Barnard Propulsion Systems (BPS) has been working towards landing a model rocket like SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 boosters, but this presents a challenge. Unlike the Falcon 9 with its liquid rocket engines, model rockets typically use solid propellant motors that have essentially no throttle control. Joe Barnard of BPS has spent the past seven years working towards this goal, and it has finally been achieved.
Over the past seven years, Joe Barnard, founder of BPS, has worked toward one goal: to launch and land a model rocket just like SpaceX does. The launching part is easy enough on its own, though the development of the control systems and thrust vector control mounts that point motors in the right direction have taken substantial time. It’s the landing part that proves to be the biggest challenge. All solid rocket motors available to hobbyists come with fixed thrust curves (the amount of thrust produced over the time the motor burns), and this means you can’t control the throttle like you can on a liquid engine.
However, Joe developed a solution to this problem. By using machined ceramic paddles, he can position them into the exhaust of the solid motor, deflecting energy and decreasing the amount of thrust produced. Similar systems have been used on liquid rockets that had fins or paddles controlling the direction of thrust rather than moving the engine.
Now that Joe has successfully landed the Scout F vehicle once, he aims to refly it a few more times to get consistent landings and prove this flight wasn’t a fluke. Following this, he will move on to his next big project: a Starship and Super Heavy model that will stand somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 feet tall. He aims to have the Starship model perform the “belly flop” maneuver seen in the actual rocket test flights, and maybe attempt to propulsive land.
If you want to keep up on everything BPS will be doing moving forward, including a “meat” rocket and space shot, be sure to follow BPS and Joe Barnard on Twitter and subscribe on YouTube. If you want to directly support his efforts and take a peek behind the curtains, you can join his Patreon. You can also head over to the official BPS website to learn more about the history leading up to this landing.