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Here are the latest happenings at JPA              


JPA's plan for 2006:



Oops, I got the date and time wrong for the PongSat TV story.  It will be on New Years day at 5:00pm.  So tune
KXTV News, Channel 10 and see our smiling faces.

Here's an unusual view of the big Ascender.  It was taken inside the nose looking up at the one of the forward
vents. The ceiling is forty feet away.

                                                Inside the Ascender


Documentation Day

Today is being spent catching up on drawings and system documentation. Many of the system upgrades
are accomplished through experimentation in the shop.  However, sometimes the original drawing and plans
don't get updated. So every now and then you need to review the components with the docs and sync them
up. It's a great exercise. Compareing what you thought with what reality resulted always makes you
better for the next round.


Merry Christmas to all out there in Internet land!

For those of you in Northern California, KXTV News, Channel 10 will be showing a PongSat story that was
aired a few months ago.  It will be showing Christmas day at 6:00pm and News Years eve at 11:00pm.
This is perfect timing to help kick on a great year for PongSat.  2006 will be filled with amazing new PongSats,
new PongSats missions and new PongSat sponsors, (hint, hint).


New Video  The Ring....

Not a Tolkien ring of power nor a star gate, but a video of making the ring you see below. I put 104 pictures 
of the construction together in 40 seconds. The part just emerges before your eyes! It rocks on to the music
of Space Vacuum.


Space poetry.......
Sometime a person just doesn't know when to step away from the keyboard.
Check out the verse;  I don't feel like Kirk today.


Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 9,  Ta Da!!!

joining the segments
The  mold was used as an alignment guide for joining the segments. Note the clamps holding the segments to the
mold and the blow dryers heating the joint.

Completed ring  Completed ring with JP's truck
Stargate anyone??????
The ring is structurally complete. The edges will get trimmed then a coat white paint will put on the front and strut
mounts will be  added to the back.  In about a week the entire assemble will get mounted on the airship.
Then on to ring number two....

There are many ways this component could have been made. I hoped to show that complex parts can be made
simply and cheaply. These methods require more craftsmanship, but that's what makes it fun. Space really can
be done without billions of dollars.


Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 8,  and then there were four.....

                                                           Four segments


Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 7,  Off the Mold

                                                          First carbon part

The first ring segment looks good. The edges need to be trimmed back 1/2 inch all around to the part line.
The weave is visible but it's really very smooth. Three more to make the first ring.


Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 6,  The First Quarter

After much wrestling with the vacuum bagging, carbon is in the mold. The epoxy will cure for the next twelve hours then we'll see what we have.

vacuum bagged part.


Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 5,  The Mold

The plug is covered with eleven layers of fiberglass, two 1 oz next to the plug, two 3 oz, two 5 oz, four heavy roving
capped with a final layer of 5 oz cloth. The fiberglass will become the mold.

Fiberglass layups  Off the plug
The black line outlines the final component.            A little puddy stuck to the mold, but it wiped off and the surface
                                                                                      came out perfect.
The mold
Whew! It really feels good when you pop the components apart and they look like you imaged it just a week ago.
The edges need a little sanding and then the mold will be ready to be used to start making the actual part.  

I'm glad I can now move the whole project off the floor and on to the table. The back will never be the same. Anyone know a chiropractor willing to sponsor a session for America's OTHER Space Program...... 


Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 4,  Plug Complete

I wanted to spare you all the tedium and picture loading time of the ten additional fill and sand rounds and skip to the end.
The plug is now done. The plug will now be waxed and coated with mold release.  The plug will then be used to cast the mold.



Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 3,  Fill, sand, repeat.....

This next step is the most time consuming. The fiberglass shape as many irregularities in the surface. A layer of filler is added
to bring the surface to the correct contour. Here is where the real trade-off occurs between having a machined plug created and
hand creating one, labor.

Just like shaping the foam a template and straight edge is used to           After sanding.
 find bumps and dips.

Round two

Round four                                                                                          A coat of primer high lights small imperfections.

This process can be taken as far as needed to make the part as accurate as required. These rings only need to +- a tenth
of an inch. This means about four more rounds of filling and sanding. 

Up next, the mold.....



Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 2,  Foam and Glass.

Hey JP, there's toilet paper in your ribs!! This was an attempt           Thirty to one expansion foam is poured between the ribs.
to cut down on the amount of foam needed. The attempt
was in vain...

The foam is very sensitive to temperature. I cranked up the heat in the shop, but I think I over did it.

I used a hack saw to roughly shape the foam.                            A little help from a friend.....

With sand paper and a straight edge the foam is brought down to the rib tops.           A fiberglass glass cap seals the foam. First a base layer of 5 oz cloth
                                                                                                                           followed by two layers of 3 oz cloth.

