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(Josue Evilla)

Baptism by Ramjet

How I survived my first test at the “rocket ranch.”

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“Three…two…one…mark. Auto sequence start, T minus 60 seconds.”

That was the last thing I heard over the headset. The steam ejector erupted. Through the binoculars I saw Mach diamonds within the supersonic air screaming out of the diversion valve. I saw the valve rotate, slowing the air to subsonic speed before diverting it into the ramjet. A flashbulb went off; ignition. WHAM. A mammoth roar rocked me as a flame the size of North Dakota shot from the exhaust.

My glasses vibrated. My teeth chattered. My ears ached. The sound intensified. I could feel the incredible speed of the thing even though it was firmly mounted to the test stand.

Somehow I managed to keep an eye on the ramjet. Finally, after 400 seconds, it stopped. The test had been successful.

I was embossed on the edge of the roof—glasses crooked, headset dangling around my neck, binoculars in the gravel. Dick’s face appeared at the top of the ladder. He looked over my remains, grinned, and said, “Wasn’t that fun?”

My snipped tie resided on the control room wall, and a white dress shirt stained with roof tar was hanging in my closet.Now I was truly a rocket test guy.

Bill Dye has spent nearly 40 years in aerospace, much of that at Lockheed Martin. He published Climbing Into My Dream: An Aerospace Engineer’s Journey via iUniverse in 2011.

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