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If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough | by PeterThoeny
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If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough

Two years ago today we went to a remote place in California's Mojave desert to launch a big rocket called HARP - High Altitude Rocketry Program. My son was leading a student team at San Jose State University to design and build the rocket for the prior 9 month.


It is a two stage rocket about 15 feet (4.5 m) tall, and 4 inch (10 cm) diameter. The booster (lower stage) has a big N-motor, the sustainer has an even bigger O-motor. Both are solid state - the fuel is a rubber compound, the oxidizer is ammonium perchlorate. The rocket has a lot of electronics and several cameras. It simulated to reach 150,000 feet (46 km) - half way into space, with a top speed of Mach 3.8 - almost twice as fast as a rifle bullet!


The initial launch went well. With a rocket this size you usually need to be 2500 feet (700 m) away from the launch. We were close, very close - but safe in a bunker. The launch was very loud, leaving a smoke trail that disappeared into the sky.


We did not see the sustainer light up, e.g. there was no secondary smoke trail. That meant trouble! We hid again in the bunker. A minute and 25 seconds after launch we heard a loud explosion. 2 miles (3.3 km) out we saw plumes of smoke rising up in the desert. The sustainer came in ballistic and exploded on impact. It created an 8 feet (2.5 m) crater! My son is standing in the crater, with the team around him.


The team was in good spirit, despite the obliterated rocket. Elon Musk once said, "if things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."


This coming weekend my son will launch another high power rocket at the same launch site. This time as part of his work at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.


I processed a balanced and a photographic HDR photo from a RAW exposure, merged them selectively, and carefully adjusted color balance and curves. I welcome and appreciate constructive comments.


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-- ƒ/2.2, 4.2 mm (29 mm FF), 1/430 sec, ISO 32, iPhone 6 Plus, HDR, 1 JPG exposure, IMG_0294_hdr1bal1pho1k.jpg

-- CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, © Peter Thoeny, Quality HDR Photography

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Taken on November 17, 2018