The fiberglass needs to cure for twelve hours. At this stage we have a strong base approximately the desired shape.
Next a puddy layer will go on top.  It's this layer that can be precisely honed to the shape needed.  

Stay tuned for tomorrows exciting episode! Fill-sand-check, fill-sand-check, fill-sand-check, fill-sand-check, .....


Question: What do you do when you need to make a large complex carbon part for your new airship, yet your
budget reflects the fact you've only had three tee shirts sales in the last month?

    A. Break down and go begging to the nearest venture capitalist.

    B. It's OK, I have a 3d milling machine that can do five foot diameter thin shell objects.

    C. Walk out into your shop, gather up all the spare bits you can and find a way to build it anyway.

As much as I desperately want the answer to be 'B', it is C.  I'm making a photo diary of the process.  Each day
as construction proceeds I'll post the results. It should take about a week. I hope it will help, inspire or at least be
good for a chuckle.

Aerospace Components on a Budget
Part 1, The Plug.

The parts to be made are two five and a half foot diameter carbon rings. The shape is fairly complex. Image a bagel
sliced in half. Now cut the hole bigger and trim the outside diameter down. The outside shell of this ring is what were
shooting for.

These rings need to be really light, thin and strong. This necessitates molded, vacuumed carbon fiber construction.
I have the carbon and epoxies for the parts, it's the tooling that's the problem. The parts that are used to make the parts
are where the real costs and efforts are. The mold is the critical element.  The easiest was to make the mold is to pump
a cad drawing into a 3d milling machine and ta da, a beautiful stainless steel mold ready for making parts emerges.
The next best way have your friendly
neighborhood  machine shop make you an 'plug'. A plug is a exact replica of the part
you want to make.  The plug is normally make out of aluminum.  You use the plug to make a mold from.  You then can
start popping out parts from the mold. The milling machine option can run you over a million dollars for one that can make
parts this big. The machine shop option can run $8,000 to $20,000. What were going to do here is the under $50 option.
With care we will be able to archive a part that will function just as well as the million dollar part.

The Plug

Remember this is the replica of the part that the mold will be made from.  A mold for the mold. If the plug is good
the resulting part will be good. To make the project manageable we're dividing up the ring into quarters. The plug
and mold will be smaller, but we'll need to cast eight times from the mold to make the two rings.  This plug will be
created from form core boards, expansion foam, fiberglass and wood puddy, (for the fact of that's what I found while
rummaging). In tooling a large very flat surface is critical. I search the shop till I found a section of floor both perfectly
flat and not in a walk way. So were building the plug right on the floor.

The ribs were photo copies and glued directly on the foam board.

The 1/4 ring plug was drafted directly on a board taped to the floor. Man that floor is dirty...

The ribs are epoxied into place.

 Stating to take shape.          

The curved portion of the top of the ribs forms the shape of the ring.

The foam core "dams" in the from and the back will hold in the expansion form as it cures.

Stay tuned for tomorrows episode. The frame meets foam....



It's been thirteen days without wind in Sacramento. I've spent the better part of my adult life cursing the wind and
now when we need it....

The new airship uses a completely new launch technique.  To give the team launch practice we've been putting together
scale airship.  The scale vehicle is really just a structure that we can attach envelopes to.
We've cleaned up old truss sections from Dark Sky Station one and two. They're being joined to make a twenty-six foot long truss. Leftovers!!! Perfect for post

The South West Research Institute flew their airship to 74,000 feet on November 8th. The gauntlet have been thrown.
I think we can do a little better....   Think Tandem.


The port propeller and hub are back on the airship. Today the starboard prop and hub were pulled so the same mods
could be made.

More PongSats have signed up for the Away 27 mission, we're over 1000 now.

The sewing is done! At least for the moment. The whole contraption was taken out to the park for a trail, so far so good.
We'll do some real testing next week when we get a really windy day. I can't believe we're looking forward to a windy day!


Sewing, sewing and more sewing... The Wind Mitigation Tier One project requires a lot of sewing.  Ahhh, the glamor
of space. It's taken a little longer to assemble then I thought. However, the end is near! One more evening behind the
machine and the test prototype will be done.

Saturday I gave a PongSat presentation for a teachers aerospace workshop at the McClellan Air Museum. It was a lot
of fun and the teachers were very excited about the program. Five classes with 130 PongSats signed up and will
be flying on Away 27 along with the over 500 already signed up. We may need a dedicated PongSat mission. Could
you image a single flight with over 1000 individual experiment, (1000 principle investigators, 1000 mission reports,
1000 schedule all coming together at once).

