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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 Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Sun Apr 03, 2011 12:59 pm
Ben wrote:
I was up until midnight last night editing video and writing text, spent a good portion of the drive to NM going through photos and editing another video, and up again tonight getting the code together. I hope you enjoy. :-)

Armadillo update: http://goo.gl/pz6SO


That was awesome! The launch stand shots are really cool, and I really liked the reverse-zoom-in-and-slow-down effect you did with the "stig final hover before free flight video", near the beginning.

I'm so excited for your next launch window!


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Mon Apr 04, 2011 3:42 pm
So, how did it fly ?
Please write at least a one-sentence update.

(A multipage one with pictures and videos would do better, of course)


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Mon Apr 04, 2011 3:49 pm
Unfortunately, it didn't: http://twitter.com/wikkit/status/54262968040427521

The weather wasn't to blame, but something didn't work out with the STIG:
http://twitter.com/wikkit/status/54297565612605440

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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Mon Apr 04, 2011 4:15 pm
From John:

"Initial attempt was scrubbed at the last minute when an uninvited party (a hunter) entered the exclusion zone.

Second attempt had startup transient problems. We continue to have startup problems in New Mexico that we don’t have in Texas.

After cold soaking under the lox tank through these efforts, the batteries started to weaken, and we had to de-tank.

For reasons that aren’t clear yet, WSMR closed the rest of our launch window today, and we may not get another opportunity until Tuesday, which sucks. We’ll have plenty of time to look at the startup data…"


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Mon Apr 04, 2011 11:14 pm
Better a scrub than a crash . . .

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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:14 pm
No launch today, again :(
http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/04/05/ ... postponed/

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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:19 pm
Getting awfully quite here... any news about new launch attempts?


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Fri Apr 15, 2011 3:30 pm
We don't yet know when we'll know when we can launch.

Productive anyway. Funky new mod in the shop right now.


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Sat Apr 16, 2011 4:00 am
Over on Phil's facebook page, there's a pic of the new mod landing gear:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id ... 06&sk=wall

It looks like you're adding a lot of surface area in the back; is it going to be nose-first stable? If so, can you comment on how it's going to land?

Thanks for all your posts, Ben.


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:06 pm
John just posted this on twitter:
Quote:
One of these days I need to port the Armadillo mission control software from MFC to .NET or Qt.


Can i volunteer for the work ? :)


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Thu May 05, 2011 6:23 am
The smaller Morpheus (aka pixel) hovered ok, so why is the bigger Morpheus having so much trouble with hovering tests. Did they decide to create their own code from scratch and not reuse any of the AA code?


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Thu May 05, 2011 8:03 am
danny, I guess so

Since Morpheus was designed internally (although they definitely can't hide their source of inspiration ;)) I guess their control software is also their own.

After all, that's the whole point, isn't it? Getting NASA people out of of their offices to build real hardware (or software) and go out and test it, a lot!

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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Sun May 08, 2011 7:34 pm
No need to guess. People involved in the project have provided good insights in these threads:
http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/04/m ... l#comments
http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/05/v ... l#comments
http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/05/v ... l#comments

Quote:
All of the design, analysis, stress and engineering of Morpheus was done by NASA. The primary structure and landing gear is completely different from Pixel and was built on site in building 10 through the Jacobs contract who were also close partners in this effort. The tanks were manufactured by AA using NASA's boss design and internal slosh devices. AA did a significant amount of the fluid system build up based on NASA's design and fluid modeling. Many of the low cost commodity components that AA uses on their vehicles made it on to Morpheus; Ball Valves, Solenoid valves, linear actuators and couplers. This is an area where AA experience provided the confidence to use these industrial parts in an aerospace application. Another big difference is between Pixel and Morpheus is the location and gimbaling of the Main engine. Morpheus uses a throat gimbal ring from an old Peacekeeper upper stage located low and below the Cg of the vehicle, Pixel uses a head end universal above the Cg of the vehicle. Which brings us to the engine. The Morpheus 4000 lbf engine that is installed in the vehicle was designed and built in-house by NASA for about $40k. Mind you that this is a workhorse engine but it does the job very well. Since the engines are so low cost we did have multiple paths: AA built and tested two new designs a Swirl coax and a Pintle, Purdue University is also building a Pintle engine and JSC has a swirl shear coax in development. All of these designs are higher performing than the Pixel engine. Moving on to avionics and software: The flight computer, power distribution and storage, instrumentation, communication and software are all NASA. The one exception is a valve driver board built by AA that we are using until our new boards are ready. The software was built on VxWorks and Goddard's Core Flight Software to enable a fully autonomous vehicle. This is one of the biggest differences between Morpheus and Pixel, Guidance for Pixel had a pilot in the loop, on Morpheus it is fully autonomous. The Nav platform on Morpheus is also completely different, it utilizes two space rated IMU's, two GPS, and a Laser Altimeter along with a sensor upgrade coming this summer to include a Velocimeter and a Flash Lidar system to enable the hazard avoidance and precision landing.


