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Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

Bluebird Rocket Program thrusts into action

Andrew Barrantes (‘25) the founder of Bluebird watches a rocket test. Smoke whizzes through the nozzle as the pressure builds up, though a small thump echoes across Chandler field as the nozzle explodes. “Our current rocket design has about three kilonewtons (300 kilograms) of thrust (upward force), and we’re hoping to get it built, hopefully, by the end of the school year,” said Andrew. This is why Manas Brahmbhatt (‘27), Charley Zhang (‘27), and Andrew have banded together: to build, test, and fire the first high school liquid fuel rocket.

Move over SpaceX! Webb’s very own rocket program is slowly, but surely moving toward a real rocket launch.  

The Bluebird Rocket Program began as a science fair project two years ago founded by Andrew Barrantes (‘25), a space enthusiast from a young age.  

“The project itself started during freshman year winter season,” Andrew said. “I was in a science fair, and I had no clue what to do. So, as a joke, I said, ‘Let’s build a rocket, guys. That would be cool.’” 

As expected, rocket science was hard in the early days of the project. The understandable lack of knowledge in the various procedures resulted in a number of safety accidents, some of which were dangerously close to causing serious harm, not to mention the failed attempts. 

“One of the worst things I’ve ever done in terms of safety and design was during the soda can rocket days,” Andrew said. “I put the peroxide and the catalyst in a pressure vessel made of soda cans, and I was standing just five feet away. Luckily, it didn’t explode, and I was able to escape unharmed.”  

Beyond the accidents, most of the early planning ended in disaster: if any of the calculations, materials, or even the weather was wrong, the sensitive materials would fail. 

But Andrew stresses that explosions and failure are expected and good, and the rocket has evolved a lot throughout the years. 

“As Oppenheimer said, theory can only take you so far,” Andrew said. “For the first two years that was all it was about: building hardware. It’s a very SpaceX-ish philosophy. They are one of the leading providers because they are not afraid to test things and let things blow up.” 

One of the main developments and choices he has made is using liquid fuel rather than solid. Liquid fuel is preferred over solid fuel due to its greater precision in controlling combustion rates and thrust, allowing for more efficient propulsion. Because of the mathematical and logistical difficulties involved in liquid fuels, however, no team has attempted to use it — until now.  

“So, something that most people are probably familiar with is the space shuttle, the two big boosters on each side are based on solid fuel,” Andrew said. “ Now the good thing with solid fuel is that it’s storable and doesn’t explode if you don’t light it. However, it has a drawback where you turn it on; you can’t turn it off, so if something goes wrong with your rocket, you are kind of screwed.”  

Liquid fuels can also be stored and transported more safely and with less risk of accidental ignition or explosion compared to solid fuels, which is a necessity considering the project’s long history of mishaps. 

Due to the multitude of flaws that are associated with the solid fuel’s ease of use, ultimately the Bluebird project decided to settle on a liquid fueled rocket.   

“The current goal is to design and launch a liquid fueled rocket to an unspecified altitude,” Andrew said. “Though, we will keep that under wraps for now because we’ll need to know how high the FAA [Federal Aviation Authority] lets us launch it.” 

Bluebird is one of two high school liquid fuel rocket programs in the United States and the only one on the West Coast. So far, they have not launched a rocket. However, they are testing their engines, having achieved three kilonewtons of thrust.  

“Maybe not launches, but definitely a test fire in end of March,” said Manas Brahmbhatt (‘26), the club’s vice president.  “We have a good subscale launch, but on test run and hopefully by the end of the year we have a proper actual full-scale testing of the Engine.”   

Rocketry also requires many jobs including nozzle design, rocket mounts, coding, and valves. Andrew hopes for even more engagement in his Aero Club, which will hopefully combine the skills of many different students to reach for the stars. So, if you are an aspiring coder, engineer, chemist, or physicist with a dream, why not join Webb’s very own rocket program?  

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About the Contributors
Phillip Park
Phillip Park, Staff Writer
Phillip Park (‘25) is a triple threat. A painter, cellist, and actor—he does it all. In the dorms, you can find him painting landscapes that might have been inspired by a hike he took earlier that day. When he goes home to Oxnard, California, during the summers, he is most likely reuniting with his cello, playing a classical tune. This fall, he is in the Liu Cheung Theater rehearsing for the play during afternoons. Although he is certain about his passion for the arts, Phillip likes to adventure and explore other pursuits. Excelling in originality, he ignores the status quo much like he ignores the alarm that goes off in his room every morning. In both the artistic field and the classroom, he does not think of problems one-dimensionally, but rather considers unique solutions. He will carry this mantra into his Advanced Studies The Cold War Era class, where he hopes to connect themes from his class with the modern world. Similarly, he wants to use his junior year to grow his fascination for current events by writing news stories. Like the art he makes, Phillip aims to write with originality and creativity.    Song: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Eric Luo
Eric Luo, Co-Editor of News
A skilled conductor Eric Luo (‘25) adeptly orchestrates a symphony of diverse talents, weaving together creative writing, music, and culinary arts. This summer, he not only sharpened his writing skills at a Kenyon College creative writing camp but also explored African history at a Stanford summer camp. As a multi-instrumentalist, he is proficient in saxophone and is self-taught in bassoon and piano. He takes this musical passion a step further by creating compositions on digital audio workstations, such as Logic. Alongside his commitment to composing music and writing, Eric is a cooking enthusiast, dedicated to both the scientific and artistic aspects of gastronomy. Eric’s cooking skills venture beyond conventional recipes as he channels his passion toward cheese-making. Driven by his curiosity for food chemistry and biology, Eric started making cheese during the pandemic. While he loves Brie and Gorgonzola, a timeless classic mozzarella is his favorite to create. From his experimentation in culinary science to writing styles particularly in creative nonfiction essays Eric continually challenges himself. This year, he also aims to experiment in the Webb Canyon Chronicle and transition from feature articles to publishing more opinion pieces to foster change by promoting underrepresented points of view in Webb and the world at large.   Favorite Song: "Big Toe" by The Growlers

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