Monday, March 30, 2015


Yesterday saw the last of the TARC flights - all scores were due into TARC headquarters by close of business today. The Falcon Rocketeers were the only team on the field (Butler was unable to make it due to kids' schedules) and they brought with them the rebuilt War Eagle, now appropriately renamed Phoenix (it did arise from ashes, after all). They made a total of five flights - 3 practice and 2 qualification - but Phoenix was essentially a new rocket, resulting in some pretty high scores. There was no time (and too few motors remaining) to dial in the altitude. The Falcon Rocketeers deserve applause for finishing out the year, especially given the bad luck that they struggled to overcome. As they left the field, there was talk of getting started on next year's TARC as soon as the challenge is announced in May - a great attitude!

March 29 TARC scores. Green indicates qualification flight (Click to enlarge).
Nate showed up to provide me and Duane some support, bringing with him a few rockets that needed flying. I had several of my own, and we alternated putting birds into the air. My Semroc Golden Scout was up first, going surprisingly high on an A8-3. It behaved as it should, the ejection charge shifting the motor backwards so that the center of gravity was behind the center of pressure, causing the rocket to tumble to Earth. Sounds iffy, but tumble recovery was used in a fair number of the rockets produced in the 60's and 70's. Nate followed with his Estes Snitch saucer on a B4-4, and then I put up my Semroc Batroc on an A8-3. Batman would have been pleased to see the plastic parachute deploy, landing the rocket safely on the grass. It is currently sitting in a place of honor in my Batcave.

My Scout takes off powered by an A8-3 (Click to enlarge).The Batroc shoots up from the Bat Pad (Click to enlarge).
The Estes Hi Jinks took to the air next on a C6-5. The parachute did not deploy, but the nose cone did pop off, causing the rocket to land safely on the ground with little damage. This day would see no lawn darts, and I have to hand it to Nate for using C motors in most of his rockets. It was a bit breezy, and some drifted a decent distance from the pad. I then loaded up my Dr. Zooch Discoverer Thor, which flew on a B6-4. The good Doctor makes a point of ridiculing anyone who would wuss out and fly this thing on an A, and I certainly was not about to fall into that category. The Thor put in a text book flight, as did Nate's RTF Patriot, which grabbed some decent air on a C6-5.

Ignition! The Discoverer Thor gets started on its journey
(Click to enlarge).
Nate's RTF Patriot blasts off on a C6-5 (Click to enlarge).

Nate's Mean Machine has suffered a few mishaps, loosing a little bit of its length each time; it is now known as the "Lean Machine." Yesterday, the Lean Machine flew to a great height on an E9-4, and it is perhaps fortunate that the parachute failed to completely exit the body tube, as the rocket drifted a bit even just falling to the ground. No damage, so the Lean Machine did not loose any weight this flight. I have to admit that I am a little disappointed that there wasn't a spectacular E9 cato - Nate's luck is improving.

The last modroc flight of the day was that of my two stage Estes Scorpion clone, which was loaded with a B6-0 in the booster and a B6-6 in the sustainer. I figured the longer delay in the upper stage would minimize the drift of the rocket by putting it closer to the ground when the parachute deployed. This was a rare bit of good reasoning on my part, because that sucker flew nearly out of sight. I can't imagine what altitude it would reach on C6-0/C6-7 combo; maybe I will try it some club launch at the big Manchester sod farm. I should be able to recover the rocket there, assuming I am able to track it.

The purple "Lean Machine" on an E9-4 (Click to enlarge).My Scorpion heads for the wild blue yonder
(Click to enlarge).
And now, to bring the 2015 TARC season to a close, here's an animated sequence of the Falcon Rocketeer's Phoenix ascending into the Sun:

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday's other flights

In the previous post, I mentioned that there were a total of 59 flights Saturday. Of these, 24 were TARC related; the others were miscellaneous rockets launched by the kids and adults present. Here is a listing of some of these flights, accompanied by a few pics. I don't have notes for all, as I occasionally had to watch a TARC flight, which took my attention away from the LPR pad.

