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|FEATURE - SEPTEMBER, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GEORGIA
Jefferson firm ready for Nevada rocket launch
Employees at Hybrid
Dynamics Aerospace clapped and cheered Monday morning as they
raised a 25-foot rocket outside their rural Jefferson facility.
After months of ground-testing and construction, the large silver
rocket will be the firm's first flight test of a unique propulsion
system that could someday put satellites into orbit at a much
lower cost than today's technology.
The rocket and its ground launch system are now on their way to
the Black Rock Desert in Nevada for a scheduled launch this weekend.
The hybrid motor system is expected to push the rocket to above
50,000 feet altitude. Parachutes will bring the rocket back to
the ground so that the firm can examine components of the propulsion
Hybrid Dynamics is owned by Aloise McNichols, Jefferson, who is
president of the firm. Drew Prentice, Nicholson, is vice president
of research and development, and Carl McNichols, Jefferson, is
vice president of external affairs.
The company has done some work for both civilian and military
departments, but the hybrid propulsion system is being funded
by the firm itself. The Black Rock test flight is part of the
company's long-range sounding rocket program to develop and build
low-cost rocket motors to deploy a variety of research items into
the earth's atmosphere and perhaps into orbit.
Employees of Hybrid Dynamics Aerospace Corporation stand in the
shadow of the firm's 25-foot tall rocket Monday morning. Shown
here are: (front, left to right) Noll Herrington, principal welder,
Cindi Estep, administrative manager, Aloise McNichols, president
and owner, Drew Prentice, vice president of research and development,
Tony Greathouse, information systems manager; (second row) David
McKinney, principal machinist, Troy Tise, lead man/machinist,
Carl McNichols, vice president of external affairs, and Ric Collins,
shop superintendent; (third row) Mickey Stephenson, machinist,
and Mike Young, machinist.
Hybrid rocket test comes unhitched
Nevada launch site
A small weld at the base of an oxidizer tank
failed to hold last week as a group from Jefferson Ga. attempted
to launch a rocket with a hybrid motor in the Black Rock desert
When Hybrid Dynamics Aerospace Corporation attempted to launch
the 25' rocket, the weld, which had been done on-site to fix a
small fracture, failed under the pressure at ignition. That caused
a section joint to come apart, tossing the top part of the rocket
up off the launch rail and onto the ground. With no oxidizer,
the hybrid rocket motor stopped firing, a fact that the rocket
builders said points out the safety of hybrid motor systems. Had
a similar situation happened with a solid fuel motor, there would
have been no way to shut it down.
Although HDAC leaders said it would have been possible to reassemble
the rocket on site, the firm decided to bring the rocket back
to its Jefferson workshop to do that and to make some other modifications
to the design.
"We learned a lot from this," said Aloise McNicholes,
president and owner of HDAC.
Drew Prentice, vice president of research and development, said
every aspect of the rocket's design would be evaluated in light
of the problem and that another launch would be scheduled early
HDAC plans to develop the hybrid motor system as the basis for
a sounding rocket program. More.