Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
It's funny.  Laugh. Space

Inventor to Launch Pop Bottle Rocket into Space 285

DrButts writes "An inventor in British Columbia wants to be the first to launch a pop bottle rocket into space. 'This could be impossible, but the CEO of AntiGravity Research already holds the altitude record for boosting an elongated plastic pop bottle — propelled by a bicycle pump, water and a bit of soap — into the air. Firing the ubiquitous, two-litre plastic container usually consigned to the recycle bin into space might create a whole new definition for space junk, but the dream keeps Schellenberg going.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Inventor to Launch Pop Bottle Rocket into Space

Comments Filter:
  • Volume (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:24PM (#22466370) Homepage Journal
    The sin qua non issue here is volume. TFA speaks of 'stretching' the bottles. If you are allowed to increase volume enough when stretching, then, yes, a coke bottle might make it into space. It requires stretching the bottle so that it's volume is several orders of magnitude larger than the original, then putting on lots of carbon fiber ( as per TFA ) on it.

    Since TFA speaks of A coke bottle, I assume we aren't allowed multi-staging. But some of the effects of staging could be achieved - I think - with different fluids. At the bottom would be a layer of mercury with some depleted uranium dissolved in it. Next is the water layer. Maybe the third layer would be a hydrocarbon of some sort ( perhaps chosen for it's ability to dissolve gasses under high pressure, thus using precious volume for both compressed air and reaction mass.

    Personally, I don't want to be anywhere near this contraption at liftoff, when it is spraying tons of toxic heavy metals all over. But I do want to see the video on youtube.
    • Re:Volume (Score:5, Funny)

      by Wandering Wombat ( 531833 ) <.mightyjalapeno. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:29PM (#22466432) Homepage Journal
      Excellent use of the Gmail "Word Of The Day"...
    • Re:Volume (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @04:20PM (#22467050)
      Unless you mean longitudinal "stretching", I can imagine this fat, spherical bottle offering too much cross sectional area (and therefore drag) to be able to go any far. There's a reason rockets are the shape that they are. Dunno how far you can stretch a pop bottle along its length, though. I guess I'll leave that to the "real scientists", lol.
    • Re:Volume (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @04:53PM (#22467472) Journal
      From TFA:

      Based on that research, Schellenberg is now convinced that it will be possible to put a bottle rocket into orbit. In preparation, he's working on sending a modified two-stage rocket - reinforced with ultra-strong carbon-fibre and fuelled by liquid CO2 - up about five kilometres.
    • Re:Volume (Score:4, Informative)

      by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @05:48PM (#22468042) Journal
      Wouldn't filling the bottle with hydrogen peroxide under pressure and expanded and then using some for of catalyst like Nickel to react with the peroxide work just effectively?

      I know theory and practice often make fun of each other, but I would think that he could use the same type of metrics but with a soft bladder or something separating the peroxide from the catalyst and held in place by pumping the pressure on the opposite side to equalize the effects of the peroxide. Liquid isn't really compressible but the bottle's expansion could be the pressure point. And once it is launched by traditional air or air-liquid launch, the pressure drops on one side allowing the peroxide to flow through then the heat generation could and pressure would hold it back but still allowing it to expand as it hits the catalyst and effectively creating a rocket engine.

      I don't know how much pressure could be harnessed this way but it is essentially the same concept of a jet pack. Except the weight to thrust ratio would be extremely different. You could end up with 4 or 5 pounds of fuel to a quarter pound object or to put it more excitingly, some older jetpacks or rocket belts generate about 185 lbs 280-300 lbs of thrust for over 21 seconds. In contrast and using some number conversions for impressively big numbers, that could be around 4800 onces of thrust for a 4-12 once object before fuel weight.

      Of course I could be off here a bit, and I don't know how to translate thrust and burn time to distance covered. I suspect that has to do a lot with the total weight and some way to account for the loss from fuel spent and specific thrust sizes and pulses and all that jazz. And I'm also not sure if this type of fuel would be effective at altitude. And while this isn't technically burning, it might not be what he is looking for.
    • Re:Volume (Score:4, Funny)

      by 3vi1 ( 544505 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @08:53PM (#22469738) Homepage Journal
      >> At the bottom would be a layer of mercury with some depleted uranium dissolved in it. Next is the water layer.

      Is that before or after he dumps the Coke out?
  • Uh.... right. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <[moc.talfdren] [ta] [tkram]> on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:24PM (#22466372) Journal
    Has he even broken Mach 1 yet?
    • He's from British Columbia... they don't need jet fuel to fly. Hell, they smoke anything out there... I even hear tell they smoke salmon.

