Campus: CSU Long Beach -- December 8, 2005
CSULB Students Help CALVEIN's 'Prospector 7' Take Flight Twice in 1 Day
Students from the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Department at California
State University, Long Beach were among the members of a joint academic/industry/government
team that recently conducted the successful launch, recovery, refurbishment and re-launch
of a prototype reusable launch vehicle, Prospector 7, within a period of just 3.5 hours.
The launch represented an important achievement in aerospace research at a time when more
responsive launch capabilities have become a priority.
The demonstration of fast turn-around operations with a liquid propellant rocket that
requires minimal maintenance signified a major improvement over the 26 hours needed to
conduct two flights with a McDonnell Douglas DC-XA research vehicle nearly a decade ago.
The launch was made possible by a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research contract to
CSULB research partner Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) of Long Beach, Calif., from the
Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL) Propulsion Directorate branch at Edwards Air Force
Base. It builds upon an on-going Nanosat Launch Vehicle development program that GSC and
CSULB are conducting as part of the California Launch Vehicle Education Initiative (CALVEIN).
The Nanosat Launch Vehicle is intended to provide dedicated, primary launch services to
small satellite developers and operators whose spacecraft have a mass of 10 kilograms
(22 pounds) or less, a growing area of industry that cannot afford the expense or the lag
time to launch their payloads on more traditional vehicles such as the space shuttle.
The purpose of CALVEIN, a partnership program directed by Eric Besnard, CSULB associate
professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is to help prepare the next generation
of California-based engineers for the aerospace industry and provide MAE students with
hands-on experience, while also supporting technology development to contribute to the next
generation of low-cost launch vehicles.
In addition to evaluating reusable launch vehicle operations, the Prospector 7 project also
provided flight opportunities for a number of university payloads, including 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
Nanosat Launch Vehicle-related flight testing. The next phase of testing presently envisions
expanding the altitude and velocity objectives while still retaining response times and
"Over the years, CALVEIN has focused on pursuing an incremental development approach where
each frequent test provides students and others an opportunity to learn and expand the
envelope," Besnard explained. "Here, launch vehicle developers, operators and payload
developers from several universities came together and, with these two flights conducted
with the same vehicle in a matter of hours, demonstrated that responsive operations are
indeed possible. The next phase will focus on expanding the flight regime with the long-term
objective of reaching orbit."