Here we go. The last fourteen months of work have all come down to this: testing. Over the last two weeks, we have traveled back and forth from South Jersey to inspect the site, set up infrastructure, and clear the area.
In the next 6 days, Castle Point Rocketry will be pursuing a rigorous testing schedule. The testing procedure is 65 pages… But what all will we be doing?
You’ll be able to follow along on live streams that we post to our social media pages. In case you’re still curious what we’re doing along the way, here’s a short explanation.
Phase One: Tank Testing
The first set of tests caters specifically to our experimental liquid oxygen (LOX) tank from Infinite Composites Technologies. Though the composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) is theoretically capable of handing pure oxygen at such cold temperatures and high pressure, we want to test it to be absolutely positive. That way, if we notice any problems, we can stop everything before we have it inside our rocket.
Our Tank Testing series consists of three tests. TT.01: COPV Cryogen Validation proves the tank can withstand cryogens at high pressure. (A gas is “cryogenic” if it can be turned into a liquid below -240°F .) Then, TT.02: COPV LOX Compatibility Validation and TT.03: COPV Cryogenic Pressure Validation step into chemical compatibility with LOX and a system at full pressure.
Phase Two: Full Stack Testing
The second set of tests is more complicated and involves more subsystems. Rather than just the LOX tank and its assorted plumbing, the next five tests incorporate the whole rocket — but don’t let it leave the ground. Computer, mechanical, and chemical systems all interact with one another to give the team an idea of the rocket’s performance.
Similar to the Tank Testing procedures, FST.01: Full Stack Pressurization Test and FST.02: Cold Flow Test simply ensure that everything can withstand operational temperature and pressure. Then, we introduce fire.
FST.03: Ignition Sequence Test is expected to be the longest test Castle Point Rocketry will perform. It is a critical juncture of the project, for limiting the time between when chemicals flow and when the engine ignites will conserve precious fuel and help us make it to the Karman Line. FST.04: Hot Abort Sequence Test then double-checks that, once turned on, we can turn it off as necessary.
Finally, the grand finale. FST.05: Full Stack Hot Fire Test. This test will be the most exciting, the most relieving, and the most Instagram-able. (So we’ve left room for it to happen twice.) Picture a rocket — without its nose or tail — strapped to the ground, straining upwards under full thrust. This test is essential not only to prove we can launch, but also to fully grasp the efficiency of our engine.
And then, well, we pack up and go home. We’ll have a truck to return, a rocket to clean, and some data to send off to interested parties. Not to mention, we’ll be so ecstatic we probably won’t sleep for three days. (Or, alternatively, so ecstatic we will sleep for three days.) We have the future of this project to look forward to — including a launch looming in the near future.