Not all of the above organizations are affliliates of — that is, officially allied with — ERPS. However, they all conduct broadly similar activities and have similar philosophies of operation.
The creator of Doom and Quake has a new dream: To capture the X Prize. And, with the money he earned from producing those popular video games, he has the resources to give it a serious try.
Working largely with a team of volunteers, building largely with off-the-shelf parts, John Carmack might make his try sometime next year. He is unique in that he posts almost every detail of his progress on the Armadillo Aerospace Web site. He understands that this is the fastest way to make progress — sharing the results of experiments, tips about what works or doesn't work, names of suppliers. For generations, the same practice has led to spectacular successes in the world of science.
From as early in his life as they both remember, John Powell told his mother that his dream was to own his own rocket company someday. Today, that dream has become the reality of JP Aerospace.
Powell began to build his dream using what he calls PongSats. The PongSat is an inspired idea. Consider the lowly ping-pong ball: It is small, light, and very sturdy — the ideal way to package delicate equipment for a rocket flight. But what can you fit inside one? A lot of things, it turns out. Everything from seeds to tiny video cameras — the kind many use as Webcams — along with radio transmitters to get the video back to earth, have flown inside the compact containers. By the hundreds, these PongSats are flown to the edge of space on rockets or balloons, and recovered by parachutes. Thousands of students have taken part in the program; Powell basically gives the launches away.
He does not give everything away. An Air Force contract supplies some of the company's funding. For this customer, JPA has built several prototypes of a remote-controlled, high-altitude balloon platform called the "Vee Ship". The latest prototype is 175 feet long.
JPA relies quite a bit on volunteer labor. ERPS members have done some of that labor. It is one of those inspiring stories that you don't hear much about. But, we predict, you will.
From The Project's Web site: "Project Stratofox is a team of Amateur Radio operators coordinated from Silicon Valley who perform or participate in tracking and recovery operations for amateur rocketry and high-altitude balloon ('amateur aerospace') flights. The team also organizes training, trips and practice related to amateur aerospace tracking."
That pretty much sums up the purpose. It is an outgrowth of traditional amateur radio "fox hunts", in which someone places a transmitter at an undisclosed location and the other participants have to find it within a specified time. Prosaic as it sounds, tracking and recovering rockets is a fascinating activity that involves a variety of technical skills as well as the ability to navigate wild country on foot or in vehicles (and, not infrequently, to camp in the boonies.) The group also maintains a mailing list (joined from the Web site) and members have contributed video to the investigation of the Columbia tragedy.
Based in Mojave, CA, the Pacific Rocket Society was formed to go after the "CATS Prize". The CATS Prize expired unclaimed, and PRS, having built several rockets and an impressive launch facility, is now less active. But they still do test flights from time to time, and ERPS has traded services with them.
Affiliated with Portland State University, this very active organization develops amateur rockets. Like ERPS, it has conducted static tests and flights of several rocket designs. Its current project is LV2, a rocket designed to reach 55,000 feet altitude. LV2 has already flown to 18,000 feet. PSAS has published documents on the basic design of an SSTO vehicle, and now offers open-source guidance software. The organization's Web site is at http://twiki.psas.pdx.edu/bin/view/PSAS/PsasHome.
The group is one of the "prodromals" — the first to walk a particular path. Formed on 6 January 1946 as the Southern California Rocket Society, it is the oldest continuously operating rocket society in America. Today it maintains and administers the Mojave Test Area where ERPS and other amateur rocketry groups do flight tests. The URL for its Web site is just what you might expect.
Eleven years ago, the founders of the ERPS met at a conference called Making Orbit '93. That conference was organized in large part by Henry Vanderbilt. Henry eventually moved from the SF Bay area to Phoenix. There, he continued running annual conferences for those concerned with achieving truly routine access to space. Appropriately enough, these events are called "Space Access 'nn" where "nn" is the last two digits of the year. Held in late April, they are informal but intense gatherings where one may learn a great deal about the burgeoning entrepreneurial space launch industry — and perhaps make some great deals. For more information, see The Space Access Society.
In the tree of organizations associated with ERPS, this should more properly be an entire branch. Terraluna is the creation of Steve Traugott (accent on the "trau") and its purpose is business incubation. Steve also runs Infrastructures.Org, which develops computer software that expedites the deployment and maintenance of enterprise networks. And he is a principal in CD International Technology, a company doing non-destructive testing. CDI's shop has for years hosted our construction activities — assistance of inestimable value. We acknowledge that help at several places in our Web site, but not here since CDI is not directly involved with ERPS, rocketry or space development. Terraluna is directly involved with ERPS, as a sponsor, and Steve has great personal interest in activities like ours.
XCOR has been around for several years. Many of its personnel came from Rotary Rocket. One came from ERPS. Nailing down the performance of each component using a gradual, incremental approach, they are doing great things one step at a time.
And they have a list of relevant books on-line. See the XCOR Aerospace Library.
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