Sunday, April 5, 2015

My first club launch of 2015 (part 2) - and now comes a little fire...

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I brought 6 rockets to yesterday's launch - my Aerotech Initiator, an Estes Majestic, an Estes Trajector, my Centuri RX-16 clone, an Estes Firebolt, and the Over Easy. Just after we arrived at the field, before any of my birds took flight, there was an issue - an errant chair had slipped in the gear unloading, knocking a fin off my RX-16. I was ticked; it is one thing for a rocket to show the scars of many flights, or to experience a hurtling death against the hard earth, but to suffer damage on the ground through poor handling, that just ain't right. My fault; I'm going to have to devise a better way to transport my mod rocs - throwing them in the back seat of a friend's vehicle is inviting an occasional mishap. Anyway, an application of 5 minute epoxy had the RX-16 ready to fly by late afternoon. It still looks bad, but I will attempt a cosmetic repair over the next few days.

And now, on to my flights...

My Initiator blasts skyward on an F20 White Lightning
motor (Click to enlarge).
The Trajector patiently awaits launch (Click to enlarge).
First up was my Aerotech Initiator. This is one of the oldest rockets in my fleet, dating from the very early 1990's and, though very battered, it is still a reliable flyer. Straight up on an F20-4W, with a gentle landing on the grass some distance from the pad. My thanks to Woody, who fetched it, cutting my walk in half.

Estes Trajector - My first flight was that of an old rocket; my second involved the newest, built in under an hour Friday night. The almost-ready-to-fly (ARF) Trajector flew well on an Estes black powder E16-6 motor, also experiencing a soft landing under its red parachute. One of the rocketeers on the field remarked that it spent more time in the air than I did in the building.

Estes Majestic - Also flying on an E16, the Majestic was majestic going up and serene coming down. Another member of the Estes mid power ARF line, it can be found in many Hobby Lobby stores, where the use of a 40% coupon makes this rocket an irresistible buy to those seeking a cheap mid power kit.

A full rack of rockets. My Majestic is the purple and silver rocket on the right (Click to enlarge).
3 flights, no problems. And then Murphy paid me a visit...

Estes Firebolt - It was supposed to follow the Over Easy, but ended up flying first because of ignitor issues. This rocket was loaded with an Estes E12-6, and did not even clear the rod before a spectacular motor CATO occurred, scattering fire and rocket pieces around the pad. The E12 I used came from a batch that Estes gave to the "Space Warriors" movie filmed at the Space and Rocket Center; Vince and I inherited several as thanks for helping with the rockets in the film. They must have been treated badly before we got them, because they have a 100% CATO rate so far (Vince had one blow up in his Hexagon saucer back in March). After I arrived back at the apartment, I marked those motors as bad - they will not be used, unless I wish to give them as a present to someone I don't like :)

Despite the appearance of catastrophe, the Fireboat suffered a minor zipper in the upper body when the payload section was blasted away. A little paper, CA, and silver mylar tape fixed it right up.

Image sequence showing the Firebolt's E12 motor CATO (Click image to enlarge).

Over Easy - This TARC rocket took 3 tries to get going; Bad ignitor on the first attempt, poor connection on the second. The D12-3 ignited on the third try, but once again there was a motor CATO, littering rocket parts on the field. The motor mount was blown clean through the Over Easy, with the upper centering ring still attached to the shock cord; the rip stop nylon parachute had several large burn holes. Amazingly, the body tube and payload section were unscathed. I constructed a new motor mount last night, and installed it into the rocket this morning. The Over Easy can fly again, though it will be using a different parachute.

The Over Easy erupts in flame halfway up the rod (Click to enlarge).
RX-16 clone - This rocket flew well on a D12-5 (no more CATOs, thank goodness!), but I could not get a connection to the Jolly Logic Altimeter 3 after my phone uploaded a firmware update. I could see the device in my Bluetooth setup, but the Altimeter 3 software would not connect. I may have to pair the altimeter to my phone again. Anyway, good flight with a safe landing. The RX-16 is now in the front of the repair line awaiting new fillets and cosmetic fixes.

Murphy is always present at these launches - in addition to my and Elliot's mishaps, we saw a high powered rocket come in ballistic, burying itself so deep that it took a shovel to dig out the nose cone. A rocket also accidentally launched when the high power pads were being loaded; a short was discovered in one of the relay boxes. No one was hurt, but there may have been some wet pants in the area afterward. These type things just emphasize the need to stay alert at a launch - never become complacent about safety.  Stand when rockets are taking to the air, and keep your eyes on the rocket; though it's very rare, they can come your way.