See the first link for more info.


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Mon May 09, 2011 8:09 am
Thanks for posting those links Kert.

It took me a while to read through all that, which seemed to me to be mostly composed of comments from uninvolved / uninformed members of the general public on the internet which, as is so often the case, were composed mostly of uninformative speculation.

There were however a couple of nuggets amongst the dross.

To save you all from spending your valuable time repeating my effort, I will instead post a summary here.

From the first link: Read this comment
http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/04/morpheus-lander.html#comment-46217
mbaine | April 22, 2011 10:22 AM | Reply

Quote:
Since this seems to be such a hotly debated point about the origin and value of the Morpheus Lander lets review. First off the only superficial similarity between Morpheus and Pixel is the quad arrangement of spherical tanks and some of the low cost commercial components. There are three reasons why this arrangement was used: to validate slosh models and differential draining of propellants, consistent with other landers concepts and equivalent to a full scale Altair ascent stage, and finally spun spherical tanks provided the lowest cost of manufacture. All of the design, analysis, stress and engineering of Morpheus was done by NASA. The primary structure and landing gear is completely different from Pixel and was built on site in building 10 through the Jacobs contract who were also close partners in this effort. The tanks were manufactured by AA using NASA's boss design and internal slosh devices. AA did a significant amount of the fluid system build up based on NASA's design and fluid modeling. Many of the low cost commodity components that AA uses on their vehicles made it on to Morpheus; Ball Valves, Solenoid valves, linear actuators and couplers. This is an area where AA experience provided the confidence to use these industrial parts in an aerospace application. Another big difference is between Pixel and Morpheus is the location and gimbaling of the Main engine. Morpheus uses a throat gimbal ring from an old Peacekeeper upper stage located low and below the Cg of the vehicle, Pixel uses a head end universal above the Cg of the vehicle. Which brings us to the engine. The Morpheus 4000 lbf engine that is installed in the vehicle was designed and built in-house by NASA for about $40k. Mind you that this is a workhorse engine but it does the job very well. Since the engines are so low cost we did have multiple paths: AA built and tested two new designs a Swirl coax and a Pintle, Purdue University is also building a Pintle engine and JSC has a swirl shear coax in development. All of these designs are higher performing than the Pixel engine. Moving on to avionics and software: The flight computer, power distribution and storage, instrumentation, communication and software are all NASA. The one exception is a valve driver board built by AA that we are using until our new boards are ready. The software was built on VxWorks and Goddard's Core Flight Software to enable a fully autonomous vehicle. This is one of the biggest differences between Morpheus and Pixel, Guidance for Pixel had a pilot in the loop, on Morpheus it is fully autonomous. The Nav platform on Morpheus is also completely different, it utilizes two space rated IMU's, two GPS, and a Laser Altimeter along with a sensor upgrade coming this summer to include a Velocimeter and a Flash Lidar system to enable the hazard avoidance and precision landing.

So for folks not immediately familiar with the GN&C approach, which is a huge technology development area (not to say LOX/LNG is not), the best analogy I can come up with is the DARPA grand challenge of self driving vehicles. Morpheus is being built to really demonstrate the system performance of a lot of new technologies that enable a completely autonomous/decision making spacecraft that can navigate to a 100-200 meter area, anywhere on the surface of the moon or other rocky body, and decide for itself where it will land based on terrain and obstacles and once it has decided it will be able to land within 10's of centimeters of that landing point. This is a very stressing design case and is well beyond what has been accomplished to date for space vehicles. What's nice about this case is that other mission designs, astroid rendezvous or Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (cooperative and uncooperative) are encompassed by the basic algorithms and approach (just requires tuning). This work is already showing up in future spacecraft applications. MPCV has adopted some of the Navigation approaches, MMSEV will most likely transplant the entire architecture. Morpheus is the second of four prototype vehicles (12-18 month centers) and the plans for the next vehicle bring even more capability and space rated hardware. That is the point: quickly and efficiently evolve designs that fully demonstrate capability and robustness while building an infrastructure of modular hardware and software that can be used over and over.

From the third link: Read this comment:
http://nasawatch.com/archives/2011/05/video-morpheus.html#comment-46594
morpheusone | April 30, 2011 1:31 AM | Reply

Quote:
Lots of great comments, I feel compelled to respond to a few...

