Archive of "Latest News" Updates: 2003 - 2006


17 December 2006


Here is the approved press release for the fourth and final Prospector 7 flight test that took place on 28 September 2006 out at the Navy's San Nicolas Island facility off the coast of southern California.  A tailored version can also be found on page 3 of the 15 December 2006 issue of the Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center (SMC) Astro News publication.  This mission was sponsored by SMC and AFRL and successfully pathfinded a number of operationally responsive launch activities and processes.


P-7D In Flight

- photo by Doug Holker -


The Prospector 7 featured a reusable first stage along with a refurbishable interstage and fairing (even though there was no second stage, we still used the term "interstage").  The vehicle was actually designated the Prospector 7D (P-7D) to denote the mission-specific configuration for this, its fourth flight.  Configurations -7A and -7B were previously employed for the two-flight demonstration of rapid turn-around RLV operations conducted for AFRL/PR on 29 October 2005 and configuration -7C manifested a payload from The Aerospace Corporation on another Mojave flight on 29 April 2006.   Due to range constraints, recovery was not an option for the P-7D flight.  The vehicle performed nominally, with liftoff taking place on the first countdown (video).






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15 May 2006


Here is the approved press release for the Prospect 7 flight test on 29 April 2006 that took place out at the FAR site in the Mojave desert, as well as a flight video taken by Eric Besnard and edited by Dave McCue. 


P-7C at Liftoff

- photo by Joe Mullin -


The Prospector 7 has the dimensions of a nanosat launch vehicle and features a reusable first stage along with a refurbishable interstage and fairing (even though there is no second stage, we still use the term "interstage").  The vehicle is actually designated the Prospector 7C (P-7C) to denote the mission-specific configuration for this, its third flight.  Configurations -7A and -7B were previously employed for the two-flight demonstration of rapid turn-around RLV operations conducted for AFRL/PR on 29 October 2005.



30 November 2005

Prospector 7

GSC and research partner CSULB conducted the successful launch, recovery, refurbishment and re-launch on 29 October 2005 of the Prospector 7 test vehicle within a period of just 3.5 hours.  All field site activities, including set-up, flight ops and post-test processing, took place over a 24-hour time frame.


P-7 Undergoing Preparation for First Flight Test P-7 Leaving the Launch Rail on the First Flight Test - photo by J. Mullin P-7 About to Land After First Flight Test - photo by B. Rotty P-7 Undergoing Final Refurbishment for the Second Flight Test



Second P-7 Flight of the Day  - photo by J. Mullin P-7 Under Parachute for the Second Time - photo by J. Mullin P-7 About to Land Again  - photo by J. Mullin P-7 Post-Landing Retrieval Underway


The Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate branch at Edwards Air Force Base sponsored this RLV demonstration project through a Phase I SBIR contract to GSC, with CSULB participating as a major subcontractor.  The project's  objective during this initial phase has been the demonstration and evaluation of design and processing factors associated with rapid turn-around RLV operations, with a test goal of conducting two flights within a single 24-hour period.  This work builds upon the experiences and metrics for vertical take-off liquid propellant rocket systems that were previously established by the SDIO / McDonnell Douglas / NASA Delta Clipper prototype RLV test program, during which a turn-around of 26 hours between flights was achieved in June 1996.


GSC and CSULB developed the P-7 over a period of six months.  Its design is derived from the Prospector 5 and 6 test vehicles that the team previously developed and flew as early steps towards an operational nanosat launch vehicle.  Testing took place on the Koehn dry lake bed outside the town of Mojave, CA, with site support services provided by the Friends of Amateur Rocketry, Inc. 


In addition to evaluating RLV operations, the P-7 project also provided flight opportunities for a number of university payloads.  These included a data logger from Montana State University and a prototype of the Poly-Picosat Orbital Deployer (P-POD) developed by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  These two experiments flew on both flights, with the P-POD actually deploying a number of simulated "CubeSats." 


The CALVEIN team and AFRL are now updating their plans to reuse this hardware in future NLV-related flight testing.  The next phase of testing presently envisions expanding the altitude and velocity objectives while still retaining responsive times and reusable technology.


