What went wrong

For those who didn't tune in this past weekend to the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, you can get a recap here, here, or here. But as you probably heard, TrueZer0 lost their craft in an abort some 50 meters above the Earth. What went wrong?

This onboard video may give some insight. You can see that directly after lift-off, the craft swerves slightly, but restabilizes. As the craft ascends to 50 meters, it begins to spin on its Z-axis uncontrollably.

I spoke with Todd Squires after the launch, and he informed me that this is likely due to the way the hydrogen peroxide is expelled over the catalyst in their engine.

Sadly this was a large price to pay for such an important piece of data, but such is the incredible cost of experimental rocketry. For a craft that cost less than US$20,000 and was built in 10 months, I'd say they didn't do half bad.

spaceguy said...

Ouch! That's pretty wild seeing the ground come at you as the craft dives toward Earth.

I was assuming that this was still a test flight even though they did it during the NGLLC competition (first untethered flight for them, right?). It sucks to lose the vehicle, but this is all part of testing. And it goes to show that designing & building a spacecraft is not easy.

mike fabio said...

You said it: rocket science is hard.

While this wasn't exactly a test per se, the TrueZer0 guys definitely knew what they were up against. They have a pretty interesting write-up over at their own blog of what happened.

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