ASI W9700475r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#95 May 1996

Section the Artemis Data Book

HAL5 Chapter Builds Rockoon

Greg Allison, HALO Program Manager

HAL5 Chapter Builds "Rockoon" To Reach Space

In 1994, the Huntsville Alabama L5 Society (HAL5), a chapter of the NSS, began its biggest project ever, Project HALO (for "High-Altitude Lift-Off").
The goals of the project are no less than to provide cheap access to space for high school and college students, small clubs, even scientific researchers.

Project HALO was conceived to explore the scientific and economic potential of using high altitude balloons as launch platforms for rockets. This concept, known as a "rockoon," was first used by Dr. James Van Allen in the 1950s to conduct pioneering studies of the upper atmosphere. Once large military rockets became available, the rockoon concept was abandoned by most researchers.

HAL5 thus started Project HALO as a means to use today's better balloon and small, safe, hybrid rocket technology to push the rockoon concept to its full potential as an economical means of reaching extremely high altitudes.

By end of 1995, HAL5 had sent balloons three times to 100 thousand feet and had successfully ground test-fired 40 hybrid rocket motors. In 1996, HAL5 will construct its own hybrid rocket (fueled by only asphalt and laughing gas!) and will launch it into space from a high altitude balloon floating 20 miles high!

Project HALO Phases

HALO will consist of several distinct steps, each of which in itself will provide opportunities for HAL5 to build the managerial and technical skills and resources to proceed to the next step. Each step will also provide unique opportunities for student involvement, original space research at the edge-of-space, and perhaps suggest commercial uses of rockoons.

Phase 0: Rocket Motor and Balloon Flight System Development and Testing: including motor static firings and balloon tests of rocket sub-systems at altitude.
Phase 1: Rockoon Proof-of-Concept: Rockets launched from 20-mile high balloons, and reaching or exceeding 50 nautical miles.
Phase 2: Operational hybrid rockoons providing cheap access to space.

We are now nearing the end of Phase 0. The final motor test is scheduled for February 17.

Hybrid Rocket Motor Status

For safety reasons, Project HALO is using a hybrid rocket motor, which combines a solid fuel grain with a liquid oxidizer. The fuel we are using is asphalt -- better known as street tar! The oxidizer we are using is nitrous oxide -- better known as laughing gas! HAL5 member Timothy Pickens has done a superb job in leading the development and testing of the hybrid rocket motor subsystem. Tim was trained as a business major, not as a rocket scientist (but you would not know it by looking in his garage)!

On November 12, HAL5 successfully achieved 340 pounds of thrust from our hybrid rocket motor. The motor had a specific impulse (pound-of-thrust per pound-of-fuel-flowed) over 200 seconds -- better than the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters!

With this motor, our hybrid rocket performance and mass fraction should take the rocket into space. Launched from a high altitude balloon, floating at 20 miles, the rocket should reach an altitude of at least 50 nautical miles, which is internationally recognized as being the start of outer space.

Subsystem Testing is Key

The 40 hybrid rocket motor firings is just the tip of the motor development iceberg. Testing is key to every thing we do on Project HALO. We have conducted several dozen igniter tests, many under vacuum and extreme cold conditions. We have also performed thermal analysis and extreme cold tests of our nitrous oxidizer tanks, plus numerous oxidizer valve tests, and several tank burst tests.

To make sure our rocket could actually fly, HAL5 member Gene Hornbuckle built a scaled-down asphalt and nitrous hybrid rocket and successfully ground-launched it three times. It achieved an altitude of over 4,000 ft! On March 3, HAL5 will ground-launch the actual full-scale hybrid rocket from the Barrens Test Range in Manchester, Tennessee (local chapters take note). This will be a complete test of the launch systems to be eventually flown on a high-altitude balloon, including the electronics and the rocket launcher.

Balloon Launch Systems Status

HAL5 has flown our subsystems to the edge of space -- 20 miles high, where the atmospheric pressure is only one percent of that at sea level. HAL5 member Bill Brown, with over 50 high altitude balloon launches under his belt, has lead HAL5 through our first three balloon flights to the edge of space. With the help of Bill's HAM radio equipment and related electronics, we have been able to view live color video of our subsystem tests in action. Video signals from the balloon have also been received from as far away as Florida and Missouri!

