William S. Higgins has kindly allowed MAKE to repost some of his photos and text from the Rocketbelt Convention held at the Niagara Aerospace Museum in Niagara Falls, NY last weekend, it looks like it was spectacular!
I had a grand time at the Rocketbelt Convention in Niagara Falls, NY last weekend.
I’ve posted some notes and pictures on my Livejournal,
Take a look, if you’re interested.
(Bell Aerospace always made “Rocket Belt” two words, but the conference organizers glued them together. Possibly that’s because rocketbelt.nl is a nexus for enthusiasts:)
Wendell Moore worked on the X-1 and subsequent Bell rocket planes from the 1940s onward. After the X-1A lost control around 75,000 feet, and Chuck Yeager recovered down at 25,000, it was realized that aerodynamic controls couldn’t grip up there. Moore devised a set of reaction-control jets to be installed in the X-1B– the ancestor of all reaction-control systems– which ran hydrogen peroxide over catalyst to produce oxygen and steam. Bell manufactured similar systems for other X-planes and for the Mercury capsule.
So Moore was familiar with small H2O2 rockets. Legend has it that his first rocket belt design was drawn with a stick in the sand of Muroc Dry Lake, under the wing of the X-2.
Back in Niagara Falls, his team rigged up a tethered simulator using nitrogen hoses to test flight stability and control. Having determined that the basic idea would work, they got a U.S. Army contract to build the Bell Rocket Belt, flew it on a tether in a hangar for a while, then Harold Graham flew it untethered for the first time on 20 April 1961.
The rest is history, a lot of which I was soaking up at the conference.
I met a bunch of Bell engineers and their families, and I heard stories about X-planes, rocket belts, Rogallo wings, and lunar flying vehicles.
I toured the Bell plant. I toured the very fine Niagara Aerospace Museum. I met several people who had constructed their own working rocket belts. I witnessed two demonstration flights by Eric Scott and the Go Fast/Jet P.I. team, right over the street in front of the museum.
It was *so* cool.
William’s photos – Link.