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Testing: Days 0 – 2

Testing: Days 0 – 2

These last three days were dominated by the minutiae associated with launching a rocket. Sure, we did as much setup as possible beforehand. But there’s much more to do once the rocket actually gets here.

Day Zero: Packing Up

Tuesday, July 9, was particularly chaotic. Myriad administrative snafus demanded quick action from the whole team. Dakota grabbed a truck so we could transport our rocket. And, most pressingly, we needed to move everything out of our Griffith work space and go mobile.

Monica, Nathan, Ben, Dan, Will, and Dakota (behind camera) take a breather after lifting our rocket onto the dolly. More straps and plastic wrap were added to further reduce movement.

Due to everything else going on, we didn’t even get around to packing until 6:00pm. By that point, we knew we would be leaving late, but we hoped 1:00am would be the limit. Yet 1:00am came and went.

At 2:30am, we gently loaded the rocket into the truck. (Lift gates are a blessing.) It took all of the remaining six of us, but it happened without a snag. Come 4:00am, we were practically finished.

Our lab and rocket, all crammed into one 26′ box truck.

The lab looked lived in, but at least it was devoid of much our mess. And what better time than 4:00am to start 2.5 hours of highway truck driving?

Day One: Tying It All Together

Dakota scrambled into the driver’s seat. Ben and Rodrigo piled in and kept him company to Salem County. (And kept him awake.) After all, there’s that old saying: “Six eyes are better than two with a $500,000 rocket and boxed-up laboratory in tow.”

They arrived okay — and just in time to volley off the first round of calls to gas/cryogenic companies to confirm our delivery schedule. Starting at 8:00am on the dot, Dakota, Will, and Nathan were on the phone until noon. Then, it was just a matter of waiting for the team to assemble.

The shed at left will store our chemicals. Ground control is barely off-screen to the right. The test site is 2,000 feet behind the camera.

A brief team meeting preceded driving to the test site and setting up ground control. The remaining daylight hours were swallowed up by running 2,000 feet of fiber optic cable and cleaning out the on-site shed for our chemical deliveries.

Day Two: Finishing Touches

It took a little under 14 months, but it’s finally happened — Castle Point Rocketry has received a shipment of rocket propellant. (The oxidizing half, at least.) Shortly after a late start to the day, the first cryogen delivery came through: liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen. It’s a good thing we got that shed cleaned out!

Bagels and LOX, anyone?

For the rest of the day, we split up into small project teams. The test stand was bent and needed a quick weld — Rodrigo made short work of it. Over the weekend, the gantry hoist slipped on the muddy ground. We righted and reinforced it. Ben and Nathan focused on getting the avionics and valves attached and laid out.

CP Rocketry Test Site, featuring the Mayor’s Soy Beans

Though all parts of plumbing were screwed together, Will and Monica still had some tightening to do. They spent most of the day in the truck-lab working on the rocket. Dakota manned the ground control station, where there is WiFi and a view of the road, to finish up some remaining purchases and administrative duties.

The inside of our truck-turned-lab. (There are no chemicals stored inside.)

When interrupted by a small storm, we broke for lunch. Then, after three more hours in the sun, a massive thunderstorm rumbled in from Delaware. We took it as our cue to leave before it got dark out — but not without first getting absolutely drenched.

What’s Left

We’re zooming in on the first day of true testing. It’s highly likely that, after a delivery Friday morning, we will be testing Friday afternoon. In the meantime, the team still has a short laundry list of tasks to accomplish. First and foremost, we need to reestablish ground control. It kinda tipped over in the rain, and we had to rescue it.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for a live feed of testing. (Or the live feed itself.)