't disintegrate from its own thrust.

Also you can tell these guys haven't been on YouTube very long since they didn't cover up the nice ambient sound with a bunch of speed metal.
posted by crapmatic at 12:56 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

On the other hand, isn't this exporting lethal technology that could be used by terrorists?

The Feds have already been all over this for years. Except it's not so much "terrorists" as it is "states that we don't like and don't want getting a lot of inexpensive asymmetric warfare capabilities, thx".

The most relevant thing is probably the Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR. Prohibited items for export are listed here (PDF). What you're interested in is probably covered in Section 1.A.1, "EQUIPMENT, ASSEMBLIES AND COMPONENTS", page 16.

tl;dr version is that they don't care unless a system can haul a 500kg payload 300km.

However, high-powered rocket motors are probably prohibited from export as potentially being a component of a prohibited system. Software and tooling are also prohibited, which is interesting when you consider the range of COTS products that could potentially fall under that category if anyone cared to interpret it in a really strict way. (E.g. lots of CAD and specialist CNC stuff might be considered dual-purpose.) I don't think that's how it's currently interpreted, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:22 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh! I heard that go up! I am on the Playa Restoration crew for Burning Man, and we were watching the smoke trails go up all that week from rocket launches.
posted by Catblack at 2:43 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Youtube finally finished streaming the whole video to me. What are all those noises I'm hearing during the "unedited" launch? What are all the whining and whistling going between 60 and 90 seconds into the flight?

It is still hard for my brain to understand that it only took 10 seconds of thrust and 80 seconds of graceful momentum to complete the flight.
posted by chemoboy at 12:51 AM on October 11, 2011

I was hoping for fewer pics of the rocket and more pics from space.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:08 AM on October 11, 2011

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