Selected Articles from the
September 1999 Odyssey
Editor: Craig E. Ward
By Steve Bartlett
Within the next few years, several amateur-built rockets will loft payloads
into near-Earth space, according to Mark Holthaus of the Reaction
Research Society. Holthaus described the efforts of groups across
the country to design, build, and fly small launchers at the Agamemcon
convention on June 12.
Individuals and groups in California, Minnesota, Alabama, and elsewhere
are striving to achieve what only sovereign governments and huge corporations
have done to date: place their own equipment in space. Inspired by a cash
prize to launch scratch-built rockets on 100 and 200-kilometer suborbital
flights and their own desire to Just Do It, these subscale space
programs are making great strides forward.
"Advanced composites, improved metal alloys, and lightweight electronics"
said Holthaus, "have made it relatively easy to do what used to take a
standing army of government engineers and scientists." He described successful
efforts to build and fly rockets with solid, liquid, and hybrid solid/liquid
propellants by groups such as JP
HALO run by the Huntsville
chapter of NSS, a few one-man machine shops, and
the Reaction Research Society. "There's a lot going on these days and
we're really excited," Holthaus exclaimed.
With several large aerospace companies in the area, as well as a large
industrial base, the Southern California region is particularly active
in the amateur space arena. "Amateurs in this area have ready access to
materials, propellants, electronics, high quality machine shops, and a
great deal of technical expertise," said Holthaus, who works professionally
as an aerospace engineer.
"In my regular job, I'm a safety engineer," he remarked, "and I can't
emphasize enough how careful people have to be when pursuing amateur rocketry
as a hobby." He told the attending audience of the hazards associated
with potentially explosive propellants, the risks to personnel and property,
and the legal restrictions associated with the activity. "In the State
of California, you have to obtain a special license from the State Fire
Marshal to test fire and launch rockets," he stated. "You have to demonstrate
to both the state and to other experienced rocket builders that you know
and understand what it takes to handle these materials safely."
There are a relatively small number of places in the United States where
amateur space efforts can get off the ground, owing to airspace restrictions,
proximity to metropolitan areas, and accessibility. The sites most commonly
used by amateurs include the Black Rock desert in northern Nevada, the
Delamar launch site near Las Vegas, and the Reaction Research Society's
Mojave Test Area just north of Edwards Air Force Base. "Better known launch
sites, such as Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, White Sands Missile Range in
New Mexico, and Wallops Island Virginia, are run by government personnel
and using them generally requires a lot more paperwork than most amateurs
want to do," said Holthaus.
Editors Note: Mark Holthaus is a former chapter president
and former member of the NSS Board of Directors. He
currently serves on the NSS Policy Committee.
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By Kristine L. Cerone
August 20, 1999, was the last and final Community Night at Boeing's
Space Systems plant in Downey. Tom Kennedy, Director of the Data Services
Center gave a presentation on the Space Shuttle and the history of the
1929, the site, a ranch filled with orange trees, was developed into an
airport and a manufacturing facility. In
the ensuing 60+ years aircraft, missile and spacecraft technology
was developed at the site. Mr. Kennedy talked about the many VIP visitors
to the facility including Queen Elizabeth and President Ronald Regan.
A slide presentation covered the Apollo lunar program and the development
of the Space Shuttle orbiters.
The monthly Community Night event had been held in the DEI
room (Design, Evaluation, and Integration) at the Downey facility for
more than 20 years. OASIS had an official table at
the event from 1988 to 1992 and over the years OASIS events have taken
place there. OASIS members in attendance on the last night were Dennis
Whipple and Seth Potter. Larry Evans
and other members of the Orange County Space Society were also
I brought my seven-year-old granddaughter Ashley. The evening was significant
for us. I raised my children a few blocks from the Downey facility during
the time the plant was known as Rockwell International. The event was
then called Family Night and it was probably the most important night
of the month for my oldest son, Rick, who wanted to grow up to be an Astronaut.
Rick, an OASIS member died in 1997. I wanted Ashley to get a glimpse of
her Uncle Rick's passion, the space program, and she got more than a glimpse.
She thoroughly enjoyed Tom Kennedy's talk, the California
Space and Science Center's display, and the "moon car" as she called
it. The most exciting and memorable moment of the evening came when Ashley
went into the full scale mockup of the space shuttle (housed in the DEI
room) and climbed up to the controls and imagined herself flying the space
shuttle. When the evening was over and we were settled in the car for
the trip home Ashley turned to me and said, "Grandma, it is too bad this
is the last time that place will be open, I know a lot of kids that would
like to see it."
There is talk of converting the historic DEI room into a space museum
after the Boeing facility closes later in 1999. The Downey City fathers
are not in favor of the idea, however, and plan to turn the site into
an industrial park. I hope they have a change of heart.
Drawing of the Apollo CM and Lunar Lander in launch configuration
from the NASA History
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