The Satellite Interceptor just before malfunction
(Click to enlarge).
Nate snaps a pic of his Nike Smoke lifting off
(Click to enlarge).
Estes Satellite Interceptor (C6-5) - I swear this rocket of Nate's is jinxed. Once again, the motor CATO'd soon after leaving the pad. Fortunately, the damage was minor - the lower fin broke cleanly from the body. Very repairable.

Estes Hi Jinks (C6-5) - This RTF (Ready To Fly) rocket suffered a broken shock cord, but both pieces were recovered.

Quest Nike Smoke (C6-5) - This rocket made two flights, the first without mishap. On the second flight, the nose cone split in half on ground impact. Also repairable.

My Mark II clone starts its journey (Click to enlarge).A Liberty team member launches the Shuttle Express
(Click to enlarge).
Estes Mark II clone (A3-4T) - Even on a mini-motor, this rocket grabbed some altitude! I was impressed.

Estes Shuttle Express (B6-4) - This rocket also flew twice with no issues. However, the gliders were in sore need of trimming, as they nosed straight into the ground.

Estes RTF Patriot (C6-5) - No problem flight, with a landing close to the pad.

My Loadlifter 1-A on an A8-3 (Click to enlarge).Nate's towerless Mercury Redstone (Click to enlarge).
Loadlifter 1-A (A8-3) - Built from Estes Rocket Plan #19 and sporting a NASA logo, this rocket turned in a nice flight on the A motor. However, one of the fins was gashed upon landing, so some repair required.

EAC Viper (A3-4T) - Another of the "old reliables" of my fleet. Straight up, with a soft recovery on the grass.

Estes Mercury Redstone (C6-5) - This rocket belonging to Nate really did need its missing escape tower, as the 5 second delay of the C motor brought it perilously close to the ground before the chute deployed. Landing was a little hard, but no damage. I think he'll use a C6-3 next time :)

Vince's Hexagon lifts off on an E12 motor (Click to enlarge).The E12 erupts into fireballs (Click to enlarge).

Rocketarium Hexagon (E12-0) - Our NAR advisor, Vince, jumped into the action with a flight of his Hexagon on a Estes E12. For once, Nate was not the "CATO master of the day"; that honor went to Vince when the E12 spectacularly CATO'd just as the rocket let the rod. Surprisingly, there was no damage to the rocket.

Vince's Spider does its thing on a C6-0 (Click to enlarge).Nate's Snitch produces a little smoke (Click to enlarge).
Spider (C6-0) - A George Gassaway design, this rocket is built from a plastic Halloween candy bowl. It flies surprisingly well.

Estes Snitch (B6-0) - Not to be left out of the saucer action, Nate flew his Snitch on a B motor. Very short walk for its recovery :)

My Centuri Quasar clone makes another voyage on a
C6-5 (Click to enlarge).
A very nice scratch build rides a pillar of fire into the sky
(Click to enlarge).
Centuri Quasar clone (C6-5) - A mainstay of my fleet, this classic design rocket looked and performed well.

Estes Phoenix semi-scale (D12-3) - Big rocket, low and slow flight.

Scratch build (E18) - Launched by a newcomer to our club, this nice orange and black rocket roared into the sky on an Aerotech E18.

NCR Eliminator  (F15) - Vince brought out this old North Coast Rocketry bird (late 1980's), and launched it on an Estes F15. No CATO, and a pretty decent flight. I caught a quick video with my phone:

Estes Starchaser Thunderstar (2xB6-4) - One of my old X Prize kits, only one of the B motors lit when the launch button was pressed. Fortunately, the B had enough power to get the rocket high enough to safely deploy the parachute. One should really be careful when inserting ignitors in clusters...

Centuri Taurus clone (C6-5) - Another classic from my fleet; it turned in a nice straight flight on the C motor, and had a nice soft landing.

