Test Stand Construction, Quicksand and Ignition Tests

June 27, 2017

by bluShift Aerospace

Test Stand Construction, Quicksand and Ignition Tests

bluShift received funding from the Maine Technology Institute Seed Grant a couple weeks ago. With the money this provided, we were able to hire a new team member, Brook, who is a former artist turned mechanical engineer. Brooks skills in mechanical engineering, programming and heavy construction were quickly put to the test.

April Showers Bring May Rocket Engine Tests…

Two weeks ago, Sascha and Brook, under drizzling conditions, got to work setting up the foundation for a new test stand up at Brunswick Landing. Part of the test stand was assembled the next day with one and two ton concrete blocks.

Sascha was impressed at how little force was required to move the blocks when they were suspended from the rented lifter by a chain. With little static friction the two ton blocks were easily positioned, resembling work done in a low gravity environment. He commented that moving them by hand gave an intuitive sense of how little force can be applied to an object in space to get it spinning.

Brook atop of the rocket test stand

Brook celebrating getting the test stand construction under way.

They continued assembling the test stand the following week, with plans to raise it to 18 feet in height as well as putting an additional protective concrete barrier into place opposite of the “business end” of the test stand.

April Showers Also Bring Quicksand

This past week more concrete blocks were delivered along with the heavy lifter rental unit. With the experience they had from installing the blocks from the previous week adding blocks to the stand seemed to go more quickly. Even the construction of the protective barrier opposite of the test stand seemed to go smoothly. That is, smoothly until they went to lift up the final concrete piece…

The final piece was a jersey barrier with a pole secured to its side to be placed at the very top of the test stand. To scoop up the barrier they decided it was best to approach it with the heavy lifter by venturing onto a section of the former Naval fuel depot property they hadn’t yet driven across. Bad idea.

Going for the last block of concrete and we got stuck in quicksand.

Going for the last block of concrete and we got stuck in quicksand.

Brook quickly found the sand below the lifter was not only getting softer but wetter and suddenly found he couldn’t go forward even with the 4×4 engaged. Desperate to get out, he reversed only to have the lifter sink further. Moving the wheels at all made the situation worse. The lifter was stuck in quicksand, and they literally could hear the “blub, blub” from the sand as the machine sunk further down.

Two hours of digging, wedging rocks and sticks under the wheels proved fruitless to get the lifter out of what seemed like its final resting place. Fortunately, just then, the rental company showed up with a tractor trailer truck and the driver, Roger, kindly offered to use the truck’s winch to pull the lifter to safety.

With the lifter free again, we quickly snagged that final concrete piece and carefully placed it at the top of the test stand. Mission accomplished!

Final concrete block put into place for the vertical rocket test stand.

Final concrete block put into place for the vertical rocket test stand.

Up next  we have a few reinforcements we will be doing to the test stand itself, some landscaping and then shortly the rigging and cabling will be installed. Plans are to ultimately power the tests using an off-grid solar power system. If we’re going to build a green rocket, we’ve got to use green power.

In other news…

Brook also got to work with Ward who has been coding the PLC, or programmable logic controller. The PLC is the brain of the oxidizer and ignition system. It operates the valves and collects data from the sensors. We had previously developed in-house software to do this control and monitoring but opted for a PLC due to the flexibility it will give us to modify changes during tests.

Pressure testing continued two weeks ago. After an initial, unsuccessful pressure test, the ignition bulkhead sealing surface was polished and succeeded in holding pressure.

We hit a win this week with a successful ignition.

Successful ignition test!

3, 2, 1 Ignition!

Two weeks ago we attempted to also ignite a fuel that was pumped into the bulkhead. The fuel was successfully ignited, although the positioning of the ignitors was not opportune for this task. Fortunately, this week David, Luke and Sascha were able to make a few minor modifications to the ignitors and able to quickly achieve the desired ignition flame.

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