      Seriously, though, I've met this guy before, and the definition of "space" might be a little loose, but crazy wins over reality, every time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rucs_hack ( 784150 )
      Has he even broken Mach 1 yet?

      There's actually not much in the way of a rule that says something going into orbit has to reach 'escape velocity'.

      That's a barrier for barking huge spacecraft, but if you went slowly, and gradually kept up the acceleration, you'd get into space, and with a little assistance from Earth's own gravitational well you could slingshot out and away into interplanetary space.
      • Re:Uh.... right. (Score:5, Informative)

        by rcw-work ( 30090 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @04:27PM (#22467168)

        There's actually not much in the way of a rule that says something going into orbit has to reach 'escape velocity'.

        No, but you have to get almost there. Low Earth Orbit is 7.8km/s, escape velocity is 11.2km/s. In addition, any non-escape ballistic trajectory that starts from the earth will form an ellipse that will eventually intersect the earth, meaning your rocket must accelerate sideways a fair bit once it's up there.

        You need much less speed to merely reach space and fall back down, but the article clearly said 'orbit'.

        • All you need to do is move fast enough to arrest the fall in order to stay put. From then on any small amount of delta v would get up further into space.

          How long would it take? Probably bloomin ages, but that's not the issue.
          • Re:Uh.... right. (Score:4, Informative)

            by cuantar ( 897695 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @06:54PM (#22468638) Homepage
            But when you finally got into space, you'd be (very nearly) moving at escape velocity. That's how we define escape velocity, after all: it's the speed required to overcome the earth's gravitational attraction. The difference between your actual speed and escape velocity will be negligible once you're far enough away, but you have to get there or you can't escape. It's easy to show mathematically.
      • Re:Uh.... right. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @04:30PM (#22467194) Homepage Journal

        And for that matter, there's nothing at least in the summary that says anything about orbit... just space. Technically, that refers to an altitude, not a velocity. Yeah, something launched would fall back down to earth if it didn't have enough momentum to break out of the Earth's gravity well, but that doesn't mean such an object didn't reach space, at least by the traditional definition thereof.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by monopole ( 44023 )
        Um, not quite. Admittedly, if you had a very high lift wing (or a big balloon) you could make it to the upper atmosphere that way, but once past the atmosphere at some point you would have to get to orbital velocity, well in excess of Mach 1 at ground level (past the atmosphere Mach numbers have no meaning). A rocket has a fixed delta v which it has to expend to get where it's going, the more of it that it expends to cancel gravitational acceleration the more fuel is wasted. Once in a reasonably high orbi
        • Sounds good, but it's wrong.

          a gravitational assist into higher velocity can be obtained by any spacecraft passing close by a larger body *provided* there is no excess of gas that might remove too much energy.

          All you have to do is miss the upper layers of atmosphere. Now I'm not saying it wouldn't be hard to get up high enough, but there is no reason it has to be done quickly. All you have to do is keep going up. That could be by centimetres an hour (although that would be a bit slow).

          lastly you don't have t
      • That's a barrier for barking huge spacecraft, but if you went slowly, and gradually kept up the acceleration, you'd get into space,


        That's right, and the idea isn't even new. It was used back in '79 as the premise of the TV show Salvage 1. [imdb.com] The ship, known as The Vulture, was built by a junk-yard operator to salvage junk left on the moon by Apollo.

  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:25PM (#22466388) Homepage
    What if the bottle rocket eventually encounters an advanced civilization, who enhance it and sent it back to Earth on a mission of death and destruction? Hasn't this fool learned anything from what happened to Voyager/VGER?
    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:33PM (#22466508) Journal
      Or better yet, it falls from the sky and they start worshiping it..... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080801/ [imdb.com]