1) The PM letter wasnt spin, simply a positive outlook and a realistic understanding of the engineering process. Now not saying I wasnt very disappointed or that I might have lost a year of my life in that exciting 11 seconds, but it is part of the process. Fun fact: by my estimation Morpheus as an integrated vehicle is 73 days old. And probably younger than that when all the lights first came on. And about 9 months from when the first welding torch was lit. Some of these highly touted commercial endeavors mentioned in other posts are ponderous in comparison. Again not making excuses, babies first steps were a little awkward, but we're just getting started. As a leader at NASA I choose to lead with optimism and encouragement. You can call it spin but I dont think it is.

2) Remember what we are going after here, LOX/LCH4 engine technology, this is not "something that has been done". Many applications to the future of human spaceflight for that technology. Also the vehicle is just a means to also demonstrate autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technology, which also hasnt been done. Mars landers dont do it. When we went to the moon we had Neal Armstrong there to do it, we're trying to replicate that capability with on-board capability.

3) Umm, the tether wasnt "fortunate", we kind of knew it was there. Also we very carefully picked the crane and crane configuration to handle any loads we could possibly see and in the end had about 5 times the capability we needed. Fun fact #2: crane owner saw the video (we had told him the potential before hand but wanted to make sure he was aware of what happened) and he thought "it was cool" and is looking forward to working with us again. Remember dear readers, the $19B NASA gets every year, we dont put the cash in a rocket and hurl it into the sun, it goes to a lot of hard working Americans.

4) "waste of money"? The current exploration program of record spends more money in a day than we have in 18 months. Let me repeat that...more money in day (and I'm talking an Earth day here) than I have in 18 months. We are spending a $100M dollars a month on Cx, I think there might be better places to look for a little savings.

5) The reason you dont see these kinds of videos from most commercial space folks isnt because they dont have them, it's because these kinds of things arent good for business. Kind of scares off the investors that dont understand that this is part of the engineering process. And even if you're an internet billionaire and dont need the investors it still scares the future customers.

6) A few more fun facts:
Looks like we had a failed motor driver (h-bridge) that controls the throttle. So we failed the throttle full open against the hard stop from the beginning. We then torqued the vehicle a little from our hastily designed sling. We purposely dont hand over to GN&C until we get a good engine start, nominally that is a very good idea for several technical reasons. The thrust nominally should only be around 30% which is a T/W less than 1. In this case however when we did hand over to GN&C at about 2 seconds, we were already accelerating upward at 1.5 m/s and pitching over at 5 deg/s. The onboard software flight manager instantly called for a soft abort (a soft abort during flight, controls the throttle and lands the vehicle on the ground immediately). With the h-bridge burned out, the throttle did not respond, and within a second the one metric ton vehicle had accelerated to 7 m/s which triggered the hard abort which is a command to close the throttle which extinguishes the engine and during free flight would very importantly contain the vehicle in the range but would also result in a nice hole in the ground (again dear readers why we first try it under tether). Again though the throttle did not respond, and a few seconds later our young engineer on the independent thrust termination system decided he had seen enough (even though he did not hear over the radio the Test Conductors emphatic call for termination), and pushed two buttons that independently close the flow of both LOX and methane to the engine (only one path has to work). The software actually worked very well, this is the kind of event that really stresses the processor, very dynamic, lots of moding and commanding, lots of data calls, and the software looked solid.

As an analogy it is like starting your car, mashing the accelerator to the floor, giving the steering wheel a little tug and then throwing it into drive and then trying not to run over the mailbox.

We think we know the problem with the h-bridge. Will be fixed by Monday. We redesigned the sling and tested it this afternoon. Plan on being back on the horse Tuesday.

You have read this far so what's a few more:

To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, "Its not the critic that counts, its the man (or woman) in the arena".

"In order to get traction, you got to get in the dirt" - Dr. Tim Crain

"Nothing like defeat, to shake up the soul and get the glory out" - Al Gore (but I am sure he didnt invent it)

Pushing back the darkness...


I hope this is of use to others here on the Armadillo forums.

We are very fortunate to (mostly) have such a good signal-to-noise ratio here.
Long may it continue. ;-)


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Post Re: Official Armadillo Q&A thread   Posted on: Mon May 09, 2011 5:57 pm
azinyk wrote:
Over on Phil's facebook page, there's a pic of the new mod landing gear:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id ... 06&sk=wall

It looks like you're adding a lot of surface area in the back; is it going to be nose-first stable? If so, can you comment on how it's going to land?

Thanks for all your posts, Ben.


For engine-off flights this mod will be coming down on parachute. I've probably mentioned in the past that I'm not a big fan of chutes, but it's something to try.

It is nose-first stable, so that it can passively coast upward with the engine off in a stable configuration.


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