My Starchaser Thunderstar begins arcing to the right under
the thrust of only one motor (Click to enlarge).
My Taurus clone lifts off on a C6-5 (Click to enlarge)
Estes L.G.M. RTF with BT-55 booster (C11-0/B6-4) - This was my last flight of the day, in which I would once again try to capture video from the camera taped to the side. The rocket gods did smile on this flight, as I was able to catch several good frames when the rocket staged.

L.G.M. staging as captured by the onboard camera (Click to enlarge).
Here is the complete flight video:

This was the last modroc flight of the day; only TARC flights followed.

And now I am finally caught up with launch reports :)

Approaching the finish line

We normally have a "TARC regional" in March to gather the teams for practice or qualification flights. Not only does this give teams who do not have access to a good field a chance to get in some flying, it also enables the kids to check out how other groups are meeting the year's TARC challenge. We "crown" a local winner (sometimes there are even trophies, if we can find a sponsor), and a lot of fun is had by all. Unfortunately, this year was rained out...

However, the gathering at the Research Park field last Saturday was as big as any regional. Liberty Middle's Team Orion was there, along with some teams we don't see very often - Tanner, Russellville, and Huntsville Middle. Vince, our local NAR representative, also found the time to come out and join me, Woody, and Nate (Duane was on vacation with his family in the Redneck Riviera). As you would expect, there were a lot of TARC flights - practice and qualification. There were also quite a few non-TARC rockets launched - 59 flights in about 4 hours, making it roughly the equivalent of one of our club launches at Manchester. It was a busy day!

Liberty Middle's Team Orion poses with the Jupiter V (Click to enlarge).
Liberty Middle's Team Orion put in one practice flight with their Pluto rocket, then opted to switch back to the orange and black Jupiter V. In all, they made 9 practice flights and their last 2 qualification flights (69.7 and 28.4 scores), the most of any team present. Even though their scores are probably not good enough to get them into Nationals, I look forward to seeing them in TARC next year. They are a very good team!

Huntsville Middle put in a practice, but their sustainer came in ballistic. The rocket was damaged, putting them out of action for the day. Hopefully, they can rebuild and get their qualification flights done this weekend.

Tanner's rocket takes to the air on a qualification flight
(Click to enlarge).
The "Golden Rat" leaves the pad on a practice flight
(click to enlarge).

The big surprises of the day were the Tanner and Russellville teams, who originate in schools a decent way from Huntsville. We usually don't see them until qualification time, and I must say that this year they impressed in a big way. In the past, Tanner has had trouble making 3 qualification flights; this year, they produced three decent scores (31.0, 28.4, and a 41) using a beautiful white rocket with black trim. It was one of the best-looking TARC birds I have seen this year - I loved the classic lines! Tanner's scores were not bad; the team may have an outside shot at going to the Nationals.

The Russellville team made a couple of practice flights with their rocket - a nekkid bird they called the "Golden Rat." It was a rat in name only - after the practice rounds, the rocket turned in 2 fabulous qualification flights with 8 and 12 scores. These remain the best qual flights in Huntsville so far this year. Even though their 3rd qualification score was a more run-of-the-mill 34.4, Russellville's first two flights were so good that I feel confident that they are heading to Nationals in May. A truly outstanding performance!

TARC flights made on March 21. Green indicates qualification flight (click to enlarge).
Four days later, Duane and I met Jurassic TARC and the Falcon Rocketeers back on the field for some late Wednesday afternoon flying. Unlike Saturday, the day was sunny, but the winds were a bit stronger. Jurassic TARC made two practice flights, then launched their final qualification flight close to sunset. Rocket #2 flew higher than expected, resulting in 42.56 score. Not bad, but I do not think they will make the cut for finals. I thought the Jurassic TARC team did very well; unlike some others, they functioned as a team and made very few dumb mistakes. If these kids return next year, I think they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Rocket #2 makes its last qual flight of 2015 (Click to
Roll Tide's last beauty shot before being crunched
(Click to enlarge).

