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Armadillo plumbing finished

The Armadillo Aerospace X-Ship is coming together nicely according to their latest report:

All engine plumbing and wiring is complete on the big vehicle. We loaded water into the big tank and tested all the valves, with pretty good results. Our distribution manifold has a leak in the weld which will need to be fixed, and the fill port 2″ threads were loosened during the filling process when the giant hose pressurized itself and whipped around a bit. We can’t just weld the inlet fittings, because the check valve is stainless steel, while the rest of the hardware is aluminum, so we may need to weld flanges onto each side and bolt them together.

They seem confident they are close to completion:

If there was catalyst in the engines, the big vehicle is now capable of flight, but we still need to get the drogue cannon worked out before it can land properly. We also need to make some honeycomb panels to protect the base of the tank from exhaust at launch, but we are running out of things to do on it. The base will need a fair amount of rework when we put the full size engines on it, but the basic layout will probably remain the same.

I look forward to news of their first static test of the big vehicle.

7 comments to Armadillo plumbing finished

  • John Daragon

    A LEAK in a WELD ? Isn’t that a little scary ? It sort of indicates that they intend to launch a sub-orbital vehicle on a rocket (fer chrissakes) without X-ray or Magnaflux (or Dye penetration, or whatever…) of the joints.

    That’s err… brave.


  • lucklucky

    yeah seems very amateurship…

    I think we are nearing a critical mass in engineering that will challenge state establishments like NASA and others.

  • Shaun Bourke

    Sad……they seem to beleive they can fly to the Moon and land on it with “billycarts”.

  • Dale Amon

    What’s sad is the State has spent 50 years convincing us that we can’t, that we need billion dollar gold plated research programs to do it. That we need engineering with tolerance so tight there is no room for error, that every last detail must go through horrendously expensive testing and monitoring procedures.

    This is engineering the way airplanes were built at the start. Before the State got involved brought aviation progress to a near halt. That’s why you can either fly a state of the art Cessna 172’s (well. it was state of the art back in 1950 anyway) or else do a homebuilt.

    Anything the State touches turns into very expensive and regulated brown mushy stuff.

  • John Daragon

    Dale, yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly on whole Dead Hand thing. I’m not saying that these guys should be forced to know how good their welds are (hell, I’m not even a shareholder). I’m merely observing that their instinct for self-preservation doesn’t seem to be as developed as mine.

    Lycoming engines are 1940s technology because certification is expensive and lawsuits (and hence insurance) ruinous. So people who have no shareholders or customers to placate just go ahead (unless they’re Jabiru) and use automobile engines in their planes. But they engineer them properly because the Laws of Physics trump legislation.


  • Dale Amon

    I don’t want to get into a particular argument over whether these particular joints should or should not be tested to some particular standard. This early space launch business is going to be very Darwinian. I fully expect to lose friends of many years standing as this, the real move to space, begins.

    What I will argue with you is that rocket engines are actually dead simple devices. They are simpler than a Lycoming. They are simpler than a jet turbine. They are by far the simplest form of engine you can imagine.

    Why then did NASA and the military blow so many up? Why did rocket engines get the reputation for being, well, rocket science?

    In the early days of space flight the US had not built the large boosters and didn’t have the time to catch up. So it emphasized the miniaturization of electronics and went for engineering that shaved the last gram off vehicle weight and extracted the last erg out of the engine.

    This meant close tolerances, high pressures, and low margins for error.

    The engines being built today have no military or government lineage to them. They are built with better materials and with tolerances well beyond what is required. They are not using high pressure pumps. They are KISS from start to finish.

    Anyone with machineship skills and a bit of knowledge can built a quite good liquid fueled rocket engine in their garage for perhaps $100K or less if it is a small engine like the XCOR table top one. That engine is so simple and safe by the way, that they take it around to conferences and fire it indoors.

    At the ISDC in San Jose this May, Rich Pournelle from XCOR showed a picture of one of their large engine tests, with the engineers standing in normal cloths nearby. As he put it, “We stand by our engines”.

    This has to be the way it is. For our real space age to finally start, rocket craft have to be useable at an airport gate. There is no reason why they shouldn’t. The thrust isn’t substantially greater than that on a large aircraft; the fuels aren’t more explosive or dangerous (I am not talking about the deadly fuels used in artillery rockets like the Titan and in many upper stages); and the engine itself has far fewer moving parts and is far, far simpler per Newton of thrust.

    Can Armadillo get away with a blase attitude on this particular engine? I don’t know. The testing they are doing may well be totally sufficient for the robustness of their engine or it may not be. They’ve thus far done testing on smaller engines and even had problems without explosion or loss of engine.

    I’m much more inclined at this point to think it’s the unintentional half century of State brain washing that makes us feel these things are necessary.

    PS: I say unintentional because guys jobs were on the line if they couldn’t justify billions. So they justified them for CYA, not brainwashing purposes.

  • Julian Morrison

    Another reason govt rocket science seems so arcane is The Shuttle. It’s what Joe Sixpack thinks of as “rocket science”. It’s incredibly complex, built with the snazziest materials (then) around, and yet even with all that, it has an alarming tendency to turn itself into hypersonic confetti.

    The reason being: the shuttle’s designers were handed a spec as daft as “make a car that’s smooth and driveable, yet it must have square wheels“. Given the dumb requirement (wings), the designers beat it into approximate submission by extremely fancified engineering. Magic tiles and whatnot. The guy on the street sees all this Big Science and think’s it’s an inescapable requirement for rocketry.