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ARLS007 Ham radio-carrying rocket hopes to reach space

An amateur rocket team this month will attempt to send a 21-foot-tall rocket
carrying a ham radio avionics package into the fringes of space. The launch
by the Civilian Space Xploration Team
(CSXT) could occur as early as Monday, May 17, from Black Rock Desert in
Nevada. A CSXT try to reach space in 2002 ended some three seconds after
launch when the rocket's engine exploded. Avionics Team Leader Eric Knight,
KB1EHE, says CSXT has since rebounded from that devastating blow with a
newer, bigger vehicle.

''We are very pumped,'' the Connecticut amateur told ARRL. ''Our confidence
level grows with each launch. All the ingredients are there for success.''
Knight's avionics team includes eight Amateur Radio licensees, most of whom
also were involved in the 2002 launch attempt. The entire CSXT team, headed
by CSXT founder and Program Director--and former Hollywood stunt man--Ky
Michaelson of Minnesota, has 18 members.

In terms of Amateur Radio, the GoFast rocket, named for a corporate sponsor,
will transmit telemetry on the 33-cm amateur band and Amateur TV at 2.4 GHz
using a high-quality color camera. The avionics also incorporate multiple
global positioning system (GPS) units to record the vehicle's precise
location and flight path, redundant data acquisition and storage systems,
and a variety of data sensors.

Once the rocket goes up, appropriately equipped amateurs may be able to
receive signals from the approximately 2 W transmitters onboard, even at
some distance from the launch site, Knight says. Specific frequencies have
not yet been selected, however. In addition, the team may set up an HF
station at the launch site.

Knight says the avionics crew even salvaged a few electronic components for
the 2004 launch from the 2002 avionics package, which continued to function
flawlessly until the rocket crashed into the desert.

Plans call for the solid-fuel rocket to zip upward from the desert floor and
reach a speed of more than 4000 MPH in about 9 seconds. Assuming all goes
well, the suborbital vehicle will, on its own momentum, attain an altitude
of 100 km or 62 statute miles--high enough to be considered
''space''--linger there for a couple of minutes then arc back to Earth some
26 miles down range. The whole thing will take somewhat less than a
half-hour, Knight says. If successful it would mark the first amateur rocket
launch into space.

Knight is optimistic that the team has gained valuable knowledge from its
past failures. ''We've learned a lot that you can't get from a textbook,''
he said. ''We feel we have a chance to make history.''

There's more information on the CSXT Web site, 
www.civilianspace.com .

Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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