The Falcon Rocketeers launched Roll Tide on what was to be its final flight.  Up the rocket went, and it came down almost as fast - no ejection charge and no parachutes. Once again the sound of impact reverberated across the field, and Roll Tide crumpled under the tremendous force of collision. It will fly no more. With War Eagle burned and Roll Tide flattened, the Falcon Rocketeers were done for the day; last I heard they were hard at work trying to rebuild War Eagle by replacing most of the body tube.

Roll Tide after its ill-fated flight (Click to enlarge).

TARC flights made on the evening of March 25. Green indicates qualification attempt (Click to enlarge).
Just this weekend left for TARC flights - I expect a few more on Sunday. Then I can collapse...

Tanner's TARC rocket lifts off on a Smokey Sam composite motor.

Jurassic TARC's Rocket #2 blasts off in a sunset launch.

Friday, March 20, 2015

TARC madness...

Wednesday evening once again saw me on the Research Park field. Three TARC teams were present - Butler High School, Pope John Paul II's Jurassic TARC, and the Falcon Rocketeers. Butler was conducting their last practice as Duane and I pulled up; Woody's email indicates they had a couple of pretty good scores. But that has been the curse of this year - good practice flights, bad qualification attempts. Sadly, Wednesday continued this pattern.

Jurassic TARC prepares the Gray Ghost for launch as Duane looks on
(Click to enlarge).
Jurassic TARC got the ball rolling with a practice flight using the Gray Ghost, which turned in an excellent score of 19. They then opted to go for two qualification flights, both of which resulted in not-so-good scores. The first qual flight was very low and suffered a parachute malfunction on the sustainer (but it came in slow enough to be safe). The second had a perfect time, but was over 90 feet shy of the altitude mark.

The Falcon Rocketeers were also plagued by bad luck. Their first practice flight saw War Eagle come apart on the pad and catch fire; the flames were stomped out as soon as the rocket hit ground. An email sent out on Thursday by the team captain confirmed that the rocket was not repairable - a fiery end for a noble bird. Falcon then launched Roll Tide on another practice flight - it soared to a fabulous 798 feet, but neither of the parachutes deployed. Fortunately, the rocket managed to survive the hard landing relatively intact - it will fly again.

The Gray Ghost lifts off on a qualification flight
(Click to enlarge).
War Eagle comes apart leaving the rail (Click to enlarge).
Not a good evening for our local teams... The next launch is scheduled for tomorrow - will the weekend see the lifting of the curse?

March 18 scores - green indicates a qualification flight (Click to enlarge).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another TARC team does its thing

This evening, Duane and I travelled to a field northeast of Huntsville to qualify flights for the Buckhorn TARC team. This is the first time in TARC for these kids, and I must say I was very impressed - their rockets were efficient, capable of meeting the altitude mark on an E20, and sported nice paint jobs in the school colors. The team had great equipment, were well organized, and had conducted several practice flights during the past two weekends. They could teach a thing or two to some of the Huntsville teams, even the experienced ones.

The Buckhorn team loads their rocket ("Bucky") on the pad (Click to enlarge).
Duane and I showed up at about 5:30 pm to find the team all set up and ready to go. It was a bit breezy, but if one waited for a couple of minutes, the wind would slack off long enough to permit a good flight. Wind was not the problem this evening - the "Curse of TARC" still plagues our local teams, insuring that practice flights give good scores but qualification flights end badly. So it was with Buckhorn this evening. Their first flight ended with a disqualification when the parachute broke away from the payload section, which hit the ground hard enough to break the egg. The second qualification flight also was disqualified when the payload section parachute did not fully open, resulting in another omelette. The altitudes on these flights were ok - 850 and 817 feet - but the stupid payload section parachute would not cooperate. However, the third time was the charm - Bucky shot skyward to 843 feet and was down in 53.8 seconds, for a 66 score. Not bad at all - I was very happy that they had one good flight to send in to TARC Headquarters.

Buckhorn qualification flights (Click to enlarge).
This team had several 7th graders, and I hope they participate in TARC next year - They are very, very good. If it weren't for that stupid TARC curse...