Additional details regarding these first P-7 flights and future plans are anticipated to become available in the near future.  High resolution formats of a number of these photos as well as several flight videos can be found in a P-7 image directory hosted by CSULB.



Prospector 6B

Plans are firming up for the next flight of the Prospector 6 (re-designated from "P-6A" to "P-6B"  to conform with our newly adopted naming conventions for potentially reusable test vehicles).  We will utilize this vehicle to conduct a pathfinder demonstration of a responsive launch at an alternative government range, while also manifesting a prototype technology payload of a candidate telemetry capability that eventually might be flown on orbital missions.



26 November 2005


Static Fire Testing

The GSC/CSULB CALVEIN team conducted two static fire tests on 15 October 2005 at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry, Inc. (FAR) test site in the Mojave desert.  The first of these tests involved a 1,200 lbf-thrust engine that featured a new epoxy resin for the ablative chamber liner.  This basic engine design is the same one that has powered the Prospector 4, 5, 6 and 7 vehicles. 




The second static fire test of the day focused on the initial operation of a 50-lbf engine module that CSULB is developing for future multi-chamber aerospike engine configurations.



24 May 2005

The GSC/CSULB CALVEIN team conducted a successful launch and recovery of the Prospector 6 test vehicle at the Mojave Test Area on Saturday, 21 May 2005. The P6 is a partially reusable, full-scale prototype of the two-stage Nanosat Launch Vehicle that the CALVEIN (California Launch Vehicle Education Initiative) team has been working on for several years. Several great video clips that were captured from both the ground and an on-board student mini-DV camera can be found on the CSULB web site.

P6 being Erected Upright

Photo by Dave Allday


P6 Engine Ignition

Photo by Dave Allday


P6 in Flight

Photo by Joe Mullin


P6 Stage Separation

Photo by Dave Allday


12 December 2004


The launch of the initial NLV first stage Flight Development Unit, also known as the Prospector 5, took place at the Reaction Research Society's Mojave Test Area on Saturday, 04 December 2004.  As with previous Prospector flight projects, this was a cooperative effort between GSC and CSULB conducted under the banner of the California Launch Vehicle Education Initiative (CALVEIN). The Press Release provides a general summary of the test objectives.


We received numerous excellent photos and video inputs.  The following digital images by David Allday were particularly exceptional.







High resolution versions of these images can be found at the following posting:

CSULB will be posting additional photos as well as video clips on the CALVEIN web site.


Vehicle Description:

The P5 had a gross lift-off weight of about 280 lbm.  It incorporated the same 1200 lbf-thrust LOX/ethanol ablative engine that first flew on the Prospector 4 last June, which resulted in an initial thrust-to-weight ratio of 4.   The main vehicle body and fairing had a length of 16 feet, while the converging thrust structure and engine added another 3 feet.  Another hardware element that had already been proven in flight was the Main Valve Assembly, which we used on the Kimbo V vehicle back in early 2001.


Besides its much larger size, the P5 also featured these differences from previous Kimbo and Prospector vehicles:


- side deployment of the parachute.  This proved to be much simpler than the traditional mode in which the parachute is located at the forward end of the vehicle and its deployment also involves that of the payload fairing


- the LOX tank assembly was mounted forward of the fuel tank assembly (the "correct" location for CG purposes).  Insulation for the LOX feedline proved to work fine and there were no apparent issues related to excessive heat soaking (the reason we had always placed the LOX tank on the bottom in the past).


- converging thrust structure


- reversion back to four instead of three fins for improved stability


- the aeroshell was fabricated from aluminum sheet instead of cardboard tube or graphite/epoxy



We only received a single payload for this flight - a "fin cam" experiment put together by CSULB student John Julius.  This camera provided unparalleled real-time video of the ignition and lift-off sequence, which will be posted on the CALVEIN site.


Launch Operations Summary:

The vehicle arrived at the MTA late Friday night.  Integration of the recovery system took place Saturday morning, in parallel with erection of the FAR launch rail and the EGSE.  We encountered several software issues in the data acquisition system which required real-time procedural work-arounds.  Terminal countdown ops then began in the early afternoon.


