Black Streak is a project managed under the auspices of the Bolton Science and Technology Centre (BSTC). With this project we have created a reusable
rocket for launching high school science projects. The first
phase, which was funded by a one off grant from the NWDA,
create the vehicle, establish the legal and administrative framework
required for the launch site, and then carry out the first
launch. Black Streak was launched successfully on the 1st of
September 2011 and we are now seeking further funding to establish a
national competition for payload
design across all UK high schools.
A launch day page can be found here and a detailed project report here.
The rocket itself is based upon the largest rocket motors conveniently
available in the UK, Aerotech N2000W composite propellant motors.
Two of these will be employed in a classical inline two stage vehicle
of minimum diameter. Given this propulsion, simulations suggest it will
be able to carry a number of significant school payloads to
approximately 18km, or 60,000 feet. This is nearly twice the
typical height that airliners fly, considerably higher than school
developed rockets could be expected to achieve and, though only about 1/5th
the way to space, will present interesting scientific opportunities as
it is above the majority of the Earth's atmosphere.
The airframe has been produced by composite materials experts Composite Mast Engineering and Technology
in Bacup and is of mixed Carbon fibre/Epoxy and Glass fibre/Epoxy
construction. The Glass fibre section if for radio transparency
as we will be using AED electronics R-DAS flight computer
with live telemetry and GPS tracking.
The launch pad is the most user friendly pad I have ever
had the good fortune to use. It has been designed and constructed
around our requirements by Glasgow engineering company Protronix
and is also a lightweight and highly efficient design.
Constructed from three identical aluminium modules it provides the
necessary rigidity while remaining (just about) a one person lift
First flight payload
The payload on the first flight was a single large unit, constructed by a core team of students at the BSTC who have been
involved with the rocket since it's inception. They have
valiantly remained enthused as we have battled through the remaining
obstacles to launch and have established a thriving electronic club at
the centre in the mean time. The payload monitored the
performance of the rocket, recorded on board video and measured the
atmospheric conditions encountered by the rocket.
British rockets of the original UK government rocket programmes
were given rainbow code names as an extension of established weapons
development practice. Though they were not supposed to indicate
purpose, the UK's two biggest space research rockets, the sub-orbital Black Knight and the british satellite launch vehicle Black Arrow, were the only "Black" projects. As our vehicle is
a British civilian research rocket and is physically black due to it's
polished carbon fibre construction, it seemed appropriate that it
should be Black something. Streak then refers to the UK's largest
rocket, Blue Streak, of equivalent capability to the American Atlas rocket, it began as a missile programme before morphing into the foundation of the first joint european launch vehicle, Europa.
Though ultimately Europa failed Blue Streak performed almost totally
flawlessly on every flight. Thus meet Black Streak!
I have been mission designer on the project,
establishing the overall design and working with our supporting
organisations on the detailed designs. I have also successfully
secured all the necessary permissions for our chosen launch site and
performed the safety analysis necessary for Civil Aviation Authority
clearance. Finally I was launch coordinator on the day itself.
As part of the safety analysis I performed statistical scatter analysis of our nominal flight profile using the excellent Cambridge Rocketry Toolbox.
This is an open source project and offers tremendous capabilities
equivalent to, and in many cases better than, the leading
commercial rocketry software. I used CRTB prior to its dedicated
GUI as a command line utility within GNU Octave (or Matlab), but it is now available as a standalone program and features Black Streak as an example.
Longer term we intend that the proposed competition will grow along the
lines of the Cansat projects, though of course tailored to take
advantage of our flight profile. We hope it will provide a
complementary avenue to established rocket design competitions like UKAYRoC
and will run annually, culminating in a summer launch of ten winning
payloads. I am confident that students across the country will
propose avenues of experimentation we could never have envisaged.