Bucky awaits launch (Click to enlarge).A very nice Estes QCC Explorer built by someone at
Buckhorn (Click to enlarge).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Today, after work, I...

went to the field to witness more TARC flights. This evening, we had two teams out there - Pope John Paul II's Jurassic TARC team, with their Gray Ghost rocket, and the Falcon Rocketeers with War Eagle and Roll Tide. One flight of the Gray Ghost was made before Duane and I arrived at 5 PM; 4 more would occur before we packed it in around 6:30.

The TARC teams of the day - Jurassic TARC is at left with the Falcon
Rocketeers on the right (Click to enlarge).
Jurassic TARC is pretty close to getting it done, turning in decent scores on both of their practice flights. The Falcon Rocketeers are still tuning their War Eagle rocket, which flew too high in today's still air. Its last flight was also calamitous - the parachute on the sustainer failed to deploy, and it dove straight for the ground. You know things are going to be bad where you hear the sickening thump of impact across the field... Sure enough, War Eagle looked a bit like an accordion after that flight. Major repair time, I think.

Summary of today's 4 practice flights (Click to enlarge).
The westering Sun saw the session end with no qualification flights; these after school sessions don't leave much time for practice, even with Daylight Savings Time in effect. Judging from the chatter, Falcon is going to try for more flights on Wednesday afternoon - assuming it's not raining.

The Gray Ghost lifts off on its last flight of the day
(Click to enlarge).
War Eagle soars into the sky yet again (Click to enlarge).
A nice thing about using a local field is that interested folks sometimes come out to watch you fly. Today, we had a local dad who is getting back into rocketry with his sons show up to watch the TARC flights. Duane and I tried to recruit him into joining HARA, or at least to come out and fly with us sometime. He is excited about rockets, and has already got a good start on a decent rocket fleet. Also said he reads this blog, which I found gratifying. It's good to know someone reads my ramblings!

Back to the launch... I had brought a C6-3 for Duane's Death Star, which was going to be the star in one of my videos - naturally, he forgot the rocket. However, I did bring along my Little Beth X-2 for my one and only flight of the day. This time, I set my normal wimp tendencies aside and almost went for broke with 2 B4-2's and a C6-0 in the booster, and a B6-4 in the sustainer (you knew there had to be a B6-4 in there somewhere, didn't ya?). After taping my keychain camera to the rocket, I placed it on the pad and started snapping off pics as Duane did the count; our visitor began to capture video on his phone. All three booster motors roared to life and Little Beth shot off the pad like a bat out of Hades. Booster separation and second stage ignition occurred without a hitch, and she kept going up, up, up. As I watched, I was thinking that there was NO WAY I was going to ever put a C6-7 in that upper stage, as we were barely able to keep the rocket in sight. The green parachute deployed, and the rocket slowly began to drift towards the ground. I was a little worried about the tree line, but the rocket gods did smile upon me and allowed my white and black beauty an honorable landing upon the field.

Little Beth blasts off on 3 booster motors (Click to enlarge).
After I got back to the apartment, I transferred the video to my computer and discovered, to my chagrin, that a video curse still plagues me. I did get video of the flight, but the camera was pointed at  an angle towards the rocket body rather than straight down - so there is a lot of white rocket in the frames. Nevertheless, here's the flight vid - not my best work, to be sure:

And here are some select frames:

Ignition (Click to enlarge)!

The road below... (Click to enlarge)

2nd stage ignition (Click to enlarge).

Under parachute (Click to enlarge).
Hopefully more flights later in the week - stay tuned!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Centuri Day!

This afternoon found me once again in the field with a couple of local TARC teams for practice and qualification flights. My usual comrade, Duane, was working and stopped by for a bit around lunch; Woody was the NAR member who certified today's scores. When Nate and I arrived at the field around 12:30, Pope John Paul II's Team 1 was already there, practicing with their "Nekkid Rocket 1" (I understand there is also a Nekkid Rocket 2, but that was not flown today). Liberty's Team Orion (7th graders) soon joined them, and the flying began in earnest.

