Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The Road to Maker Faire: How to Launch a rocket!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship has been successfully installed and is “standing by,” ready for the 2010 Makers Faire weekend. Our gantry tower has been erected and the explosive bolts on the escape hatch are armed!

We are all systems go…!
The RGR is more than just a shiny outer hull… and so we wanted to give you a brief glimpse of what you’ll find inside. To begin, here’s a post by one of the lead artists on the RGR project, David Shulman, talking about our deployable on-board rocket (probe)launcher.


How to Launch a Rocket… from a Raygun Gothic Rocketship
by David Shulman

Every rocketship needs a rocket launcher, right?! In case you want to launch a probe? Or need to fire a space torpedo? Since my friends and I were already building a rocketship, I decided that we needed to build a rocket launcher too. The fact that I’ve never built a kinetic mechanism before should not be a deterrent, right?! I thought long and hard about what qualities it should have. Something that can be activated from inside; a launch platform that deploys from the side of the ship; a clear blast shield that allows you to witness the launch, and a mirrored outer hull cover that lets you follow the ascent. My friend John Hollis and I started to scheme.

The first iteration was a temporary success; driven by a linear actuator following a curved path and operating a lever, it extended an aluminum tray out of the body of the main ship, and electrically fired an Estes rocket. I said it was a temporary success, because after five days of use, it failed (granted, it was Burningman) – the actuator ceased to function, although the firing mechanism still worked. (We could, and therefore did, continue to launch rockets for several more days.)

We got back to the shop, only to discover that the actuator was fine – a simple toggle switch had suffered an internal failure. No matter – the Mark II was destined to be better, anyway. We planned to swap the linear actuator for a rack and pinion gear, as it would reduce the space needed, which on a spaceship is always helpful.

The Mark II.a (reployed at Yuri’s Night, at NASA Ames Research Center) worked OK, but we found that the rack and pinion actually needed to be perfectly aligned and spaced to work smoothly. Who would’ve thought?! With the Mark II.b (this weekend’s Maker Faire), we added limit switches, to stop the motor when the tray hit the end of its travel, to prevent burn out.

In the shop, it all worked – we tested it thoroughly, and found no problems after a dozen cycles. Imagine my consternation when, trying to test-launch a probe to measure wind direction on the midway yesterday. — it didn’t work! I toggled “extend” and it would not go. But when I tried “retract,” I had no problem?

I could not figure it out. Everything checked out, there were no shorts, (other than the ones I inadvertently caused ), all the switches were working, but I could not find the problem.

Finally, I thought to check the default on the limit switches. Sure enough, the outer limit switch was wired backwards! I have no idea how we tested successfully in the shop – but at 5:30 PM on Wednesday of set-up week – I had it! It went something like this:

  • Estes Alpha II, with an A6-3 engine, racked and ready for launch.
  • Deploy the launch assembly.
  • Arm the ignition system.
  • Ask a passerby to tell me (from outside the ship) which direction my probe goes.
  • 3, 2, 1…
  • Launch!

And the results?
The good news: a successful test launch!
The bad news.: an offering to the rocket gods.

(If you find the lost rocket, or any other we might launch over the weekend, bring it back to us, and come straight to the head of the line! Or, if you can explain what allowed us to test successfully in the shop, then find a problem in the field, you get to launch one!)

The Road to Maker Faire: Greetings Earthlings!

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship and her crew arrived in San Mateo, Earth today, on the 17th day of the 5th month in the year 2010. After an uneventful 12-hour trans-galactic journey across the western reaches of the Sobay Nebula, our sturdy and resilient little ship finally settled down on the grassy planetary landscape that will soon be densely populated by the rare and interesting Humanus Makeriferous Species. We look forward to studying their kind…

The RGR Crew will be docked for approximately seven Earth days in order to take on supplies, refresh our reading material, and to grant shore leave to the crew. Ship tours will commence on the day of the Saturn and will continue until the moon rises on the day of the Sun.

