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Official Armadillo Q&A thread

Posted by: John Carmack - Tue Jun 15, 2004 8:01 am
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Official Armadillo Q&A thread 
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Post Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 8:01 am
Since it doesn't look like the Frontier Files Online diaries are going to ever get working again, I'll start doing public Q&A here. I'll mention it in the next weekly update, but anyone that isn't too paranoid about this being a spoof can go ahead and ask questions immediately.

John Carmack


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 8:14 am
Cool, nice to be able to pick your brains Mr Carmack. I would like to know when you forsee being able to do untethered flights? It appears to me that the safety issues have been taken seriously enough.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 11:16 am
Hey just to make sure you'll believe Mr. Carmack it's deffinatly him, I've checked it, his IP address is from idsoftware.com.

So please no alligations about him beeing an impostor etc.

Btw, Nice to have you here Mr. Carmack :D

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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 11:20 am
:D Welcome, John. Thanks for all the great and interesting reports.

Keep up the good work.

Fly high and fast and free!

And my best to Widget.

--Ralph

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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 12:05 pm
just to follow those comments, id like to voice my appreciation, well done! look forward to hearing your answers and comments here!
Rob

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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 2:02 pm
awesome, great to have you here! my question: following a 120 sec burn waivier (assuming you get it), how high will that allow you to fly the Black Armadillo or the test vehicle?

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Post Drogues for aerodynamic stability on reentry   Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 2:48 pm
First of all, let me start by thanking you for the openness with which you carry out your project. The weekly updates seem to really spark interest and enthousiasm in a large group of people and give a realistic picture of the problems you run into. This is a real treat compared to other companies/teams only giving out a flashy press-release when a certain "milestone" has been reached. Beside that, it's of course also a lot of fun to look at videos of crashing vehicles! :wink: Seriously though, this is inspirational stuff.

I had an idea :idea: that could possibly allow you to fly a bit higher with your current vehicles. Your vehicles are aerodynamically unstable and as we've all been able to read, parachute descents are out of the question because of drift-issues. Have you considered deploying only a drogue chute on descent to keep the vehicle in the right orientation and then throttle up only at a certain (low) altitude, ending the flight in the normal "powered landing mode" (possibly after releasing the drogue)? I bring this up, because a short while ago you mentioned that you need quite a bit of throttle on descent to have enough control authority for the powered landings. This burns up quite a bit of fuel, making the maximum reachable altitude lower.

I just saw that in the December 20, 2003 update you said that you are planning to have this system on the 1600 gallon vehicle for emergency use only, but that vehicle supposedly is already aerodynamically stable on descent, because of its low CG. The current (tube and 850 gallon) vehicles aren't. Is this something to consider for those as well, but then as a part of the standard flight-plan? It should be relatively simple (as a skydiver, I know that drogues are easy to pack!) and drift shouldn't be an issue, because you will probably still have a large descent velocity.

Anyway, good luck with further testing! Hope you can produce another cool video of a boosted launch this week. :)


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 4:15 pm
Mr. Carmack,

It's great to see your here. I have enjoyed reading your posts on sci.space.policy for awhile now. Also, you actually emailed me regarding a suggestion I once sent about a possible source for a peroxide distiller, when I had never expected a reply. Armadillo Aerospace is the human face of the X-Prize competition, I think all would agree.


I have a question that has interested me. Since you seem to be looking launch sites other then WSMR, are you opposed to going back to the chutes and crushable nose-cone idea again? In theory, if you do this, it would require a smaller fuel tank and less problems with landing supports.

-Jonathon Grimes

(addendum: In retrospect my question is somewhat similar to Webkabouter. Sorry)


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 6:11 pm
It's been great following your updates on your site, and your posts to sci.space.policy, and the ERPS forum. Questions:

1. Will you be attending the June 21st launch of SS1?

2. Assuming your still only able to spend a couple of days a week working on your vehicle & engines, when do you envision the effort becoming a more full-time operation?

3. What's the chances of a webcam being put in your workshop?

4. Will there be a 2004 widget animation?

5. Given the wind issues with one of your last tests, what do you estimate your weather window (wind, temp, humid, etc...)will be for flights?

6. Instead of a monkey, will you be flying an Armadillo on one of your early test flights, or do you think PETA will give you trouble?

7. What size engine is planned for the sub-orbital vehicle?

8. Will you be testing a liquid catalyst engine this year?


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 7:16 pm
John - I live in the DFW area. Any chance you would ever open up one of your test hops to visitors?