Pope John Paul II's Team 1 readies Nekkid Rocket 1
(Click to enlarge).
Liberty Team Orion's Jupiter V (Click to enlarge).
There were a total of 10 TARC flights between 12:30 and 3:30 PM today. Of these, 4 were valid qualification flights - 3 by Pope John Paul II's Team 1 (scores of 111, 50.9, and 36.4) and 1 (score of 49) by Liberty's Team Orion flying their Jupiter V rocket. A week ago, they were flying the Jupiter IV; the Jupiter V was obviously an improvement, as it turned in much better scores than its predecessor. John Paul's Team 1 is finished, and I was struck by the similarity of the scores to those of Liberty Team Centron. I wonder if this pattern will hold for the rest of Huntsville TARC teams?

March 15 TARC flights - green denotes a valid qualification and yellow indicates
a problem allowing a reflight (Click to enlarge).
Two of the flights were oopses - the timers (both of them) had troubles with their stopwatches on one flight of Nekkid Rocket 1, and the payload section of Jupiter V caught a thermal and drifted into the top branches of a tall tree - not recoverable. So they get to rebuild the payload section of Jupiter V. I hope they have an altimeter to replace the one hanging 60 feet above the ground... Very unfortunate.

The Sun was shining, the sky was a beautiful blue, and the temperature was comfortable; naturally the day would see rockets other than TARC birds taking to the air. Nate had brought 6 birds to fly - a Mercury Redstone, Hi Jinks, Patriot semi-scale, Shuttle Express, and Snitch, all by Estes. His other rocket was a Quest Nike Smoke. I had declared today Centuri Day, and brought four of my finest Centuri clones - the Orion, Stellar Hercules, Long Tom, and Egg Crate. The Orion flew on a C6-3, the Hercules on a B6-4, the 2 stage Long Tom on a C6-0/B6-4 combination, and the Egg Crate on two B6-4's.

Orion on the pad (Click to enlarge).My Orion heads up into the blue sky (Click to enlarge).

Nate's Mercury Redstone clears the pad (Click to enlarge).Nate's Nike Smoke invades Pope John Paul II's launch
space (Click to enlarge).

All of the flights went well, except for that of the Long Tom and Egg Crate. The flight of the Long Tom appeared to go well, except that the booster seemed to hang on a little longer than normal, and when it separated, it went into a smooth glide, landing gently on the grass. The only Centuri rocket with a gliding booster is the Black Widow, and I knew that of the Long Tom was supposed to tumble back to Earth. Examination of the returned rocket explained everything - apparently the booster  motor tube coupler fit too tightly on the sustainer motor tube, and the ignition of the upper stage literally burned through the lower motor tube, leaving the coupler still stuck at the base of the upper stage. This internal damage was quickly repaired once I got back home, and the Long Tom is now ready for another flight.

Liberty Team Orion watches the Long Tom blast off
(Click to enlarge).
Long Tom booster coupler after I removed it from the
bottom of the second stage (Click to enlarge).

The Egg Crate's maiden voyage on the two B6's was marred only by the fact that I apparently forgot to turn on the keychain camera taped to the payload section. So no video - duh! I had considered taping it to the Long Tom - which would have yielded a more impressive video - but opted to play it safe after last weekend's Cobra mishap. Clusters are somewhat finicky, but multistage rockets can have much more spectacular crashes; I had visions of camera parts scattered next to an upper stage buried deep into the ground.

Egg Crate on the pad (Click to enlarge).The 2 B motors get the rocket up fast (Click to enlarge)!
Below are a couple more pics from today - tomorrow will see more flights after work. I think I shall live dangerously and fly my clustered, 2 stage Little Beth X-2.

The Stellar Hercules poses before launch (Click to enlarge).Jupiter V starts a qual flight (Click to enlarge).

F motors get TARC rockets off the pad very fast!