Spotlight on societies: Rocketry
Terry Moorton discussed the impressive Project Chamberlain with BurnFM Arts. Project Chamberlain is a project to build a liquid fuelled rocket and launch it up 30 kilometers. There are about 60-70 people currently working on the project, but anyone interested in rocket science is able to join. This is the opportunity of a lifetime to turn yourself into a rocket scientist, and even if you’re not getting a degree in physics you are more than welcome to participate. This is an amazing and intense project, and you should definitely keep an eye on it. People will be able to watch the launch live online or even be lucky enough to travel to Northumberland on one of the two coaches that will be bring people along next year. The Facebook page is Project Chamberlain, and if you would like to participate, get in contact with Terry Moorton or one of his managers that way.
Hi everyone, this is Andrea Giannini from BurnFM Arts bringing you this week’s Spotlight on Societies. With me today from Project Chamberlain is Terry Moorton who is here to explain everything about this really awesome project.
Andrea G: So what exactly is Project Chamberlain?
Moorton: Project Chamberlain is a group of 60 undergraduates, postgraduates, staff, and academics, who have come together to make a liquid fuelled rocket using hydrogen peroxide and kerosene. And we’re going to launch it up to what we hope will be 30 kilometers.
A: That sounds really awesome and really intense. So what influenced you to start this project?
M: I love space. Space is an amazing thing, and I’m very good with people, and I knew if I could get enough support we could do this thing.
A: So how long did it take to get this going?
M: So I started at Easter last year and I’ve been working on it all summer to get the lab, get money, support, and get people. And we really kicked it off at the start of the term. People have gotten into all their groups: propulsion, structure, and avionics, coming up with great designs. I was looking over them last week and they were fantastic. They had all the specifications down, all the ideas and technologies were really coming into fruition.
A: How hard would you say it was to get this project moving in the first place?
M: Have I gone grey? It is one of the most difficult things in the world. You’re fighting against both inertia and momentum. And you’re fighting against the inertia of a bureaucracy, and you just want things done. And it’s all about determination.
A: So what is an average day like for you?
M: I wake up, I send off emails, I go to meetings, I go to lectures, I finish with more meetings, and end with a pint.
A: You need that I think.
M: I definitely need that.
A: Alright, now I want to hear about this rocket. How high is this going to go?
M: Hopefully about 30 kilometers.
A: So is it going to leave our part of the atmosphere?
M: Well about 10 km contains about 75% of the Earth’s atmosphere.
A: Wow. How long will it take to build this rocket?
M: Well it’s relatively simple to build because we’re ordering a lot of parts in, because there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. So we order a lot of things from specialists. We will make the engine and most of the propulsion system ourselves though.
A: Do you know where it’s going to be launched from yet?
M: Hopefully Northumberland. It’s remote and out of the way. And the chances are if it crashes no damage, or no financial damage, will occur. The place is sparse.
A: Do you know how people will be able to view it yet?
M: I plan to get two coaches of lucky people who get to visit. And hopefully livestream the launch from some drones.
A: I’m going to watch that definitely. And how many people are involved in this project at the moment?
M: Well, there are loads of people working in the engineering side obviously, but there are lots of support workers, administration, finance, law, transport, dealing with the bureaucracy. So altogether it’s about 60 to 70 people.
A: That’s a pretty impressive team. When does it get worked on?
M: The groups they meet themselves whenever they feel ready, but a lot of them meet on Wednesdays. But now that the bigger engineering divisions: structure, propulsion, and avionics designated their smaller teams, they’re getting together to come up with their own work and they meet whenever they feel like it. This is a unique project in the sense that most of it is organized through social media.
A: Social media is very helpful.
M: It is. It is one of the most useful tools anyone could ever possibly use.
A: What are some of the academic backgrounds of the people working on this project? Are they all science related?
M: Unsurprisingly, most of them are physics. But we do have metallurgy, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and we do have a few medics. I assume they love the idea of a rocket.
A: Who can get involved in this project?
M: Anyone can get involved, we’re always looking for help.
A: And how?
M: So what you’d do is just speak to one of the managers or to me, if you want to be involved, and look at our Facebook page, Project Chamberlain.
A: And what can people expect to get out of being on a project like this?
M: Amazing CV experience. But also an experience that no other university is offering students: the chance to take yourselves from being just an ordinary undergraduate or postgraduate and turning yourself into a rocket scientist.
A: That’s really cool. Project Chamberlain is kind of within the Rocketry Society, but not really. Can you explain that?
M: They’re both separate entities. Project Chamberlain is mostly associated with the university, while UBRS, Rocketry Society, is a student society next to guild where they get to do things they want to do, like launch mini rockets. It’s in association with the Midlands Rocketry club, while Project Chamberlain is a massive rocket project. It’s odd because most societies spend a lot of their time with maybe 20 people who are actually active even though they have a membership of 100. UBRS is different because it has a membership of well 30 and there are about 60 people working on the project.
A: So most people are working on the project and aren’t actually involved in the society. I can’t even imagine all the people you’ve had to talk to just to get this going. There’s so many risks involved.
M: Yeah I had a 16 page risk assessment. It was absolutely lovely, accounting for everything, like the hydrogen peroxide you have to include, which is very dangerous. It’s 90% hydrogen peroxide. It’s not the stuff you bleach your hair with. If you put your hand in it, it will take away the skin and probably the flesh.
A: Do the people that work on this have to go through training? Or do they just kind of learn?
M: We will teach them important safety things, but a lot of it will be handled by professionals. I do not want any of my people touching something they shouldn’t.
A: Who did you speak to in order to get this going?
M: Okay so it was various people in the college of engineering and physical sciences. I had to give a big presentation to the head of the college. I’m talking with Dr. Quigley, Head of Education, Claire McCauley, Director of Operations, just to insure everything is safe and professional, and approved. The last thing I want is someone getting injured in the lab. It’s good training for the future.
A: So how will you launch this rocket, and how will it fly? Will you be controlling it once it takes off?
M: We won’t. It will be a simple press of the button. It will go up and launch for about 15 seconds, and during that time we will have no control over the rocket. Where it lands is also another thing, because if the parachute deploys we are at the mercy of the wind. But if the history of rocketry has taught us anything, it’s that nature can be cruel.
A: And who gets to press the button?
M: One lucky devil. I’ll pull it out of a hat.
A: How did you teach yourself this?
M: I got myself a load of books and started reading.
A: How long did it take you to get a handle on all this?
M: I built the first preliminary designs at the end of Easter.
A: Is there any other coverage on this Project?
M: So we have a documentary which is going to film the people working on this project. A lot of documentaries focus on the science behind it, but since we’re such an odd, or unique, institution, we have this unique opportunity to film people themselves as opposed to the rocket. It’s people who are making the project. Projects succeed or fail because of people and we want to focus on how they relate to each other. Their hopes, their aspirations, what they expect to come from this, and since it has been done by social media, this gives us a great opportunity just to see how people work together.
A: How long will it take to film this, or when will it be completed?
M: We will be filming all the way over our construction period.
A: So it will be released after the launch?
M: It will be released after the launch yes.
A: Is there anything else you would like to say about this?
M: Yeah, I want to say thank you for all the support people have given me, and all the hard work that everyone has been doing on this project, particularly my managers, who have put a lot of their spare time into this.
A: Well thank you for coming in and talking about this. If you’re interested in Project Chamberlain, either in joining or as a fan, go on their page on Facebook, which is Project Chamberlain, and like it. And stay updated with this. Thank you very much!