Rocket Science, or What I Do at “Work”

Below are some photos from a typical testing day. This is mainly for my family or other people who wonder what I’m doing when I say, “I have to go to work”, or, “I got to make fire yesterday.”

The dry box: actually stocks invented for chemists. It allows us to maintain a nitrogen environment for things that don't like oxygen.

I load gelled hydrazine into vials to use later in the experiment.

This is Yair. My experiments are a lot like his, so he tells me when I'm about to die.

This is the oxidizer, nitrogen tetroxide. It's pretty nasty stuff, so we try not to spend a lot of time with it.

This is me pouring the oxidizer into the tube that will be inserted into the test rig.

The blue box and white tube are an NO2 sensor that sits next to the test chamber; it tells us if any oxidizer escapes.

The oxidizer tube is now installed in the test rig.

When we open a valve, the liquid oxidizer will flow into the evaporation tank (the thing covered in white insulation) and vaporize.

We can then dilute it to whatever concentration I want and send the gaseous oxidizer into the test chamber. When it comes into contact with the hydrazine droplet, it ignites. Usually. The flame is filmed with a high-speed camera.

High-speed camera! The lens is poking through the plexiglass into the test cell.

We control almost everything through this computer.

The two things that matter the most to me: emotional resonance and rocket launchers. Party of Five, a brilliant show, and often made me cry uncontrollably, suffered ultimately from a lack of rocket launchers.  – Joss Whedon

 Can fuel and oxidizer be safely premixed…? … Placing fuel and ox together in [a] confined space inevitably leads to a RUD – rapid unplanned disassembly of your hardware. – Prof. Stephen Heister

Here are some images captured during experiments.

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