Friday, July 1, 2016

On rocket launches, internship, and electronics.

As some of most of you know, I'm a member of the GAUL, the "Groupe Aérospatial de l'Université Laval"...or the Laval University Aerospace Group, but then LUAG doesn't sound good...and LUA group sounds more like a programming language group...anyway.

Way back in...erm, May? Right after the finals, we finalized the rocket's design and started building it. Being in the aerostructure team, aka 'Mech E. guys that talks about Reynolds and Young' I volunteered to help build the structure, and, thanks to the help of my spray paint expertise 'Shakes fist at Elucidator', paint it in time for the reveal at the Montreal Cosmodome.

Our initial design for the structure was supposed to be a tube with 2mm thick wall made of carbon fiber. That sizing was done considering that the rocket's most important stress was in compression, at ignition. Which means that the carbon fiber...fibers only took away from the strength of the epoxy because fibers are only good in tension. Sadly, we didn't receive our carbon fiber on time, and had to do with glass fiber. Since that wasn't what we did our design calculations with, we went very conservative and decided to have a more traditional design: an inner cardboard tube, with 2 layers of glass fiber, and 2 layers of carbon fiber we had lying around.

Structurally, this is a beast. Weight-conservation wise...erm, let's not talk about it.

The only picture of the structure before it was painted

Once that was done, I also 3D printed parts for the payload team. Here's the structure for a fiber-optics gyroscope. That was easily the biggest single part I've printed so far!
A gyroscope or a plasma grenade?
Then came a rushed paint-job to have something ready for the unveiling of every Quebec team participating this year. then stripping it and making a good paint job. Doing that I've learned a few things:

  • Sanding is a pain.
  • Fiberglass is a pain to finish.
  • Some canned paint don't play well with each others, and sometimes even with itself (Krylon colomaster white, i'm looking at you).
  • Sanding after your paint screwed itself is a pain.
  • Using water-based fillers (like wood filler) is a BAAAD idea. They soften once they get painted on, and they stay soft. THAT'S why cosplayers use Bondo or Quick Seal
  • Sanding after your filler didn't stick on the rocket anymore after painting it is a pain.

But in the end, we ended up with something semi-decent (and which I didn't take pictures of)
The only picture I have 
And almost immediately after, OFF WE GO! We went with 2 rental cars and a van. We followed each others until the American border at Sarnia. We all went through one after the other, but somehow one of the team missed the restaurant WITH THE GIANT 60-foot american flag, and so after the border we just went.

The giant 60-foot american flag one of the cars managed to miss...

The drive as a whole was quite boring. One person drove, another person co-piloted, and the last one was sleeping in the back, rotating each roles every 6-8 it's also a blur. I took a few pictures of interesting thing we saw on the way.

I must say I was expecting the Mississippi to be...larger. Took near Davenport. Maybe it gets larger farther south?
Surprisingly small.
It was also my first time seeing the rockies.

Took near/in Denver, Colorado
My sub-team got there first! We took 44 hours, including the one time we stopped to sleep. We even beat the guys who flew to Salt lake city. Then we started working on the integration of he electronics and the payload.

And there it is! The payload is in the payload bay! and finally we can drill the holes for the nose cone. 2 weeks later than I would've liked, but oh well.

And now the competition! We're launching far away from 30 minutes away, in the middle of the desert. Well, 'Desert'. That was way more green and alive than I was expecting. But then we also got a few dust meh.

Base Camp,. you can see the launch rails if you squint real hard.

Our launch went pretty well! Beside the...erm...structural integrity problem where, when our drogue chute deployed, the sheer pins holding the main also blew (oops) and thus our main deployed near apogee. That made the rocket go really far. When it landed, it also dragged on the ground for like 400~500 meters because of our gigantic chute and the high winds.
You can see the mark of the rocket dragging on the ground.
We ended up in 4th place, and our fiber optic gyroscope got an honorable mention!

Then we went and visited the Arches national park. If you're ever in Utah, GO THERE! it's so beautiful.


While construction of the rocket started, I started working at Lortie Aviation as an intern. They own a fleet of 16 Hawker Hunters. My job there is to update drawings and support the avionics department.

Some Hawker Hunters

As a student in mechanical engineering who also enjoy some electronics, and who realize that, thanks to robotics, even mechanical engineers will have to learn some electrosities...and a follower of weird battlebots #Overhaul2, oh, also, jets?!

This is like a dream internship! I get to see jet engines being overhauled, and the very important links between electrical and mechanical systems...or between any systems for that matter. While I've worked on 'complex' projects before with FIRST and SAE Aero Design and Gaul...most systems were...mostly independent.

Oh, I also learned circuit and PCB design is a pain, you have to take way too many things into account (Thermal Management, Power Dissipation, Electromagnetic Interference, Noise in general, filtering, coupling, impedance matching, breadboarding, timing...) , many of which is hard to account for before your prototype is actually built and then you have to start over with that new information...and then making that prototype you've probably released the magic smoke on a few components (50$ DAC here ._. among other things).

Sincerely, if you know an EE...hug them, they deserve it.

SPARC Standard rules

Translations are coming soon(tm). I severely overestimated the time it would take to translate, and my free time. They should be ready by the end of the year (probably).