BPS.space develops model rocketry components, aimed at closely matching the pace of advancement in the space-launch industry. Learning by experimentation is the most effective way to gain a deep understanding of new concepts, which is why providing hands-on experience with advanced rocketry components is important for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and astronauts.
My name is Joe Barnard, and I run BPS.space! I studied music production in college, and after seeing the ambition of SpaceX, and the excitement in the new space industry, I was hooked. I wanted to work in aerospace, but knew it would be a challenge getting a job with no experience. I started BPS in 2015 to achieve VTVL of what was supposed to be a scale Falcon 9 rocket, figuring that a display of similar ambition and achievement against decent odds would impress SpaceX and might get me a job. Since beginning the project, the focus of BPS has shifted. VTVL is still a primary goal, but the aim now is to use it to continue development in the advanced rocketry community.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have an engineering degree? If not, how did you learn rocketry?
I have a degree in Audio Engineering from the Berklee College of Music if that counts! Otherwise, I picked up a few textbooks, found a few good YouTube tutorials for coding and mechanical design, and got to work experimenting!
If you’re just getting started, I recommend picking up a ready-to-fly kit from Estes and working from there. If you want advice from fellow rocketeers, try these sites:
How is BPS.space funded?
For a long time, BPS.space was self-funded. I used to be a wedding videographer on the weekends and I spent any extra money on rockets during the week. BPS.space is now a proper company and full time job for me (Joe). It is currently funded through flight computer sales, the BPS.space Patreon page, ad revenue on YouTube, and sponsorships.
How can you land with solid rocket motors if you can’t throttle them?
It’s all about timing! If the flight profile is fairly well known and the legs are built to withstand small hops and drops, the motor can be fired at just the right time to slow the vehicle down for a soft landing. For more information, watch this video. For details on how you can “throttle” solid motors, watch this one.
What software/printer/etc do you use?
Here’s a list of what I use, but as a heads up, the specific tools you use aren’t that important. There are lots of excellent tools out there and the most important part is that you’re good at the tools you use.
CAD - Onshape
3D slicer - Simplify3D
3D printer - Prusa i3 mk2
Flight simulation - MATLAB/Simulink
Coding language - Arduino/C++
PCB design - Eagle
iOS Signal app - Xcode/Swift
Android Signal app - Android Studio/Java
Do you make your own motors?
Nope, I use commercially available propellants. Usually black powder motors from Estes or APCP motors from Aerotech. For custom or more complicated builds, BPS.space outsources propellant work to other manufactures, who can often achieve higher precision and predictability than any consumer setup. I learn best by experimentation, which works very well for software and electronics, less so for explosives and propellants.
I also got a C+ in chemistry during high school - designing and making rocket propellant is not a good idea for me :)
I want to make my own rocket motors, do you have any advice?
I strongly recommend against building your own rocket motors unless you have an experienced mentor or teacher to help you. There’s certainly information about building these motors online, but much of it is incorrect or lacks enough consideration for safety.
Why don’t you live stream launches or tests?
I’m the only person working at BPS.space right now. Launches and tests are generally stressful events and stress leads to bad decisions and missed items on checklists. Every measure that can be taken to reduce stress is a good idea, live streams included. As a one-person crew, the live coverage I could provide would be pretty poor anyway, so it’s worth waiting the extra few hours to publish the results and higher quality footage afterward.
I live in the area! Can I come see a launch?
Not right now, sorry! Just like above, launches are stressful events, and every measure is taken to reduce that stress, including keeping the pad ops crew as small as possible.
I heard that active control in model rockets is illegal, can’t you get in trouble for that?
Nope, it’s not - active control has been around in model rocketry since the 1980s! None of the domestic regulations in the United States prohibit active stability in model rockets. There is also an important distinction here between guidance and stability. The Signal flight computer doesn’t provide any guidance capabilities, just stability. Guidance is usually about maneuvering in reference to one or more real points in space. This might be via GPS, GLONASS, RF, or even dead reckoning. Stability is just about keeping the rocket upright, which serves the same purpose as fins on a traditional model rocket.
For questions or thoughts, please reach out here.