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Post replies   Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 8:53 pm
untethered hops:
We are doing a boosted hop of the streamlined vehicle tonight, if the weather holds.

how high with 120 second burn waiver:
10,000' - 20,000' depending on various things.

using a drogue for descent:
All of the vehicles should be stable falling base first, so eventually we intend to turn the engines completely off for descent, with only occasional pulses to keep the catalyst packs hot before powering up for landing. We won't be able to test this at all until we are flying with the burn time waiver, because it will probably take several seconds of stabilized descent before there is enough speed to keep it pointing straight.

launch sites other that WSMR:
Until the environmental work is done by the spaceports, we can't use any of them. It may be possible to use parachutes in other places, but you do need a really large downwind recovery area. The regulators really like the limited footprint of the powered landing.

ss1 launch:
I'm not going, but I wish them luck. I'm not big on travel or crowds if I can avoid it, and I don't get much of a thrill from "being there".

full time:
I still have enough interesting stuff to do at Id that I'm not likely to go full time at Armadillo in the near future, but if Burt crashes, I might temporarily spend more time on it this year.

webcam:
Not likely.

widget anim:
Probably.

weather window:
Don't know yet. With a symetric vehicle, we should be able to fly in high winds.

test animals:
Russ will probably be the first biological test subject.

engine size:
A single man suborbital vehicle of our design needs about a 20,000 lbf engine. A three man vehicle needs about a 40,000 lbf engine.

liquid catalyst:
It is low priority work, but we will be doing some more small tests within a few weeks.

visitors at the shop:
Not likely, we like to stay pretty focused on the work.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 9:23 pm
wow, fast response, thanks! we all look foward to watching the movies of your hop next update, good luck. personally i think the armadillo design is the best in terms of actual commercial potential. i'll kick off the second round of questions (they'll never stop :lol: ): after you perfect the vehicle and software, i'd imagine you'll be able to fly several times a day, and pinpoint your landing within a couple feet of a target, is that true or am i being overly optimistic?

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Post Woohoo!   Posted on: Tue Jun 15, 2004 10:29 pm
Hi, John! Thanks for all the updates.
Q: Big question: What's the timeline for the Black Armadllo, the Big Kahuna, the extra-terrestrial? How long till we start seeing "boosted hops" into vaccuum, assuming no big setbacks?
Q: Once you get this spacecraft mass-produced (at least partially), how cheaply can you make them?
Q: How much do you expect each flight to cost, minimum?
Q: After you go extra-terrestrial, what's the next step?
Q: How long do you think it'll take you to get to orbit?
Q: How many Gs do you estimate the astronauts will undergo?
-Yehoshua

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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 16, 2004 1:02 am
Looks like all the good questions were already asked. :? :D

Any thoughts of using fuels other than hydrogen peroxide in the future? I had thought that you couldn't make orbit with the hydrogen peroxide but found out here recently that I was wrong so I guess different fuels aren't an issue but I'm still curious.

By the look of the videos you guys are pretty much alone in the factory complex when you've been doing your tethered flights but I really wonder what you neighbors think of those.

Although I know it's a delusional pipe dream but have you guys done any work on the 1600 gallon tank vehicle?


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Post Perfect test flight, more answers   Posted on: Wed Jun 16, 2004 7:30 am
The test flight went perfectly, so I did a mid-week update:

http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/Home/News?news_id=263

More answers:

Flight rate:

With no parts separated or consumed, the vehicle should be able to be immediately filled up and flow again. A one hour turn around time is certainly possible.

Big vehicle timescale:

The big vehicle may do a repeat of the small vehicle test flight next week, and we may do waivered flights next month, but we don't have a firm schedule for putting a big engine in it or getting our launch license. Much depends on how SS1 does next week.

Costs:

The raw propellant cost to ride our big vehicle to 100 km will be well under $10,000, but operational costs and actually earning back some of the development expenses will probably have us looking at the $98k Space Adventures price as long as the market will bear it. With a change to a different engine combination, future vehicles should be able to get ride prices all the way down to $10k if the market is large enough to support high vehicle utilization.

The future:

I don't want to speculate too far ahead, but we certainly plan on working towards orbital capabilities.

G loads:

The vehicle sees 5 G's on reentry. Basically all suborbital vehicles will see this unless they spend a lot more energy (and take a lot more heat) to fly a lifting reentry with significant horizontal velocity.

Other propellants:

We constantly consider other propellants, but we think we are still doing the right thing.

Neighbors:

Some of the guys from the Northrop-Grumman building across the parking lot come out and watch our tests on Saturdays. We had our very first complaint last Saturday -- a trucker had parked his truck on the other side of our fence for some sleep, and he was quite disturbed by the noise.

1600 gallon tank:

All our current stuff is designed to just bolt onto any tank from 450 gallons to 1600 gallons. The existing engine isn't big enough, but the propulsion modules will be interchangeable.


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