My first club launch of 2015 (Part 1)

Some of the folks at the launch watch a rocket descend to Earth (Click to enlarge).
Yesterday saw me and Duane making the long trek (about 2 hours) up to Manchester for the second HARA launch of 2015 - and our first. We arrived at about 11 AM, having left Huntsville around 8:30 and stopping for a "tasty" breakfast at McDonalds along the way. The field was a bit waterlogged from the thunderstorms of Friday night, but overall not too bad - there were patches of high ground that enabled one to recover rockets without sinking up to the ankles in mud. It turns out our late arrival was not really that late, as we got there in time to attend the traditional "flyers briefing" held before the start of every club launch. The Music City Missile Club (MC2) was working the range this month, enabling us HARA members to concentrate on flying. Next month, we have the range duty.

Flyers begin to gather for the pre-launch briefing (Click to enlarge).
Six rockets accompanied me to Manchester - my Aerotech Initiator (Aerotech F20 motor), an Estes Majestic (Estes E16 motor), an Estes Trajector (Estes E16 motor), my Centuri RX-16 clone (Estes D12 motor), an Estes Firebolt (Estes E12 motor), and my TARC rocket from a couple of years ago, the Over Easy (Estes D12 motor). I would fly nothing weaker than a D motor this day; after all, the launch is held on the wide open expanse of the Manchester sod farm. However, more power = more walking to recover, especially in the 10 mph winds. Duane also brought several rockets - his Estes Death Star, the yellow and black winner of this year's Geezer TARC - the "Beast", an Estes Leviathan, his Estes Mega Mosquito, and a big green and white rocket which would not fly due to the stiff winds.

One of the nice things about club launches is that you get to see rockets built by other people. Many of these are pretty awesome, like the Harley Max that showed up at the field yesterday. It was an Estes Mega Red Max, with a very nice paint job sporting Harley Davidson decals from Excelsior Rocketry. It flew a few times, including one on an H motor that garnered its owner a level 1 certification. A very excellent way to start on the High Power Rocketry path!

The "Harley Max" (Click to enlarge).

The Harley Max heads into the Blue on a G motor (Click to enlarge).
There is too much going on at club launches for me to keep track, especially given that I spend a fair mount of time prepping and recovering rockets. However, I did try to find the time to witness a few of the launches by fellow club members. Woody Bevill - who brought his Mom along for this launch - seemed to want to lose a scratch built mid power rocket; however, it kept coming back, though the "alien passenger" it carried aloft on its first flight was last seen heading into the next county, its little parachute dwindling into the distance. Keith Nyman and his daughter had a good day - his Mega Red Max powered by G motors impressed, and Brenna's Leviathan caught some air on an F motor. Not so for Elliot Laramie, who had a mixed day - after turning in several good flights (including a successful launch of a Quest Quad Runner with a cluster of 4 B6-4's), his "stretched" Colonial Viper did a major arc straight for the pond; I guess it thought it could also function as a canoe. The most heartbreaking event of the day was watching his beautiful Aerotech Astrobee D come in ballistic due to an ejection charge malfunction; not even the soft ground could prevent the rocket from turning into confetti. I would have gone into the trees and cried after that one, but Elliot is a true naval aviator; he simply shrugged his shoulders and said he would build another. There are no wimps in the Navy.

Brenna's yellow and blue Leviathan leaves the pad
(Click to enlarge).
Keith Nyman's Mega Red Max getting on up there
(Click to enlarge).

Elliot's Astrobee-D blasts off on its final flight
(Click to enlarge).
Keith Nyman's 2 stage CC Express heads up the rod,
powered by a C11 in the booster (Click to enlarge).
Duane's Mega Mosquito arcs into the wind on an E
(Click to enlarge).
The 4 B6-4's powering Elliot's Quad Runner leave a trail
of smoke (Click to enlarge).

Duane had a good day - His Leviathan put in a good flight on a Aerotech F, the Mega Mosquito got off the pad without experiencing a CATO, and the Beast once again showed why it was this year's Geezer TARC champion. However, it was the Death Star that garnered the most attention, with the big styrofoam ball perched atop a skinny tube. The first flight on a C6-3 was classic - the model arced into the wind and deployed the chute at a decent altitude. At ejection, the styrofoam ball "exploded" into four pieces, each one descending on a streamer - a real crowd pleaser. The second flight used an Aerotech D10-5 and had Duane's camera taped to the body tube to catch a video of the ball separating into pieces. This flight was not so good - the trajectory was much flatter, and ejection occurred very close to the ground. I am eager to see the video, as it must show the Death Star "exploding" as the rocket is diving into the ground.

Animated sequence showing the first flight of Duane's Death Star
(Click to enlarge).
Not all flying Saturday was for fun - there was also some seriousness. I counted 4 successful level 1 certification flights while I was there, and another HARA member, Ian, certified level 2. There were also some college SLI teams present - Alabama A&M launched their space-themed rocket on a K, only to have the main deploy at apogee. Fortunately, they were able to recover the rocket, though it did take some searching. Mississippi State put up a two stage rocket (M motor to J in the upper stage) on the far pad. It looked like the second stage did not fire, though all pieces landed safely. Auburn and Georgia Tech were in the final throes of prepping their rockets when Duane and I left the field at 4:30; I do not know the outcome of those flights.

A successful level 1 certification flight at Saturday's launch.