      Layne
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by GenJox ( 952364 )
        They did not worship the bottle that fell from the sky. Being the hardest substance ever encountered by them (glass) and having a whole host of uses, it introduced the concept of possessions, envy, and subsequently violence to their society. The people decided it was an evil thing and their leader took it to the end of the earth (a massive cliff) and threw it off.
    • If they were truly an advanced civilization, they'd probably send back pamphlets detailing the benefits of recycling plastic bottles.
    • What if the bottle rocket eventually encounters an advanced civilization, who enhance it and sent it back to Earth on a mission of death and destruction? Hasn't this fool learned anything from what happened to Voyager/VGER?
      No worriez. I haz mentos.
  • he could get $2 billion for this project from the pentagon if he words the application right and he donates $10K to his senator's reelection fund
  • by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:29PM (#22466430) Homepage
    a Coke-and-Mentos second-stage booster and he should be set.
    • Or dry ice (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ok, so I'm stretching it a bit, but this is my one chance to post this [google.com] without being off topic. I'd link to the youtube version, but apparently, this is unsuitable viewing material for minors :-/ Youtube is soooo corporate these days.
  • He's not using any mentos at all.
  • by aarku ( 151823 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:31PM (#22466470) Journal
    Only 79.8 km (out of 80...) left to go, if you take the lowest recognized definition of outer space.
    • by srussia ( 884021 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:57PM (#22466790)

      Only 79.8 km (out of 80...) left to go, if you take the lowest recognized definition of outer space.
      Heck, I've done 200m with a butane canister with the bottom cut out (the seamless top withstands the pressure wave). I punch a hole on top, jam a firecracker inside (mainly just around 10g powdered aluminum--otherwise known as a "five-star") with the fuse sticking out the top and launch it from a pan filled with water. This was at age 10. The best aspects of this technique were virtually silent detonation (just water splashing out of the pan) and extremely homogeneous thrust (the thing went straight up, eventually landing just a few meters beyond launch point).
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by cthulu_mt ( 1124113 )
        I was this close to a snarky comment about you not killing yourself doing that stupid shit.

        Then I remembered doing the same sort of shit. Good times...good times.
    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )
      Well, if he wants to actually create space junk he'll need a lot more velocity to enter orbit... If you just launch it straight up it will only be space junk for about 30 seconds...
    • Wait a minute... who said he was trying for "earth orbit"?
  • by giminy ( 94188 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:32PM (#22466500) Homepage Journal
    Schellenberg's two-stage model is easily capable of reaching altitudes of well over 200 metres.

    Several years ago, one of his "toy" rockets - actually a Kevlar-reinforced, experimental, single-stage missile pressurized with compressed nitrogen and packing high-tech instruments - flew to just under 379 metres.

    Based on that research, Schellenberg is now convinced that it will be possible to put a bottle rocket into orbit.


    Wow, 379 meters. With just a few more improvements, he could eek out the other 159,621 meters to Low Earth Orbit with no problem!

    Reid
    • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:38PM (#22466558) Homepage
      To actually achieve orbit, not only does it need to reach this altitude, but also move horizontally at probably over 20,000 miles per hours once it gets there.
      • by giminy ( 94188 )
        To actually achieve orbit, not only does it need to reach this altitude, but also move horizontally at probably over 20,000 miles per hours once it gets there.

        Too true. I think that technically he doesn't need to achieve orbit in order to consider his bottle 'in space.' I'm not sure if space even begins at LEO, I was just throwing out a wild(-ass) guess.

        I'm kind of surprised that, if this guy is an engineer, he doesn't just do the math. Find out the weight of the bottle, the rate of expellation of air, t
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by RobinH ( 124750 )
          I believe that the X-Prize only required the craft to reach 100 km, which is kind of the accepted division line between space and not-space. It has something to do with the physics of spaceflight factoring more into the equations than the physics of aerodynamics above that altitude.
      • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @04:55PM (#22467498)

        To actually achieve orbit, not only does it need to reach this altitude, but also move horizontally at probably over 20,000 miles per hours once it gets there.
        The plan is to loft the rocket into the orbital plane of an intersecting object and perform what is colloquially known as the "bugsplat-windshield assist."
  • by Frigga's Ring ( 1044024 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:33PM (#22466506)
    We don't dump our satellites in your recycling bin, please don't shoot your pop bottles into our space.
    • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:51PM (#22466728)
      We don't dump our satellites in your recycling bin, please don't shoot your pop bottles into our space.

      Nah, putting them in the recyling bin would be far too orderly, NASA has the military shoot them down with missiles and lets God sort out where the pieces end up.

      Maybe we should combine our desires and use pop bottles to take out your failing satellites. Of course then the military doesn't get to use their toys... so that won't work.
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
        Yes because blowing up a couple thousand pounds of hydrazine in space and have it enter the atmosphere as droplets and diffuse everywhere in its toxic form is far preferable to letting it ignite in the atmosphere in the extreme heat of re-entry and hopefully combine with amospheric gases/water vapor to make less toxic substances by the time it gets spread over several hundred miles of ground/ocean. I mean, this is the government thinking for you.

