Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Lander Project

 So... I have been working on this for a couple years now. I only really got the chance to go fast on it since I got my full time job one year ago (more time and money than school). It's been slow progress, since I really can only devote nights and weekends to it.

The goal of this project: produce a small rocket lander that is affordable to operate which provide 60 seconds of flight time, is reusable, and will allow me to fly new and interesting guidance, navigation, and control strategies. Do this as affordably as possible. Also just have a ton of fun and learn a bunch of things.

Since this started a while ago, this series of blogs will start off as a retrospective and move forward to the modern era (IE now). I have a couple names I am toying with: MiniLander or Hoplite. The former being somewhat self-explanatory; plus I have always loved the word Mini because it's cute. The latter is a play on words. It's a light hopper vehicle, but that word is also a Greek word meaning a citizen-soldier armed with a spear and shield. Plus I love historical shit. (ὁπλίτης) 

Here were the first couple parts I picked up for this project. I got a steel pressure sphere, electron beam welded, from eBay fo $50. Little did I know at the time that this was made by Fansteel for a Saturn launch vehicle... what a steal! I also got an LR101 engine from a friend. I wasn't sure I wanted to use it for this lander project, but I know I wanted to use it in the future and they are scarce. 

Here's the LR101 engine... It's a 1000lbf kerosene LOX vernier engine from an Atlas rocket form the 1960s. I won't use it for the lander... but probably a 10km vehicle or something :)

Here is the current cad of the system. You can see it's missing a lot of components, but good enough to size lots of my subsystems.

important disclaimer: don't try this at home kids. I mean really please don't try this at home, and in no way should you find yourself inspired to do so from this. This project has/will take me years, thousands of dollars, and is incredibly dangerous.


  1. Will you do a blog more in depth on the GNC you have/will implement on the vehicle? Or the avionics, either one would be cool. I’m attempting to make a hopper that uses a propeller instead of a liquid engine and I find others projects like this very interesting. I also applaud the effort you put into these projects while also having a 60+ hour a week job. Awesome stuff!

  2. I will cover the avionics, but not GNC or flight software as those things are sensitive