An initial countdown sequence resulted in an abort when the igniter failed to achieve a stable burn by the time propellant flow was initiated.  Several modifications to the igniter configuration then resulted in a successful engine ignition on the second countdown.


The P5 flew off the launch rail nominally but several seconds later pitched over a notable amount.  The common consensus is that wind shear was the root cause for this maneuver (a case where having on-board telemetry would be a big help).  Consequently, the vehicle probably did not achieve its maximum predicted altitude of 5,000 feet.


Parachute deployment was nominal and the vehicle descended sideways.  As expected, the airframe did sustain some damage upon landing, since the under-sized parachute was a left-over spare for earlier Prospector vehicles that had half the mass of the P5.  All high-value equipment appears to be intact and ready for re-use again in future vehicles.




06 November 2004

The GSC/CSULB team conducted its third static fire test investigating the LOX-propylene propellant combination at the Mojave Test Area on 23 October 2004.  This test featured several modifications to the propellant feed system, main valve assembly and start-up sequence in an attempt to mitigate the large ignition transients observed in previous tests.  In addition, the instrumentation suite incorporated several more pressure sensors and multiple load cells to improve test data acquisition.

LOX/Propylene Static Fire Test - 3

Visual observations and subsequent analysis of the analog telemetry data has confirmed that these adjustments did indeed result in a much more benign engine ignition.  However, a second test objective - operation of the 500 lbf-thrust engine at nominal design conditions for an relatively long period (5 to 7 seconds) - was not achieved due to earlier-than-anticipated LOX depletion at slightly less than T+2 seconds.  The subsequent propylene-rich plume created another impressive fireball (because of the extra carbon, a propylene flame radiates much more in the visible light spectrum than does one fueled by ethanol), this time in the flame trench.  Damage to the static fire test assembly was minimal and all command and data acquisition functions were maintained without interruption.

Plans for the next round of LOX-propylene testing are TBD at this point, due to competing priorities related to the NLV first stage Flight Development Unit - 1.

Pre-mature LOX Depletion Created a Propylene-rich Exhaust Plume (Dark Material Flowing from the Nozzle)


Static Fire Test Assembly - Before and After


Work is progressing on the initial Flight Development Unit - 1 (FDU-1) of the NLV first stage.  CSULB students have converted the full-scale mockup of the NLV first stage into the FDU-1 configuration and are now using it as a reference as they develop the airframe and propulsion system for the actual flight vehicle. 


Full-Scale Mock-up of the NLV First Stage Flight Development Unit - 1


FDU-1 Mock-up

For cost reasons, this first FDU is essentially a greatly enlarged version of one our current Kimbo/Prospector class of vehicles.  It therefore has low fidelity and performance relative to an operational NLV first stage.  The primary objective for this development task is to provide our team experience with building, testing, handling and launching vehicles of this scale.  Subsequent FDU's will incrementally evolve towards the high-performance NLV design as resources become available.



02 August 2004

The GSC/CSULB team recently completed the next phase of development of an initial full-scale, low-fidelity mockup of a possible Nanosat Launch Vehicle. This effort included integration of all major vehicle elements and rotation of the mockup into a vertical orientation.  Follow-on tasks include continued development of key subsystems, mechanical GSE definition and pathfinding of logistics and field-site operations.


11 July 2004


The two CALVEIN field tests out at the Mojave Test Area on Thursday, 24 June 2004 produced mixed results. On the positive side, the new EGSE gear and LabVIEW-based software appear to have functioned as intended during the second LOX/propylene static fire test, while the Prospector 4 with its upgraded 1200 lbf-thrust LOX/ethanol engine achieved the desired high-g launch. On the negative side, the static fire burn experienced several significant anomalies, first during ignition and then several seconds later into the burn when a ball of fire erupted above the injector (fortunately, control was maintained throughout these events and the burn was terminated and SFTA was shut down with relatively minor damage). In the case of the P4, the recovery system malfunctioned, leading to a high speed crash that destroyed both the vehicle and the FMMR payload provided by USC. This failure was particularly frustrating in that it involved the same hardware and recovery approach as was successfully demonstrated on the previous P4 flight in December.



