Click for Jefferson, Georgia Forecast
SUBSCRIBE
to The Herald


FEATURE - SEPTEMBER, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GEORGIA

September 15, 1999 Issue
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 system.
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.



STANDING TALL
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.



Update: September 29, 1999
Hybrid rocket test comes unhitched

Photos from 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 of Nevada.
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 in 2000.
HDAC plans to develop the hybrid motor system as the basis for a sounding rocket program. More.