To all you Space Cadets out there! The RGR Crew is recruiting! Stop by our space port and pick up a Raygun Gothic Rocketeer recruitment packet today!

Follow the exploits of the RGR Crew on the The road to Maker Faire on Make: Online

RGR featured on the cover of the Mountain View Post

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Moffett a space-age playground for ‘Yuri’s Night’
Stunt planes, hip-hop, crazy art and more mark NASA celebration in honor of Russian cosmonaut

Click here for the full article

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship featured on the 2010 Maker Faire poster

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship featured on the NASA Ames website

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Click HERE for the full story

photo by Sean Donnelly

A 40-foot high rocket from the future and a 20-foot tall bird with its head and wings on fire will light up on Saturday, April 10, 2010 at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Is this a science experiment gone awry? No, it’s all part of Yuri’s Night.

Yuri’s Night is a world space party that commemorates the anniversary of the first human spaceflight, by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961 and the first space shuttle mission 20 years later. An estimated 10,000 people are expected to attend the Bay Area celebration from noon to midnight.

During this “mash-up” of music, dance, technology, art and space, two large-scale art installations that previously have been exhibited at the Burning Man Festival will be displayed: the “Raygun Gothic Rocketship” and “Angel of the Apocalypse.”

What these two giant sculptures share in common is that they both were built by dozens of team members collectively working together.

Sean Orlando, one of three lead artists for “Raygun Gothic Rocketship,” said the effort required the work of 85 artists, engineers, fabricators, scientists and computer engineers. “One of the remarkable things about this group of people is how few issues there are,” said Orlando. “When it comes to actual work and the design process, it truly is very collaborative.”

The retro-futuristic rocket stands four stories high, weighs 3,500 pounds and requires a crane with a 40-foot, 5-ton installation capability. The structure is divided into three sections: a life sciences bio lab, engineering room, crew quarters and a command module. Interior details include “alien specimens” in the life sciences bio lab, a zero gravity bed and a deployable rocket launcher.

“We’re sci-fi geeks who like to play with machines and tools,” said lead artist David Shulman. “Our inspiration was from the 1930s through early 1950s when technology was within sight, but the reality of what it would entail or the Cold War pessimism had not set in yet.”

The term, “Raygun Gothic” is an artistic style coined by science fiction author William Gibson. Orlando said the name refers to how people in the past imagined the future.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring it to a NASA facility and share it with people who are interested in space exploration—both the serious side and the fun side,” said Orlando.

Click HERE for the full story

The Rocketship scheduled to land @ Yuri’s Night Bay Area 2010

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

The Rocketship and Tom Sepe’s RGR Moon Rover have been cleared for landing at Yuri’s Night, NASA Ames in Mountain View, California on planet Earth. April 9-10, 2010 C.E.


Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Sean Orlando, Nathaniel Taylor, and David Shulman (progenitor of the mysterious “Shulman Resonance”) presented on the past, present, and future exploits of the Raygun Gothic Rocketship at the Burning Man Desert Arts Preview. Questions will be answered. Death rays were autographed. Mysteries revealed.


Friday, June 5th, 2009

Photo from The Galactic Gala was a smashing success. Pilots rubbed elbows with debutantes, explorers cavorted with bespangled performers, and mechanics cut a rug on the dance floor in the arms of pan-galactic ambassadors. All were united in common cause: Raising funds to launch the Raygun Gothic Rocketship from Black Rock City. Even an alien invasion could not dim the high spirits of those assembled – the attack was quickly quelled and all that remained was dancing, romancing, and the orbular eye of the friendly rectangular photo robot.

Laughing Squid Update (by Burstein)

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Raygun Gothic Rocketship Galactic Gala poster

The Raygun Gothic Rocketship is the new art piece by Sean Orlando, Nathaniel Taylor, David Shulman, which is the same crew that gave life to the Steampunk Treehouse. Art, however, does not exactly grow on trees…[More]