P4 Taking Off

Photo by D. Gaylord

USC Payload Integrated Into the P4

After Impact


LOX/Propylene Static Fire Test 2


Additional images and video clips will be posted on the CSULB web site in the near future.

Post-test analysis has identified most likely root causes for the test anomalies, including insufficient configuration management of the P4 recovery subsystem. The LOX/propylene ignition process still requires refinement, but the pintle injector survived in much better shape than on the previous static fire test. Extensive test documentation also proved to be a key factor in enabling these activities to be undertaken in parallel, along with a separate static fire test by the Flometrics/SDSU team.

Planning is now underway for the next phase of development tasks and fields tests. We anticipate returning to the MTA in September when the next set of CSULB students have made it to campus.

On the NLV front, CSULB students continue to work on elements of the full-scale vehicle mockup. These include the first stage, a prototype transporter-erector-launcher assembly and a plug for laying-up the payload fairing.




14 June 2004

The next set of field testing at the MTA is now set for June 24.  These will include the second flight of the Prospector 4 and the second static fire test of a LOX/propylene engine.  The Prospector 4 will use a standard LOX/ethanol 1200 lbf-thrust pintle ablative engine.  It will also carry another USC-provided experiment.  The LOX/propylene static fire test will feature an updated pintle injector design and the next set of upgrades to the electrical ground support equipment architecture, specifically more extensive use of LabVIEW functions for command and telemetry

CSULB students are continuing to develop a full-scale mockup of a conceptual Nanosat Launch Vehicle.  In May, they put the partially completed stage elements vertical for the first time.  This full-scale vehicle mockup is intended to stimulate the requirements and design definition process and to serve as a pathfinder for NLV-related operations.



28 April 2004

The student team at CSULB has taken the first steps in the assembly and integration of a low-fidelity mockup of the NLV second stage.  This full-scale vehicle mockup is intended to stimulate the requirements and design definition process and to serve as a pathfinder for NLV-related operations.  Parallel work is also underway on the first stage and interstage elements.


17 March 2004

GSC and its CALVEIN team partners conducted an initial LOX/propylene static fire test at the Mojave Test Area on 06 March 2004. For this test, the propylene was stored and handled at ambient temperatures. It is anticipated that eventually we will transition to densified / cryogenic propylene, which promises to provide improved performance over RP-1 while having comparable density.


500 lbf-Thrust LOX/Propylene Engine Under Test on VTS-2

(photo by Eric Besnard)


This test was a key step in providing initial validation of several technologies and capabilities that have been baselined for the Nanosat Launch Vehicle (NLV) concept. Preliminary plans now call for an iteration of the pintle injector, followed by another static fire test to come as soon as we can schedule time again out at the MTA.

In parallel, we are now incorporating lessons learned from the software and EGSE back into the Prospector 3 effort. Most significantly, the ability to monitor gyro and accel trend data in real time using new operator client software should greatly enhance development activities.

And finally, work is continuing with CSULB students who are developing a full-scale mockup of the proposed NLV this spring.

Prospector 4 Flight Report

Analysis of flight data from the second powered liquid-propulsion aerospike flight test, conducted with the Prospector 4 vehicle in December 2003, verified the initial observations that everything functioned as planned. This flight test validated the improvements to the engine that were implemented by the CSULB team members. The P-4 is ready for flight, but efforts to enlist support for more advanced aerospike flight testing, specifically replacing the graphite engine elements with high-temperature ceramics, have not progressed very much in the last several months. More complete coverage of the flight can be found at the CSULB web site.


Prospector 4 in Flight

(photo by KMark Caviezel)

 Prospector 4 After a Successful Landing



11 December 2003


We plan to post information from the Prospector 4 flight in the next several days once the team finishes its preliminary review of the test data.  Initial details about the flight can be found on the CSULB web site.


20 November 2003

The CALVEIN team has completed inspection of the Prospector 2 aerospike engine and has identified the root cause for its suboptimal performance relative to that obtained on the preceding static fire test. Specifically, it appears that the clearance gap between the graphite exit ring and the chamber aft flange was too large, resulting in the ring "settling" slightly upon the application of heat and pressure at start-up. This then opened up an alternative flow path for some of the combustion gases around the outer surface of the ring. That in turn lead to the erosion of part of the aft flange, as evidenced by the asymmetric thrust in flight and the ring itself.

Prospector 2 Aerospike Chamber Aft Flange Before and After Flight

Several corrective actions have already been implemented in the refurbished aerospike engine. These include tighter dimensional tolerances and altering the ablative overwrap of the exit ring so as to more securely lock the ring into position. The chamber aft flange has been repaired and the ablative liner installed in preparation for the next test flight with the Prospector 4 vehicle this coming December.


Repaired Aerospike Chamber Aft Flange Chamber with New Ablative Liner Installed





21 September 2003

A joint academic / industry team conducted the first known flight test of a powered liquid-propellant aerospike engine this past Saturday, 20 September 2003. California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, principal partners in the California Launch Vehicle Education Initiative (CALVEIN), successfully launched their Prospector 2 (P-2) research vehicle using a 1,000 lbf LOX/ethanol aerospike engine designed and developed by CSULB students.

The aerospike flight test took place in the early afternoon under excellent weather conditions at the Mojave Test Area that is owned and operated by the non-profit Reaction Research Society. After a smooth countdown and nominal engine ignition, the thirteen-foot long P-2 quickly accelerated up a 60-ft launch rail and entered stable flight. Several seconds later it abruptly pitched ninety degrees and demonstrated unstable operation until finally transitioning into a ballistic terminal descent. The subsequent impact with the desert floor destroyed student payloads provided by a USC/JPL team and another from Cerritos High School, but the aft section with the aerospike survived relatively intact. Preliminary analysis indicates that the most probable cause for the observed flight behavior is that part of the engine’s graphite exit outer ring experienced excessive and asymmetric erosion, which in turn created a side thrust component.

Dr. Eric Besnard, CALVEIN director and associate professor at CSULB, reports that the team will disassemble the Prospector 2 and complete analysis of available data within the coming week. "We are extremely satisfied with the initial results of the Prospector 2 aerospike flight test" says Dr. Besnard. "This mission had a single, simple primary objective - get the vehicle into the air using the liquid-propellant aerospike engine. We believe that our success in achieving this goal represents a small but important step in validating such engine technology for future reusable launch systems. From a broader perspective, this kind of hardware-based research and development, which has depended heavily on student contributions, is essential for preparing tomorrow’s aerospace engineers who will be developing such vehicles."

This mission was actually the second for the Prospector 2, which first flew in February 2002 with a standard bell-shaped ablative engine chamber, and fourth overall for the CALVEIN team. John Garvey of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (Huntington Beach, CA) notes that "We have already identified several areas for improving the basic aerospike engine design. At the post-flight data review we will collect any other lessons-learned from the flight test and then will update our near-term flight test plans. As always, the real challenge will be balancing what we would like to do with the available resources. We could either run more static fire tests to characterize the engine better or adapt the new Prospector 4 to carry an updated aerospike. We will know more once we have had a chance to open up the P-2 engine and take a look inside."

"Aerospike development is actually just one element of our company’s strategy to pursue the low-cost development and validation of small launch vehicle technologies. We have another re-usable flight vehicle – the Prospector 3 – back in the CSULB lab that is our test bed for candidate thrust vector control technologies. We have already flown it earlier this year and the odds are good that we will be back at the MTA in several months to conduct another flight test with it. The key for us is to keep conducting these flights in combination with incremental improvements."

In addition to Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, other corporate contributors to the Prospector 2 flight test include Advanced Composite Products and Technologies (ACPT) and Electro-Tech Machining (ETM).

