Firing a Rocket Engine! A Day in the Life of an MIT Aerospace Engineering Student Ep.4
Articles Blog

Firing a Rocket Engine! A Day in the Life of an MIT Aerospace Engineering Student Ep.4

January 23, 2020

If the ignitor is confirmed operating, open
the thrust valves at zero. We’re expecting a burn to completion on the
oxidizer tank which should last about five seconds if all goes well. At MIT we’re challenged everyday with our
problem sets, projects, and exams. There have been many many late nights. But what gets you through it all are those
moments where you get a chance to escape. Are cameras rolling? Okay. Alright we’re going to pressurize the propellant
tanks. Those moments where you’re able to do what
you’re passionate about, destress, get excited, and gain perspective as to why you’re doing
this all to begin with.Okay and both tanks are holding 800 psi. Yeah we’re pretty busy here as Aerospace Engineering
students, but we have really cool people here and have the facilities so why not start a
tech youtube channel and why not build a rocket engine and test fire it Southern California? Okay 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, start ignitor, 3,
2, 1… Hi guys, it’s KJ the MiTechGuy here and if
you’re new to my ‘Day in the Life of an MIT student’ series it’s a series where I show
you what Ido on a daily basis and also give you honest insights as to what life as an
MIT Aerospace Engineering student is like. As I mentioned in an earlier video, I’m still
in IAP or MIT’s independent activities period, where basically we get the whole month of
January off and we can do anything from just go home, go to class or test a rocket engine. Today, I came out to the desert to see Sam
test fire the rocket engine that he’s been working really hard on for quite some time
now. It’s actually really impressive, and he’s
solely responsible for everything from ordering all of the necessary parts and supplies to
manufacturing every piece, even the bolt holes. He was even able to use his knowledge from
thermo, fluids, and structures to crunch the numbers and make sure everything was going
to work here at the test site. He flew all the way out here to Southern California
for this very test and I think he’s really proud of everything he was able to accomplish. I’m excited and a bit nervous. We don’t know what’s going to happen. This is a completely new piece of hardware. The thing is the test stand has been tested
before and it is the same I-beam, same place. So there’s some unknowns and new things, but
we’re just going to see what’s going to happen. So Ihad this trip on my calendar for several
months back in September or October when of course the engine wasn’t done yet. So of course I had to progress with some faith
to get the engine, get all of the hardware done before that date arrive and I think back
when Iwas flying out to California and I was on the plane. The engine had made it through security. It was like seven in the morning, I was super
tired. But Icould sort of just sit back and relax
knowing that everything that I had done had paid off so far. I was on my way to California and I could
look forward to what lies ahead. The desert is a great place to test rockets
because there’s nothing around that we or the rocket itself can harm. So right now, this site is used a lot by rocket
lovers like Sam to test their rockets. Quite a bit of people came out to see Sam
fire his engine, because we all knew how important it was to him. Also, the man made a rocket engine himself
and that’s really cool. So this is a liquid propellant rocket engine,
meaning that the fuel and oxidizer, the propellants, are stored and injected into the combustion
chamber as liquids. For the fuel, I’m using kerosene. Kerosene is super cheap and really easily
available. It has a high energy and is a common propellant
among commercial and amateur liquid rocket engines alike. For the oxidizer, I’m using liquid oxygen. Liquid oxygen, is a cryogenic fluid and because
it is an incredibly good oxidizer. We’re just putting a little bit of sealant
here. So there’s a hole on the side of the combustion
chamber where I will put a pressure sensor in to sense the pressure, and so I have put
just a little bit of sealant in there to make sure the gasses don’t escape. So when the gases leave the exit plane of
the rocket engine, they are traveling over six thousand miles an hour at over half the
temperature of the sun. You can just imagine the amount of energy
that the combustion reaction releases. And that energy is used to produce useful
thrust through this rocket nozzle. So what’s left Sam? So it’s about two o’clock, and we just have
to do some final checks on the test stand electrical control system, so we just hooked
everything up and there’s an issue with two of the valves. One is the valve for pressurizing the propellant
tanks. The other is the valve for venting the fuel
tank. Those valves for some reason, when we flip
the switch, I don’t hear the click of the relay signifying that it’s actually actuated. We did do an ignition test of the ignitor. the ignitor seems to be doing well and should
be pretty good for the test. At this point, we’ll be waiting for UCLA. They’re doing some final checks on their check
stand to see if they can actually fire today or if they have to stand down.Once they’re
clear, their test stands, we’ll start debugging. We have a trusty multimeter in hand. So we’ll see if we can make things work. You know it would help if you plugged this
in. We sort of debugged some problems and it came
down to plugging in an ethernet cable. I forgot to plug in the cable from the switch
box into the test stand. Sometimes it just comes down to small issues
like that. Make sure to double check your checklists. The oxidizer vent valve, in 3, 2, 1. And then I’m going to ask someone to actuate
the main press valve. All clear, so let’s activate the press valve. “PV”? Yes PV. Cool. Alright, ready to load the propellants. LOX fill valve is open, vent valve is open,
We’re ready to fill. Let’s start slow. It takes a little while because it’s all cryo
right now so this whole tank has to come up to pressure. So when you’re loading propellants into the
test stands. You’ve finished the final checks. You’ve finished the control system checkouts
and you made sure all fo the valves were working. You’re almost ready to test. And as I’m sitting there, I’m just thinking
of all of the different things that could go wrong. There’s so many of them. You could have contamination of propellant
line, you can have some leak of the propellant line, you’re chamber could suffer an over-pressure
at start up, but as I’m thinking of these things, I’m also thinking about the fact that
I’m 3000 miles from home, and I have one shot on this winter afternoon in Southern California,
and I’m thinking that I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t prepared myself for the last four
months for this one day. And for putting my best foot forward and best
work for every single machining operation and for every single calculation that was
