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Initial Prototyping & Testing
Born On:
16:40, 28 July 2010 (CDT)
Last Updated:
04:33, 06 December 2011 (CDT)


This page is for the MakerLaunch project. Makers Local 256's spaceflight effort with Project HALO, run by HAL5, to make a launcher that can win the N-Prize Competition. It will carry the MakerSat. The N-Prize offers two cash Prizes, each of £9,999.99 (nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine pounds and ninety-nine pence, sterling, $15,589.05). The prizes will be awarded to the first persons or groups to put into orbit around the Earth a satellite with a mass of between 9.99 and 19.99 grams, and to prove that it has completed at least 9 orbits with the 9th orbit occuring before 19:19:09 (GMT) on the 19th September 2011. One prize (the "single-spend-to-orbit", or "SSO" Prize) will be awarded to the first entrant to complete the challenge using a non-reusable launch system. The other prize (the "reusable vehicle" or "RV" Prize) will be awarded to the first entrant to complete the challenge using a partially or wholly reusable launch system. Both prizes carry equal status. The cost of the launch, but not ground facilities, must fall within a budget of £999.99 ($1,558.89). Entrants for the RV Prize may exceed this budget, but must demonstrate recovery of hardware such that the per-launch cost remains within £999.99 ($1,558.89). Imaginative use of string and chewing gum is encouraged. Entrants are responsible for everything, organisers are responsible for nothing. N-Prize Competition Rules In Full


  • Every Wednesday, 7:00pm - 10:00pm: Project HALO Building Session at Steve Mustakis's House. E-Mail spacefelix for details.

To Dos

  1. Reassess rocket stage mass on assumed mass fractions of %80 propellant; include delta-V of satellite-final stage separation and on-orbit mass of spent final stage and satellite.
  2. Reassess rocket stage mass and mass fractions based on results of structural test fire article. <- When structural test article is built, fired and results complete.


  • 12/1/10 - Spacefelix & Steve Mustakis worked on forming a motor specification sheet and continued machining out a battleship motor tube. Selected parts for instrumentation for chamber pressure measurements during a firing test. Also discussed some flight trajectory and stabilization concepts.
  • 11/17/10 - Materials for third stage test build article purchased by Spacefelix and will arrive next week. Tim Weaver worked on some tooling for manufacturing and engineering analysis to determine the required thickness of the motor body case. Decided that we will need to test fire a fuel grain in a battleship (thick steel) motor tube to measure maximum chamber pressure and confirm our analysis. Steve Mustakis started machining out a battleship motor tube.
  • 11/13/10 - Discussed some staging concepts with the Makers Local 256 members.
  • 11/10/10 - Steve Mustakis from Project HALO built a mass model of the third stage of the launch vehicle to determine if an 80% mass fraction was achievable for our building method. Determined that it was possible. Spacefelix will purchase materials to begin construction. Also discussed guidance and launch concepts.
  • 10/9/10 - Met with Tim Weaver from Project HALO to decide on launch tube or balloon launch method for the rocket and how much gain would we have in either mass reduction or payload increase compared to a ground launch vehicle. Concluded that the delta-V gain from a balloon launch would be higher than a launch tube. For the launch tube to have a comparable delta-V, it would need to be extremely long and accelerate an incredible amount. This would require the rocket to be structurally reinforced and therefore have a higher mass fraction. Therefore, we settled on a balloon launch method.
  • 9/1/10 - Spacefelix with Project HALO started the design of a structural and propulsion test article of the third stage of the proposed launch vehicle. This article would determine if our manufacturing methods would be able to achieve the required mass fraction and structural strength for flight.
  • 6-8/10 - Have done some preliminary calculations on what kind of rocket would be required to put a 19-gram payload in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).