Photo by Tony Richards

Photo by Tony Richards

Prospector 2 Riding Up Launch Rail Prospector 2 in Flight


Photo by Kim Garvey

Prospector 2 Launch Team


Photo by Eric Besnard

Photo by Kim Garvey

Aerospike Engine Static Fire Test Conducted in June 2003 Aerospike Engine Integrated on P2 Launch Vehicle  (Prior to Flight)


Additional information and photos (including video) about the Prospector 2 can be found on the CSULB web site.




15 September 2003


Plans are still on to attempt the Prospector 2 flight test with a liquid-propellant ablative aerospike engine this coming weekend (20-21 September 2003) at the Mojave Test Area.



Vehicle integration is continuing and final checks are scheduled for mid-week.  Most of the team will be heading out to the desert early Saturday morning, with a nominal launch time of noon on Saturday, (20 September).  Additionally, the Flometrics/SDSU team is also planning to conduct a static fire test of their next LOX/kerosene vehicle.


Separately, GSC has begun work under a Phase I SBIR contract from the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL).  CSULB is a subcontractor on this effort, which addresses advanced technology development for small launch vehicles.  We hosted a kick-off meeting with the AF representatives on Thursday, 04 September 2003, and are now proceeding to refine the system requirements based on the input we received.




12 August 2003

The RRS has submitted a flight waiver request to the FAA for the weekend of 20-21 September 2003.  This is now the target date for the Prospector 2 Aerospike Flight Test.

Progress continues on the Prospector 2 vehicle.  The aerospike engine refurbishment is finished and the engine was mounted to the vehicle for the first time two weeks ago.

End-to-end functionality of the GPS and Wi Fi telemetry-link experiment has been completed.  Also, several additional university payloads are still under consideration for launch.


The primary tasks remaining include updating the ground system control software and completing development of the pneumatic actuator elements for the recovery system.


02 July 2003

As noted on the CSULB web site, our team conducted a successful static fire test of the CSULB ablative aerospike engine on 21 June 2003 out at the Reaction Research Society’s Mojave Test Area. The design modifications to the central spike elements enabled a four-second burn that terminated with a sequenced shut-down command (the goal had been five seconds, but a logic error in the timer loop lead to the earlier-than planned shutdown). This contrasts with the first version of this engine, which last only 200 ms before coming apart in a rather dramatic fashion. In addition to the engine, this test also validated several new avionics features.


Based on the positive outcome of this latest static fire test, we have shifted our near-term focus now to refurbishing the engine chamber, with the goal of attempting a powered flight test of it using the already-proven Prospector 2.  Tentative plans are to fly in August, assuming we can convince the RRS folks and the rest of our team to venture out to the desert at that time of year. We believe we have defined several approaches for maintaining compliance with all recent regulatory requirements and work has started on modifying the relevant vehicle elements.

The next flight of the Prospector 3 vehicle, with upgraded thrust vector control, is now anticipated to take place in September, when the next set of students are on campus.




19 June 2003

The re-flight of the Prospector 3 vehicle with CSULB, which had most recently been scheduled for the weekend of 21 June 2003, is on indefinite hold pending resolution of several issues associated with recent Homeland Security policy edicts. In particular, the RRS is assessing new licensing requirements for several components that perform critical roles in the present P-3 recovery system. Return to flight will depend on either favorable resolution of the policy issues and/or redesign and qualification of new recovery subsystems that eliminate the use of the items in question.

Consequently, the team has elected to instead conduct a static fire test of CSULB’s re-designed 1000lbf-thrust, LOX-ethanol ablative aerospike engine (see for a summary of the first aerospike engine project). The primary test objective of Aerospike 2 Static Fire Test – 1 (AS2 SFT1) is to demonstrate a sufficient burn time (on the order of five seconds) for proceeding with a flight test involving the already-flown and recovered Prospector 2 vehicle.

CSULB Aerospike -2

Additional test objectives include acquisition of relatively high-sampling rate load cell and chamber pressure data that should enable characterization of the engine performance. One other aspect of the test is that the test set-up’s avionics architecture now incorporates many features and capabilities originally developed to support the Prospector 3 flight tests.