We've pull the port prop off the airship. Both the propeller and the hub need a bit of work.


Saturday we conducted a Propeller/Structure test on the new airship. We powered up each of the motors separately
and checked power draw and the stability of the mount.  We can only run the props at low RPM, (just over 300).  They
are designed to run in near vacuum and a full speed run at sea level would damage the motor or the prop or both.

It was looking good so we grabbed on to the vehicle and ran both motors together at one quarter power. It surprised
us with the amount of pull. It all held together, another step checked off the list. The props were rough balanced for
the test.  Next on the to-do list is the fine prop balancing.

Wind is the great white shark of balloon folks. Inflating balloons in the desert is like chumming for sharks in the ocean.
It just seems to attract the wind.  We have a two stage project to attempt to deal with wind, Wind Mitigation Tier One and
Tier Two projects. Tier One is for the small stuff, (up to 50 pound launches).  Tier Two is for the big stuff.  Tier One is a new
launch system that will allow us to work in up to 20 knot winds.  We will be trying out this system on the Away 27 mission.
We'll be testing a preliminary version of the system in a park in the next few day.

On a more down to Earth note our next door neighbor in our building was robbed last weekend. The bad guys not
only got in, but knew how to disable the alarm system. It's makes me a little nervous, we're here till all hours of the
night and we use, (used) the same alarm system. Space stuff has come to a screeching halt for the day while security
is beefed up.

The tee-shirt contest was fun.  It was good hearing from all of you.  So here's another. I have a JPA bumper sticker for the first
person who can name the episode of Lost in Space that featured a manned rockoon, (balloon launched rocket). 
Send your e-mails to : jpowell@jpaerospace.com.


Major stuff first!  A JPA tee shirt is winging its way to Peter in New Zealand.  He was the first person who knew
it was Billy Mumy who both played "I can fix anything" Will Robinson in Lost in Space and later sang Fish Heads
in the group Barnes and Barnes.

Kaymont Consolidated has come on board in support of PongSats with a donation of balloons for Away 27.
Over 500 students will be flying with us on this mission. A big thank you to Paul and all the folks at Kaymont!

The Dark Sky Station house band, Space Vacuum filmed a rock video at the JPA shop. It was a day of music,
airships, aliens and a gorillas with a vacuum. In space no one can hear you clean.....

 Rocking out inside the baby Ascender.              SPAAAAACE  CLASSSSSSSS!              Video happens in the strangest places....

                                   Paul and Jill putting baby to bed.          Starbucks will never be the same.


It's the third day since the Space Frontier Foundation Conference and I still don't have my voice back. 
Just natures way of telling me I talk too much.

It's still amazing to me just how many disciplines are required in a space program. Today for example
 I spent the first part of the day marketing, (very hard without your voice), followed by working on the code for a
 high altitude simulation, then molding a custom carbon part for the new airship, then ending the day by cutting
4 twenty by six foot nylon panels for the Away 27 mission, (not the parachute, an experiment). At least the easy
stuff was left to the end of the day, cutting nylon while listening to Space Vacuum and Barnes & Barnes.

Just had a thought.  The first person who e-mails me the name of the actor who played the greatest sci-fi fix-it guy of
all time and was also a member of Barnes & Barnes gets a free JPA Tee Shirt.


Away 27

Away 27 is starting to look like a high altitude probe.  The small upper deck, which also serves as the fin mount,
was installed Saturday along with boom camera decks.  The primary and backup GPS telemetry systems were tested.
We made new housing for them both.  You need to look good if you're going to hang out at the edge of space.

Away 28

The mechanics of the drum braking system are complete.  Now we're building the interface to the flight computer.
The brake looks suspiciously like a bicycle brake...  I wonder if bicycle parts have seen the curve of the Earth before?


Propeller crafting seems to take a nearly infinite amount of time.  We're on the home stretch.  The top finish layer
and drilling the mounting holes is all that's left.  We've also created molds for new carbon hubs to join the props to the motors.
The hubs highlight a odd aspect of JPA tech.  High precision cutting edge tech sitting along side duct tape and home depot

New Video              The Long Road

We have a new video.  This is a compilation of 86 missions in just under four minutes.  It's a big file (8 megs),
but it's a lot of fun.  The music is a song written for JPA by Space Vacuum.  If you watch carefully you can my son
growing up in those four minutes.  He has been dragged to the dessert since he could walk.  Now he's that tall guy
who kinda looks like JP in the a lot of the later scenes.

August September what's new page.

July what's new page.

May-June what's new page.

March-April what's new page.

Februarys what's new page.

Januarys what's new page.

  Back to the JPA home page.

This page was last edited on January 1, 2006
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