made with the best that I could offer. I think that’s the best anyone can do. The fact that we’re at MIT, you are given
these opportunities, makes you realize why not put your best foot forward? Why not put in the best work you could offer
every single day? I walk down the infinite corridor or to my
classes and I’m just surrounded by these awesome people, awesome opportunities, and I just
really want to take advantage of all of them. If you don’t have the time to do them correctly,
when are you going to find the time to do it over again? Time is precious. Our AeroAstro department is known to challenge
its students by throwing them into the fire with projects and problem sets. During our sophomore year, we had two semester-long
projects that we worked on in small, randomly-assigned teams. The first semester, we had to optimize a water-powered
rocket to carry as much payload as possible to fly at least 90 meters. During the second semester, we built large
remote-controlled airplanes from scratch with the purpose of delivering pizza. We had to optimize the planes to carry the
most pizza slices as possible. I personally didn’t know how to optimize
on MATLAB or how to use a foam cutter to cut wings, but we had a task to get done, so we
learned along the way, and ended up with two successful projects that we can pride ourselves
in having built. So when Sam is thousands of miles from home
with only one chance to get the rocket engine static fire right, he can stay confident knowing
that whatever may go wrong, he has the tools to troubleshoot the issues. Ox drain valve is closed, fuel drain valve
is closed, thrust valve is closed, ignitor is installed. We’re going to crank open the K-bottle to
full. Okay so we should have full flow from the
k-bottle. I think we just knew we were ready to fire. …At the five second mark. And if the ignitor is confirmed operating,
open the thrust valve at zero. We’re expecting a burn to completion on the
oxidizer tank which should last about five seconds if all goes well. Are cameras rolling? Everybody ready to go? Okay. Alright we’re going to pressurize the propellant
tanks. Okay and both tanks are holding eight hundred
psi. Okay 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, start ignitor, 3,
2, 1, ignition! Some people ask me if it’s worth it. The thousands of dollars, the late nights
in the machine shop, the trip all the way out here, just for three seconds of fire. But I think the feeling of doing all of the
calculations, checking all of the calculations, machining the parts, assembling the engine,
bringing it out to this test stand, and then watching it erupt in this brilliant display
of energy, this release of energy. The fire, smoke, and the pressure. You can feel the shock waves hit you during
the operation. And I feel like that feeling is pretty incredible. It’s worth every penny. 3, 2, 1, ignition! Test status saved! We got it! Oh! Alright, we got it! “That was awesome!” There we go, there we go! Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I don’t believe it. That was so great! Oh yeah! “Good job” Okay there we go guys. “How do you feel?” It was incredible. I mean I just… there were so many things
that could go wrong with this type of project and I mean I was sort of thinking through
those things in the last few seconds, and I just can’t believe it. Surviving the rigor of MIT Aerospace Engineering,
or other rigorous academic programs anywhere, takes a lot of self awareness. This involves being self aware of when you
need to take breaks, nap, eat, or sleep. But it also involves having the self awareness
to know what you’re actually passionate about. Outside of simply finding an academic field
you’re passionate about to major in, finding something that you can do outside of classes
that you’re really passionate about will help you navigate those really stressful times. For me, I’ve said I really enjoy playing
basketball, working out, looking into new tech in the world, and making videos about
the cool tech I encounter. For Sam, he enjoys running, and is also very
passionate about rockets. So he joined MIT’s Rocket Team, became a
leader in the team, and even started his own projects like this one. And to him, rockets are something that he
can focus on and have fun with outside of class, where there aren’t any extra grades
attached to worry about. It sounds kind of weird to say, but I think
he’s really at peace when he’s working on rockets, and I can only imagine how proud
and accomplished he felt when he completed a project like he did that day. If you want to learn a little more about the
entire process that he had to go through to make this rocket engine, I’m going to link
his recap video down below. Go check out his channel! So if you’re in school right now, understand
that if you’re not in the right mental state to take on rigorous classes, you’ll just
end up struggling even more. Go out and find something you’re really
passionate about, whether it is playing sports, dancing, or building rockets. At the end of the day, you’ll feel better,
and you’ll be much better equipped, mentally, to go tackle your classes and the assignments
and stresses that go along with those classes. This YouTube channel means a lot more to me
than money or fame. It gives me a chance to escape the stresses
of school. I can temporarily shift my attention to the
latest and greatest tech products that I am fascinated about, and I can learn a lot about
them, and create awesome videos for people all around the world to enjoy. Making videos and continually growing this
channel is very time consuming, but it is so fulfilling that I would spend those hours
time and time again. Find what you really love to do, go pursue
it, and you’ll inevitably meet some amazing people who share similar passions to you. With YouTube, I’ve gotten to meet iJustine,
Jaime Rivera, Michael Fischer, and so many genuine and nice company representatives who
have given me the opportunity to go to launch events and review new tech that I’ve always
been interested in. In Sam’s case, he has created lifelong friendships
through rocketry, and he has also been able to use his rocket knowledge in his internships
at SpaceX. So that’s it. I hope you really enjoyed episode 4 of “A
Day in the Life of an MIT Aerospace Engineering Student”. I worked really hard on this video so if you
liked it, it would mean a lot to me to like this video, and share this to other people
who you think would find this video interesting. If you haven’t already, follow me on Instagram
and Twitter, and DM me on those platforms and I’ll try to get back to you as soon as
possible. As for this channel, I have a lot of really
cool videos planned, so make sure you’re subscribed and have the notification bell clicked. As always, thanks for watching, and I will
see you in the next video.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I hope you enjoyed this episode! I worked really hard on this, so if you liked it, please give this video a thumbs up and share it with people you think would find it interesting! If you haven't seen the other episodes to this series, check them out here:

  2. "the best anyone could do" Here's a tip: avoid the hubris, punk. You just might walk away in one piece. College kids playing with liquid oxygen. Good way to get someone's face blown off. Go back to your water rockets. Leave the real ones to the professionals.

  3. MIT mechanical and aerospace engineers are doing tests on rocket engines whereas we as students of engg. colleges in india don't have enough time to complete records.Wonderful…

  4. the speech in the end got me… truthful and honest about yourself. like from me ..
    subscribed. go onward . fullfill your dreams

    ( i am german so ignore language errors)

  5. I just wondered do you have scholarship by the way amazing and insipiring video one day I hope I can go there too.

  6. Can you make a video with Sam by asking questions like what is the process of doing internship in Spacex ? Because I think it is one of coolest things that can be done.

  7. what is the oxidizer and fuel? or do you have a monopropellant?
    Respect from Russian rocket engineers!)

  8. Congratulations, I love what you do! Thank you very much for this opportunity to see what you do at MIT!

  9. I think that what you and your friends are doing in this video series is amazing to give your time so that others can see what hard work and dedication looks like. Your work ethic is contagious young people that are in high school that have no idea what it takes just to be you guys for ond day is great. You young people are the future seeing young people work together for one common goal is wonderful.

  10. Zs people watch this I think people realize that you young people are the future good luck you all are on the way to becoming great people who will contribute to future generations and the health of our planet thank you.

  11. Hey I'm a MIT Prefrosh planning to go into course 16. Your videos are awesome and really get me excited for the program. I'm also into film production and I'm at the Student Television Network (STN) Convention in Seattle right now. Over the past couple of days I've seen a ton of videos but your videos top most of them! Keep doing with your doing.

  12. hi. what about the resources used for that project? is it subsidized or did you spend from your own pocket?

  13. Fantastic Video. This looks like a lot of fun and I am actually going to start looking into this. Thanks y’all

  14. You and your friends inspire me! I returned to school later in my life. I do mostly online courses and on campus on occasion. After, I watched the Sam's propulsion video. I felt proud and enjoy seeing the camaraderie and friendships you have.

  15. I'm from Vietnam, and I'm trying to get into MIT, I really admire you. Thank you for bringing this useful information.

  16. Nothing feels better than working with other people who share your same passions, interests, and drive for success. I am an engineer and have worked with wannabe engineers who just want a degree to collect a paycheck( they will fail and wash out), lazy people, you name it. But when you finally work with those true engineers and scientists, its truly an intellectual and emotional experience.

  17. This felt more like a suspense and inspirational video than just something about aeronautics engineering.Felt surreal.Great work mate.Keep it up.

  18. That was fucking awesome!! I had goosebumps and was tearing up because of the awesomeness of this project. You guys just made me more excited to pursue aerospace engineering!!

  19. That speech at the end was so inspirational. Usually, I only heed an inspirational word from people decades older than me. However, the fact that this guy is around my age hit hard.

  20. You have a genuine passion that can't be hidden. You would make a Great Motivational Speaker if you didn't know. You have motivated me already.

  21. this is an inspirational, yet emotional video. i hope one day i'll achieve my dreams like him. even from the smallest part. it its my dream to go to MIT too. i hope i get the opportunites to learn there at MIT. and i'm ready to work hard for my dreams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *