Monday, August 18, 2008

Briefing Holloman: Instantaneous Impact Point

As a team, we have been preparing for briefings we have to give at Holloman AFB on Tuesday and Wednesday. We're excited and a little daunted by the task. There will be teams there that have been doing this for a few years. There will be people from Holloman and FAA that are experts in this and want to make sure we're not crazy as a loon with a rocket pack.

One of the single most important aspects of this presentation is that of safety. How are our procedures on the ground going to be? If your rocket goes nuts, what will happen? How will we react? This is actually probably as important as anything else, if not more so, than what you do for the rest of the project. We're not going to run through the whole of what we did to prepare for this, but we would like to talk about the instantaneous impact point.

The instantaneous impact point (IIP) is the spot where the rocket will crash land based on the position and trajectory of the vehicle when things go wrong. This is really crucial to know at any given time during a rocket's flight because that will dictate where the public and uninvolved should be cleared from and what property may be damaged. IIP is actually more important to track than the position of the vehicle since what the rocket may damage is of more concern to the flight safety folks than the rocket itself.

We of Team Phoenicia, with the advise of some friends that work in the flight safety business for a test range, did a quick analysis of The Wind at Dawn. It turned out that the back of envelope calculations we had done for an estimate for our safety zones fit pretty closely to our first order model. With the help of our graphics powerhouse friend up in the cold, cold north, we produced a video for the presentation.

There are a few things to note about this. One, it's not a perfect representation. It's a first order model and therefore needs some fine tuning. Second, you ought to realize that the higher you go, the greater the radius is when the rocket loses its marbles and crashes - if it does at all! Our job is to make sure this is unnecessary. However, the flight folks, Holloman and FAA, really need this. We'll, of course, give them the numbers too if they ask, but we'll wait and see.

IIP: know it or no flying.

More another time. There's a plane to catch!

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