Since 2001, GSC has partnered with CSULB to research and develop launch-vehicle technology and give students hands-on engineering experience, according to Long Beach resident and GSC founder John Garvey.
They call their efforts the "California Launch Vehicle Education Initiative
" or CALVEIN
.They build and develop rockets at CSULB's
Aerospace Systems Integration Lab, then typically launch the rockets out in the Mojave Desert, Garvey
explained. GSC regularly has contracts to build and launch rockets for the U.S. Air Force and the California Space Authority, he said.
The tests Garvey and the students conducted on Oct. 12 at Marine Stadium involved loading a full-scale rocket mockup , the students built it out of scavenged car parts , into the water, attaching it to a lifeguard boat and making several observations.They studied its buoyancy, evaluated how best to attach it to the boat and figured out the best way to pull it out of the water, among other things, Garvey
The tests are aimed at helping the CALVEIN
team better plan for rocket recovery efforts.Rockets that are launched out in the desert fall back down to the ground on parachutes and are then removed, Garvey
said.But rockets launched out over the ocean are either pulled out of the water, or simply left to sink to the bottom (the most common practice), he
Last year, the CALVEIN
team launched a rocket off San Nicolas Island (one of California's Channel Islands) for the Air Force, but it was an expendable launch, meaning the team did not recover the rocket afterwards.Now, the team is planning to launch the Prospector 9 rocket off the same island in February 2008 (again, for the Air Force) and then recover it, Garvey
The rockets that CALVEIN launches can be up to 25 feet long and two-and-a-half feet wide , the Prospector 9 will be roughly 22 feet long , and are powered by liquid rocket propellants, according to Garvey
.Liquid rocket propellants are safer, he
said, because the rockets can remain empty until they're loaded up for the launch.
"We do a lot of things to make sure they're safe," he
said, "especially since we're working with students."
Roughly 10-15 CSULB students are on the CALVEIN team, working about 20 hours a week on projects, Garvey
The next tests the CALVEIN
team plans to conduct will take place within a month out on the harbor (inside the breakwater).Those tests will focus on actually removing the rocket mockup from the water and loading it onto a boat in the harbor, Garvey
Later, the team also plans to do some tests either in the open ocean outside the breakwater, or off Port Hueneme in Oxnard (with the help of the U.S. Navy), he