Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Two weeks in...

Ok so I'm two weeks into this thing now. As far as the internship goes, things are going well. I've done a lot of electrical wiring and testing on XA-0.1B so far. We were supposed to have the rocket at least test-fired by today, but we weren't able. It turns out that the readouts from the various transducers that monitor the engines and pressures is rather noisy. Until we get that noise sorted out, we're stuck. Unfortunately, this is not something that I can really work on, which sucks, since I really want to help get this bird flying. However, I have another list of stuff to do with our test trailer, which currently houses the first revision of our 750lb-thrust engine. This will eventually be powering XA-0.1C and XA-0.2. Once all the requisite parts are in, I'll be able to do more work and get that rocket engine up and running. All in all, the internship goes well and I'm looking forward to getting to fire rockets at some point soon hopefully!

Life out here is a bit different. Mojave is a very small town, only about 3836 people or so. As such, there is little to do here, which vexes me. We (me and Derek, the other fall intern) have found some things to do, such as going to Tehachapi or Lancaster and eating there or seeing a movie. However, there is very little to do in Mojave itself. The airport is about the same size as the town itself, if not slightly larger. Recreational activities include eating, sleeping, watching movies from Derek's Netflix account, looking at cool airplanes, and well, that's about it. I really miss autocrossing though. Nationals was last week (way to go Tim Smith with the STS win!), and I really wished I could have gone. I had a chance to drive Tim's Nationals-winning Civic, but oh well. That's what next year is for. I'm starting to save and plan now for the trip, and mark my words, I'm going to make a name for myself there. I want that National Championship and I'll beat out whoever I have to to earn it.

As far as food goes around here, the choice places are Voyager Restaurant, on the airport and In-n-Out Burger, a fast-ish burger joint. Voyager was, I believe, founded by Dick Rutan, brother of Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites and SpaceshipOne fame, and the first man to fly around the world non-stop without refuelling in an aircraft named Voyager (see where the restaurant name comes from??). It's a decent fly-in restaurant, where one can land his or her plane, taxi to the ramp outside the restaurant, grab a $100-hamburger, and fly out. It also happens to be a 2 minute walk from the Masten Space Systems shop. I must recommend their burgers. They are cooked very well (not to be confused with well done) and the toppings are of good quality (EDIT: Just found out on Friday that they serve bison burgers now! These are even better than their normal burgers, while being a more healthy choice, for those health-conscious hippies among us). The staff is very friendly, and quickly remember you if you're a repeat visitor. The views out the window are usually pretty cool too, for you're likely to see some manner of interesting flying machine, be it a small prop plane or Scaled's Proteus.

In-n-Out Burger is a strictly West-Coast innovation, and something that these damn hippies actually got right for once. In a state where everything and its mother can give you cancer, or so the warning labels state, In-n-Out is a lovely dose of liberal excess. They only serve burgers, and damn did they get them right. Their basic menu is simple, only a hamburger, cheeseburger, and the Double-Double (2x meat, 2x cheese), and various soft drinks. However, they have a delectable not-so-secret menu. These variations really add some extra kick to their burgers and fries. They will custom make your burger basically any way you see fit. One of the best things though is the price, which for just about everything, is very reasonable. Sorry to keep harping on and on about this place, but East-Coast folks, you're really missing out!

All right, well I guess that's enough for now, before I end up like Jon here at MSS and start writing 5000+ word posts. I'll be back soon enough, and next time, hopefully with news of a successful test-firing (or maybe even tethered flight if we're lucky!) of XA-0.1B.

Friday, September 12, 2008

So many rockets!

Well I made it to California, and have yet to be mugged by hippies. It is quite different from the eastern half of the US. Mojave itself is rather spartan. The town is basically dominated by the airport/spaceport. The MSS shop is situated directly behind Scaled Composites, so we face their hangar. We don't get the prime flightline real-estate, but we don't make manned vehicles anyway. In the couple of days I've been here, I've aready seen some good stuff. White Knight (the carrier aircraft for SpaceShipOne) was doing some flight tests with the Project CHLOE pod. Then we went over to XCOR and saw EZRocket and their XRacer, both very cool aircraft. XRacer is supposed to fly today at some point, but it hasn't yet. Today we pulled the rocket motors off of XA 0.1B to do some tests on the transducers and fix a solenoid issue. Yes, it is pretty simple to pull a rocket motor actually. Must go for now, but will post more updates later.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My First Autocross Win!

So it's a bit late, but whatever. The results aren't official yet, but it doesn't look like I'm getting protested, so I'm calling it. I WON MY CLASS! It was awesome. However, it's a bit hollow knowing that the only reason I won was because Tim Engle and Ken St. Pierre weren't there. I still have a long way to go before I'm at their level. But with this win, I have secured 2nd place this season, which I'm happy with. Now I've got to do better next year, with more class wins hopefully. I also want to go to Nationals next year, and hopefully show the world (or at least 800 people) what I can do. Oh, and Brittany is an amazing driver, especially considering it was her first time! I'm not going to bring her anymore, because she's going to beat me if I do!

In less than four hours, I'm going to be on a plane (one of two) heading to California. I still can't really believe I'm about to do this. On one hand, I'm very excited about what I'm going to be doing, and on the other hand, I'm really nervous. Either way, it is going to be a totally new experience and I'm so happy that I was given this opportunity. All right, I can't think of anything else to add to this. The next time I write will be from Mojave, CA, at some point in the future. Here we go!