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Ham-Radio-Carrying Rocket Makes it to Margin of Space:

from The ARRL Letter, Vol 23, No 21 on May 22, 2004
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Ham-Radio-Carrying Rocket Makes it to Margin of Space:

Following its May 17 launch from Nevada's Black Rock Desert, a solid-fuel amateur rocket carrying a ham radio avionics package easily exceeded its primary goal of attaining an altitude of 100 km--62 miles--considered the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and space, its sponsors say. An Amateur Radio direction finding team later recovered the rocket's avionics package intact. Avionics Team Leader Eric Knight, KB1EHE, told ARRL that the 21-foot, 10-inch diameter Civilian Space Xploration Team (CSXT) GoFast vehicle reached an altitude of 77 miles according to its onboard instruments, making it the first civilian rocket to do so.

"We well shattered any definition of space, and everybody's jubilant here," Knight told ARRL from Nevada. "Within two seconds into the flight we were already supersonic." An ARRL member, Knight said 75 to 100 people--many of them radio amateurs--witnessed the launch, and some asked how they could become licensed. The launch itself, Knight reported, "went like clockwork."

During the vehicle's descent to Earth, a ballistic parachute deployed to keep it from tumbling, slow its velocity and make it hit the ground nose first. "The avionics package looks pristine," Knight said. "It could fly again." That's not likely however, since the CSXT team is hoping the avionics will end up in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

A volunteer aerospace tracking and recovery team of Silicon Valley Amateur Radio operators calling itself Stratofox zeroed in on signals from the fallen rocket, which came down in rugged, mountainous terrain some 25 miles from the launch site. Tiny bird-tracking transmitters operating in the 224-MHz range were embedded into the parachute shroud lines solely for tracking purposes.

The avionics team's homebuilt patch-type antennas served the 33-cm telemetry downlink and 2.4 GHz Amateur TV transmitters as well as the onboard GPS units. The color ATV system was able to provide some photos during the first several seconds of the flight, but Knight said the rocket's spin--about nine cycles per second--caused the video to blur after that.

The avionics team includes eight Amateur Radio licensees, most of whom also were involved in an unsuccessful 2002 CSXT launch attempt. The entire 18-member CSXT team is headed by CSXT founder and Program Director Ky Michaelson, a retired Hollywood stunt man.

The United Kingdom Rocketry Association this week conveyed congratulations to the US team. "It's certainly a major achievement," said John Bonsor, a UKRA founder.


The ARRL Letter Vol. 23, No. 21 May 21, 2004

Member Comments:
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Ham-Radio-Carrying Rocket Makes it to Margin of Sp  
by N3NL on May 23, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Good news. Let's see some more of this type of
73, Nick Leggett, N3NL
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