        But probably someone has worked out t
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Think it through. First of all, when the satellite blows up in near-vacuum, most of the hydrazine will never get a chance to diffuse into the atmosphere at all; it will boil off into space. Next, as the fragments of satellite come down, they'll burn up themselves, so any hydrazine they're carrying with them will be exposed to just as much heat as it would if the satellite re-entered intact. (More, quite possibly, since there will be a higher ratio of surface area to volume.) Finally, hydrazine is such v
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wattrlz ( 1162603 )
          Considering that things like nitrogen and oxygen molecules have trouble staying together at that height what makes you think a cloud of hydrazine, which is highly reactive and thermally decomposes at o K, would survive long enough to precipate out over, "several hundred square miles"? Would ~454kg (1,000 lbs.) of hydrazine even be toxic spread over an area of that size?
      • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
        I'd rather them blow the thing into a thousand small pieces that will burn up on re-entry than let it fall back to earth naturally when there's a chance half of it will survive as one chunk which could possible hit my new car.
  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:34PM (#22466524)

    "I got side tracked off what I should have been doing, which is electrical engineering," said the red-headed, 49-year-old father of five.
    Yeah, you're letting down slashdotters everywhere by making children.
  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:36PM (#22466534)
    If you dropped a pop bottle onto Earth from a great height, say a million miles, it would splat (air resistance excluded) at about 25,000 MPH. Seven miles per second. Analogously, if you wanted to reverse the course of the pop bottle, you'd have to launch it from the Earth's surface at a similar speed. Now IIRC at about Mach 1.5, aluminum begins to soften. I suspect the plastic in a pop bottle melts at a somewhat lower temperature. So even if you could get enough dry ice or Mentos to launch the bottle at seven miles per second, it would probably melt in about two seconds. Not to mention that air resistance would slow it down considerably on its upward journey, so it's unlikely to have enough speed for the long run.

    • Now IIRC at about Mach 1.5, aluminum begins to soften. I suspect the plastic in a pop bottle melts at a somewhat lower temperature.

      At what altitude? The one large difference between going up, and going down is where in the atmosphere you're achieving top speed. Going up, the atmosphere obviously gets thinner as you're going faster.

      Anyway, I suspect he's already gone beyond the original constraints of using an actual pop-bottle, since his second experiment mentions "Kevlar-reinforced, experimental missile"
    • "If you dropped a pop bottle onto Earth from a great height, say a million miles, it would splat (air resistance excluded) at about 25,000 MPH."

      Nope. The bottle has so little mass in relation to its volume that even the "air" 50 miles up would start to slow it down. This is why, for example, no matter how high you jump out of a plane, you can't fall much faster than 125 mph unless you "streamline" yourself [tafkac.org].

      The earth gets about 10 to 100 tons of material from space every day - much of this is dust that

    • He isn't trying to launch an interplanetary rocket! He doesn't need to get it to escape velocity for it to count as space flight. TFA says he's trying to get it into orbit, but even a sub-orbital flight would be very impressive.
    • (air resistance excluded)

            You're cheating. In real life air resistance will not do you the favor of excluding itself on the way down. I have no fear of being hit on the head by a falling empty plastic soda bottle from ANY height.
    • by MeBot ( 943893 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @04:05PM (#22466870)
      You're calculating the speed it would need to start at if all thrust were exerted at ground level and it had to coast up to space (again excluding air resistance). If on the other hand you apply thrust throughout the flight, space can be achieved without ever approaching 25,000 MPH. For instance, Space Ship One never flew 25,000 MPH yet it made it to space.