  • Technical
    • Structure - Achieving flight with a vehicle that meets the required masses for orbital flight. It must be light enough to get to orbit, yet strong enough to withstand the stresses of flight, burning propellants and propulsion.
    • Guidance and Control - The vehicle must follow a precise trajectory to get on-orbit as well as perform staging and satellite deployment.
    • Propulsion - We must have a propulsion system that meets the required thrust and ISP for orbital flight.
    • Satellite - It must be light enough to meet competition requirements, yet be able to operate long enough to achieve and confirm 9 earth orbits. It must be able to survive the extreme thermal conditions in space (as there is no atmosphere in the vacuum of space, there is no medium to regulate temperature) and exposure to cosmic radiation.
    • Tracking - The rocket and satellite must have a sufficient tracking system that can either be seen or received on the ground during ascent and from orbit.
  • Financial
    • High Cost of Spaceflight - Achieving orbit on a 1g planet with an atmosphere is a wonder in of itself given the energy required. Getting to orbit on a barely-controlled explosion is always expensive and risky. Therefore, partnerships with people who work with rocketry on the amateur level and sponsorships are a must.
  • Regulatory
    • Regulations on Atmospheric Flight & Spaceflight - As we are flying to orbit, we will need to follow the rules set down for ascent and spaceflight by either the FAA, NASA or other regulatory body.
      • From Mr. Gregory Allison of Project HALO
        • For orbital spaceflight from U.S. soil as a U.S. Organization, to get permission to fly, at a minimum depending on your launch conditions and method, it takes 1 man-year of work, the cost of travel to your launch site and to the launch authority's office, and the need to perform your launch analysis to prove that your rocket is safe to fly. He recommends working with an entity such as the Air Force to be able to use their facilities and be out of FAA-controlled airspace (Air Force controls their own airspace).
        • Dependent on if you are using a missile range, it can cost $100,000 to certify your vehicle to fly out of a missile range as it is common practice for the range safety organization to independently certify your vehicle to fly from their site. This cost can increase if you are launching near populated areas as there must now be additional analysis and safety measures installed to ensure you do not cause harm to people nor property. To reduce this cost, a sea launch is recommended so you can be as far away as possible from people and property. Assuming you have your own launch vehicle, facilities and are far away from people and property, then you only need clearance to fly from NORAD.
        • The clearance process involves the development of a launch package. This package will contain all the data on your launch vehicle pertaining to it's flight path, mission, debris created in all phases of flight as well as the mass properties of components, failure modes of your vehicle, controls of such modes, abort scenarios, debris field and impact analysis for normal flight and failure modes and the calculated risk to people and property.


Rocket Propellant Options

  • Solid - High Isp and simple to build, but dangerous to handle/store propellants due to high explosive potential. Per Steve Mustakis from HALO, we will need an ATF-certified storage vault and licensed personnel to handle solid propellants. Such resources ought to be readily available with a local high-powered rocketry club.
  • Hybrid - Lower Isp, but have the safety benefit of a liquid rocket due to the oxidizer and fuel being separate and inert on their own.
  • Liquid - Lowest Isp, but safe since oxidizer and fuel can be stored separately. Also, requires complex plumbing systems.

Launch Options

  • Ground Launch - Operationally simple, but requires the most delta-V.
  • Air Launch - Operationally more complex, but gain a delta-V benefit from being at a higher altitude at launch; therefore less atmospheric losses during ascent.
  • Tube Launch - Operationally simple, only slightly more complex than a ground launch. Launching out of a tube gives a delta-V benefit, but requires the rocket be structurally reinforced for the increased stresses of launch.

Vehicle Sizing

We are assuming the required delta V total will be 10,000 m/s (22,369 mph) (normal LEO orbital velocity of around 7,800 m/s (17,448 mph) rounded to 8,000 m/s (17,895 mph) plus an added 2,000 m/s (4,474 mph) from atmospheric drag and gravitational losses) from sea-level to LEO altitude. Currently, we are looking at a ground-launch three-stage soild propellant rocket that has the following specifications.

19-gram (0.04 lbm) Payload Assumed ISP (seconds) Inert Mass (kg, lbm) Propellant Mass (kg, lbm) Mass Fraction Delta V (m/s, mph) Inital Mass (kg, lbm)
First Stage 210 7.07, 15.59 40.08, 88.36 0.85 3,396.38, 7,597.48 49.61, 109.38
Second Stage 242.50 0.35, 0.78 2.01, 4.42 0.85 4,009.90, 8,969.89 2.46, 5.43
Third Stage 275 0.02, 0.04 0.06, 0.14 0.77 2,652.11, 5,932.61 0.10, 0.22

Future Concepts

Upgraded MakerLaunch - Upgrade and upsize the vehicle for larger payload and deltaV capacity. Can be used for more ambitious MakerSat projects.

Auxiliary Projects


  • Launch Pad Instrumentation - Sensors and data acquisition that will measure and record how fast a rocket leaves the launch pad.
  • Rocket Telemetry - On-board system for tracking the flight path of a rocket and recording data on performance.


From Makers Local 256

From Project HALO

  • John
  • Josh
  • Steve Mustakis
  • Tim Weaver
  • Yohan Lo
  • Your Name Here