Here's my version of Paul Breed's Space Access '08 talk on Unreasonable Rocket. Obviously it's going to be a flawed interpretation of the talk, given my limited technical rocketry knowledge, difficulty of capturing all vocal/video information in notes, difficulty hearing, etc. Similar caveats hold for interpretations of other talks.
Paul Breed Sr. spoke. Son Paul Breed Jr. isn't here today because he wanted to stay home and weld landing gear. They're going for the Lunar Lander Challenge in 2008.
They had to abandon a complete vehicle. Paul showed an April '07 video of a LOX/alcohol rocket. It was a symmetrical vehicle, and they had 1 segment done. They just needed to make 4 identical units. They thought they were done. They did it literally in their garage. After building 4 (3?) more, it didn't work so well. Paul showed a video with green flashing, meaning melting copper. He then showed a stability and control test vehicle video, where the vehicle flops all around. All of these setbacks happened on 1 bad weekend.
The rocket had 39 valves. It was too complicated. This year the plan is to "keep it simple". They're going for the 90 second Lunar Lander Challenge level.
Paul showed a big test setup that they built in 5 days. They're getting good at this stuff.
He showed the purple menace/leak.
They have a 13 inch sphere tank, butterfly valves, and no custom parts. They hope to test fire next week. For stability and control they use a big RC helicopter with GPS, telemetry, etc. This is convenient for testing, since they can do it 5 minutes from home rather than 4 hours away.
Paul shows him controlling the helicopter with various versions of the test.
The status is that the tank is complete, the motor, valves and fittings are complete (but untested), and the landing gear, permanganate tank, vane assembly, and test facility are 50% done. Software is flying the helicopter. In 2-4 weeks they plan to static fire test the full vehicle. In 8 weeks they plan a flight test.
Q: How many vanes? A: 3.
John Carmack comments that this might be a mistake.
You can find more takes on this talk at RLV News, Why Homeschool, and Transterrestrial Musings.
Unreasonable Rocket has had several recent posts, including one with more hardware pictures, autonomous helicopter hovering, and related comments.