Dr. Larry Scarborough, HAL5's Secretary and resident cartoonist, is also leading the development of the balloon gondola and rocket launcher. He built a half-scale version of the rocket launcher and successfully launched a half-scale rocket (powered by a D-motor) over a field in Huntsville. He is currently making the full-scale version in time for the ground test on March 3.

Student Involvement in HALO

HAL5 has recruited many Students for the Explora-tion and Development of Space (SEDS) members, and several high school students, to assist with all aspects of Project HALO. These students are involved in rocket system design, component and subsystem testing, and vehicle construction. Many of these students are now integral members of the Project HALO team. Several students have already begun writing papers for school.

Leading the student group is HAL5 and SEDS member Steve Mustaikis. Steve really is a rocket scientist, and has made significant contributions to Project HALO in the area of motor and nozzle sizing, oxidizer-to-fuel ratio estimation, performance prediction, and post-test analysis.

HAL5 is now planning for the flight of student experiments on ground based rockets, high altitude balloons (which reach the edge of space), and ballistic space-qualifying rockoon missions, via its HALO Achievement program.

Project HALO Student Achievement

This is our flagship educational program for Project HALO. The HALO education committee is near completion on the HALO Achievement program, which seeks to educate kids in the class room on space science topics modeled after the Junior Achievement approach. In this hands-on team oriented approach, students will gain a broad knowledge of space while planning space missions.

At the fifth grade level, a series of nine sessions will lead the students for planning to send a comic character, Rascal the Rockoon Raccoon, to Mars. We are working with Junior Achievement to gain access to school systems across the nation.

Middle school students would develop their projects to fly on ground based rockets and high-altitude weather balloons. To coach them in project development, we will establish the Junior Cadet Foundry, which will be modeled on the Foundry project incubator workshop we initiated at the 1993 ISDC. With the Junior Cadet Foundry we will coach the students all the way through the project development phase.

High school students would develop their projects to fly on high-altitude balloons and/or rockoons. They would participate through the Senior Cadet Foundry. Just imagine high school students flying payloads into space!


On March 1 and 2, HAL5 members will gather at Alabama A&M to help showcase the Project HALO Student Achievement Program at the Science and Technology Education Training conference (STEDTRAIN), sponsored by HATS. We are readying a professional exhibit to display photos and information on Project HALO.

HAL5's Goals for Project HALO

We in HAL5 distinguish ourselves as doers. We no longer waste great amounts of time deliberating on what others should be doing (typical for most organizations); we do it ourselves. With Project HALO, HAL5 has pledged to lead the way in showing the public, government, and private industry that cheap access to space can indeed be made a reality!

It is our hope that Project HALO will demonstrate that extreme altitudes are reachable by amateurs; that by pushing rockoon technology to its limits, we will inspire ourselves, others, and those who participate with us -- as either student experimenters, scientific researchers, or commercial developers -- to push us all to reach even higher. Ad Astra!

For More Information

Information about Project HALO activities is regularly published in the HAL5 bi-monthly newsletter, the South-eastern Space Supporter. Membership to HAL5 costs $20 per year and includes a subscription. Non-member subscriptions can be purchased for $10. Make your check payable to the "Huntsville Alabama L5 Society" and mail to 1019-A Old Monrovia Road, Suite 168, Huntsville, AL, 35806.

Status reports are also published on the World Wide Web. The HAL5 home page is located at: The HALO page is at:
For other Project HALO information, please send an E-mail message to <> or call HALO Project Manager Greg Allison at 859-5538. GA/HAL5

Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto

Home Tour Join! Contents Team News Catalog Search Comm
Moon Miners' Manifesto is published 10 times a year by the Lunar Reclamation Society for Artemis Society International, several chapters of the National Space Society, and individual subscribers world-wide.
Copyright © 2001 Artemis Society International, for the contributors. All rights reserved. Updated Mon, Dec 15, 1997.
Maintained by Jeremy Kraemer . Maintained with WebSite Director.