      Also note that I don't believe he'll make it either, and I've always considered 80km to not really be space flight. Just pointing out that the facts you mentioned won't necessarily be the ones that stop the adventure.
      • The key point here is there is a huge difference between "making it into space" and "making it into orbit". The difference is about 17,000 MPH of horizontal velocity. Getting "up" is the easy part. Getting fast enough to fall back to Earth and miss, that's the hard part.
    • you'd have to launch it from the Earth's surface at a similar speed
      Not quite. That would be true if you were trying to throw or shoot the object into space, but not if was propelled along the way. I could leave the earth's surface at 10 km/hr and reach space assuming that I could somehow use thrust to maintain constant velocity.
    • If you dropped a pop bottle onto Earth from a great height, say a million miles, it would splat (air resistance excluded) at about 25,000 MPH. Seven miles per second. Analogously, if you wanted to reverse the course of the pop bottle, you'd have to launch it from the Earth's surface at a similar speed.
      Not quite true. Because the bottle continues to propel itself throughout its path, it will not need to have an initial velocity of 25,000 MPH.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There is no magic speed which must be obtained to get into space. The oft-cited 25,000 mph escape velocity is simply that vertical speed which, if obtained at ground level (and completely discounting atmospheric drag), will allow an object to coast (constantly decelerating at 1G) out of the gravity well of Earth - not simply to the altitudes commonly used for low-earth orbits. Any vertical speed whatsoever, if maintained long enough will get an object into space - and eventually out of the Earth's gravity
  • by arizwebfoot ( 1228544 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:43PM (#22466622)
    He needs to get with the mythbusters team, tie five bottles together and see if they can life Jamie off the ground.
  • I don't know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by biased_estimator ( 1222498 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @03:45PM (#22466648)
    IMHO once you start reinforcing it with kevlar it ceases to be a pop bottle. At least I've never drank soda out of such a thing before...
  • An inventor in British Columbia wants to be the first to launch a pop bottle rocket into space. 'This could be impossible

    I have no doubt whatsoever that you could launch a 2-liter bottle into space.

    Now, if you limit yourself to on-board propulsion, we may have a problem. But if you accept some form of external acceleration, say to 11.2km/s, then you can launch a soda bottle, or a rock, or a dead rabbit into space, for all the object's own composition matters.

    Of course, it may not make it to orbit in
  • AntiGravity's motto is: "Ongoing research projects of little or no gravity."

    (Straight from TFA...)
  • Coke bottle or Pepsi ?

    It will make all the difference in the world.
  • by fyoder ( 857358 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @04:22PM (#22467092) Homepage Journal
    http://antigravityresearch.com/ [antigravityresearch.com]

    The guy's web site. I did a google search on "Mr Widget" bottle rocket and the results were all from news sites to do with this story. Searching on antigravity research was better.

  • My brother-in-law and I decided to make some of these last year on the 4th. For just a couple bucks we built a launchpad and spent the building and launching rockets in the back yard, it was damn fun and we plan on doing it again. Things did get a little dodgy as far as safety was concerned when I decided to put a tinfoil and Drain-o "warhead" on the tip of mine. Timing was a little off, freaked the dogs out bigtime...

    If you spent any amount of time making and modding paper airplanes when you were a ki

  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @05:01PM (#22467562) Homepage Journal

    In one of their recent episodes, Mythbusters researched using compressed air and water "bottle rockets". The highest flight to date of a compressed air and water rocket was about 500 meters, IIRC. And it was made from materials far stronger than a 2 liter bottle.

    The fundamental problem, as Mythbusters showed, is that a 2 liter bottle just can't hold enough pressure for the impulse necessary to put the bottle into orbit.

    Nice dream, though.

    • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @05:20PM (#22467746) Homepage Journal

      In one of their recent episodes, Mythbusters researched using compressed air and water "bottle rockets". The highest flight to date of a compressed air and water rocket was about 500 meters, IIRC. And it was made from materials far stronger than a 2 liter bottle.
      The fundamental problem, as Mythbusters showed, is that a 2 liter bottle just can't hold enough pressure for the impulse necessary to put the bottle into orbit.
      Nice dream, though.

      Just because Adam and Jamie can't do something doesn't mean it can't be done.
      As far as the "fuel" limits, is there a rule that says he can't launch it out of a canon before releasing the pressure? Or use multiple stages? I see he sells a two-stage bottle rocket...
  • Does it have to be a rocket? If he fills it with Hydrogen, it'll get quite a bit off the ground.
  • by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @05:21PM (#22467764) Journal
    This sounds the perfect rocket motor for the Japanese origami paper airplane.

  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @05:55PM (#22468126) Journal

    "It's 'soda', not 'pop'."

    "It's 'coke', not 'pop'."

    "It's 'pop', not 'soda' or 'coke'."

    Fuck you lot, it's 'fizzy drink' and you know it.

  • So then, really... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tarlus ( 1000874 ) on Monday February 18, 2008 @06:33PM (#22468428)
    "Inventor to Attempt to Launch Pop Bottle Rocket into Space."
    That makes more sense.
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:34AM (#22472984) Homepage
    "Schellenberg has been making his primary living with AntiGravity for seven years through sales almost entirely on the web"

    Makes his living selling toy rockets on the web. Who can read that without a trace of envy?

If you sell diamonds, you cannot expect to have many customers. But a diamond is a diamond even if there are no customers. -- Swami Prabhupada

Working...