On this page...
Thanks to CSXT for giving Stratofox members permission to post our pictures (at the event, before we had a chance to ask.)
The launch site was at the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. Stratofox organized and led the search teams which found the rocket about 25 km / 18 miles from the launch site in rugged mountainous terrain.
Stratofox members arrived throughout the day on Sunday, May 16. The launch was scheduled to take place any weekday during the week from Monday, May 17 to Friday, May 21 when the weather would allow. The launch occurred on the first available day, Monday, May 17 at 11:12AM US Pacific Time.
The rocket's recovered avionics later showed that it had reached 72 miles (116km or 380,000 ft) in altitude. The scientific definition of space (as defined by FAI) begins as 62 miles (100km or 328,000 ft.) So this flight beat that by 10 miles.
This is significant in two ways. There had never before been a rocket launched to space by amateurs, people who are not getting a paycheck for their work. ("First amateur launch to space") There had also never been a launch to space without development or operational funding from any government. ("First private-funded launch to space") Both records were set by CSXT's GoFast rocket on May 17, 2004.
If this event helps open minds in members of the public to accepting and supporting space flights by non-government entities, history might possibly record that this event made the Black Rock Desert become the Kitty Hawk of the 21st Century. It happenned there first.
Once the flight was done, Stratofox's primary role in the event began. We had to go find it. The nose section with the avionics and payload were recovered in rough mountainous terrain about 24 hours after they landed. We were within 1/2 mile of it (but had no way to know that) on the first day and had to pull everyone off the mountain before dark.
we only heard the beacons from the booster section on descent,
but no more after that. It remained missing until November.
See our article
Mystery Solved: Stratofox Recovers CSXT Booster
about the search for the booster and its recovery from the mountains
in mud and snow on November 26, 2004.
These are the Stratofox team members who participated in the mission.
Names are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Amateur Radio callsigns and links to personal web sites
are listed if available.
Stratofox member Mark Whittington KA8I of Virginia
(formerly from Santa Cruz, California)
also participated as our "point of contact"
whom we contacted every day so friends/family
could leave messages for the team while in the desert.
|Sunday, May 16, 2004||Setting up the launch site||11|
|Setting up Camp Stratofox||12|
|Rocket assembly||37 (3 added 5/24)|
|Stratofox 2/3 and Merlin Systems arrival||19 (2 added 5/24)|
|Moving the GoFast rocket to the launch pad||39|
|Stratofox 4 arrival, launch pad pictures||12 (1 added 5/26)|
|Monday, May 17, 2004||Pre-launch||6 (1 added 5/24)|
|Monday afternoon search||19 (2 added 5/24)|
|Tuesday, May 18, 2004||Tuesday morning at camp||8|
|Tuesday morning search||9|
|Back in Gerlach||15|
Mystery Solved: Stratofox Recovers CSXT Booster, Nov 2004
Re-entry boom analysis, Dec 2004
Jeremy Cooper KE6JJJ made this audio recording with equipment he set up at
the flight line (before he went to a downrange observer position.)
A few notes about the recording:
As recently as the late 1990's,
it used to be that after an amateur high-altitude balloon flight
or rocket launch,
the recovery effort was mainly an afterthought.
Everyone who had previously been preoccupied with the launch and flight
would then start thinking about the search once the
rocket was on the ground
or the balloon was out of view.
The vision of a team which gathers and promotes expertise in searching for high-altitude rockets and balloons originated with Tim Sargent KD5DTW. He wanted a team to be focused, prepared and well-practiced for the search and recovery mission before anyone left home for the launch. Even if they had other roles during the launch and flight, there would be people prepared for the many challenges that may occur during a search.
We wish that Tim had lived to see the day that his vision and the team he started were instrumental in recovering the world's first amateur rocket launched to space. He lost his battle with cancer on Feb 2, 2003 - which some may recognize as the day after the Space Shuttle Columbia accident. Stratofox posted a web page in his memory the same day.
Tim was originally from Houston, TX. He resided with his wife in Sacramento, CA when he led the formation of the team that would later become known as Stratofox.
"Ham Radio-Carrying Rocket Exceeds Goal; Avionics Recovered Intact", ARRL
duplicate with discussion: "Amateur Rocket Reaches Space", Slashdot
duplicate with discussion: "Ham-Radio-Carrying Rocket Makes it to Margin of Space", eHam
CSXT Rocket Team Claims Success With Desert Launch, AP via Space.com
many media outlets carried the AP article - we won't even try to list them all
"Amateurs in space: NASA isn't the only agency that can launch a rocket into the blue beyond", Omaha World-Herald
"Space Frontier Foundation Congratulates First Amateur Team to Enter Space", Space Frontier Foundation
Google news search for "csxt rocket"
"Nearspacecraft hunting", Hobbyspace.com discovers Stratofox
Public Service, El Dorado County (California) Amateur Radio Emergency Services
"Norwalk, Conn., Firm Works on Film About Historic Amateur Rocket Launch", Red Nova
"CABLEready To Co-Produce Space Doc", Xentervision, Korea
Personal pages and blogs:
The secondary beacons which were used to find the rocket were provided by avionics sponsor Merlin Systems. Their falconry transmitters (made to be attached to birds) were attached to the parachute shroud lines.
Stratofox also performed various pre-launch communications support tasks as well as a rescue of two spectators who tried to go looking for the rocket alone and broke down in the mountains.
Also, CSXT used a satellite phone to contact FAA Air Traffic Control to activate pre-arranged airspace closures before launch and cancel them after the flight.
Stratofox members were present during extraction of the telemetry data but have not reviewed all of it.
Some CSXT team members are employed in the aerospace industry. One of the Stratofox members who participated in this event is employed in the aerospace industry. But all participants have performed their tasks for CSXT as volunteers, and had to take time off from work to be at the launch.
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