The current plan is to be on site at the Mojave Test Area by 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, 21 June, with a nominal test window from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. that day.



27 May 2003


The Prospector 3 Flight Test-2 (P3 FT-2) is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of 21 June 2003, pending FAA waiver approval.




9 May 2003

The Prospector 3 Flight Test-2, previously scheduled for the weekend of 3-4 May, was postponed due to inclement weather conditions on both days; Saturday due to rain and Sunday due to very high winds.  Discussions are ongoing with the RRS to determine a new launch date (probably in late June).

Prior to the decision to scrub the launch, pre-launch preparations were conducted at the MTA on Sunday.  Below are a few photos from the day.

(Click on photo to see larger image)

GSC and CSULB Team members

Dave prepares the electronics assembly


JPL Teammates and Garv

Mike and Austin



Evidence of the killer winds





1 May 2003

The P3 FT-2 launch is now scheduled for SUNDAY, 4 May, due to poor weather conditions predicted for Saturday.



27 April 2003

Preparations continue with CSULB for the Prospector 3 Flight Test-2 (P3 FT-2). It is still scheduled for this coming weekend, with Saturday, 3 May 2003 targeted as the primary launch day and Sunday, 4 May as the backup. The weather forecast for Saturday is less than optimal at this point, but hopefully it will improve during the coming week.

The basic P3 vehicle is in good shape, in large part because it required very little refurbishment after its maiden flight last February.  Consequently, most of the focus for FT-2 is on the new vehicle data acquisition system and EGSE software upgrades. We also plan to fly another USC/JPL payload.

Recent accomplishments have included the installation of the PC/104 flight computer in the forward payload bay and initial acquisition of telemetry parameters from the PIC IO modules using a Linux-based C program.

As usual, one of the biggest challenges will be coordinating the final close-out activities of the various team members, many of whom have travel commitments during the next several days.

PC-104 Flight Controller that will be used to For Data Acquisition on FT-2



29 March 2003


The Reaction Research Society has confirmed that the launch window for the next flight test of the Prospector 3 vehicle (P3-FT2) is now set for the first weekend in May (3 and 4 May 2003), pending final FAA approval of the flight waiver request. This joint project between GSC and Cal State U., Long Beach (CSULB) will feature several modifications to the thrust vector control program, the vehicle telemetry system and electrical ground support equipment. In addition, it looks like USC will provide another experiment package.

In parallel, work is now fully underway with CSULB on the Prospector 4 vehicle. Depending on the results of P3-FT2, the P4 will be dedicated primarily for carrying payloads, but could be drafted for additional testing and evaluation of TVC hardware. Present plans call for an early summer launch out at the Mojave Test Area, with at least one university indicating interest in manifesting a payload.



08 March 2003

At the weekly CALVEIN* work party on the CSULB campus (6 March 2003), the team reached concurrence on near-terms plans that run through early summer.  The top priority is the re-flight of the Prospector 3 / Kimbo-VIII vehicle to continue development of thrust vector control capabilities.  This P3 Flight Test – 2 (P3 FT-2) will incorporate additional avionics and modifications that should improve propulsion system performance.  Tentative launch dates are the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May.

In parallel, the decision was made to begin fabrication of a new vehicle, Prospector 4 (aka Kimbo X)** with initial operational capability scheduled for early summer.  At this point, it is intended to incorporate several structural refinements and expanded payload volume in this vehicle.  However, the team will finalize the design only after P3 FT-2 is completed.

Also, CSULB is increasing its emphasis on finishing the second prototype ablative aerospike engine.  Consequently, it is anticipated that we could be conducting a static fire test with this unit on Vertical Test Stand – 2 sometime in the next several months.


* CALVEIN – California Launch Vehicle Education Initiative

** "Prospector" is the name used by CSULB for its set of test vehicles, whereas GSC employs the "Kimbo" title for all the vehicles it is involved with, which includes the Prospectors developed in partnership with CSULB, as well as those implemented on other projects.



Last Updated: 05 January 2009


Additional information about launches and static fire tests can also be found on the CSULB web site.