Saturday, August 29, 2015

Geezer TARC launch!

Well, today was the long awaited day - a bit on the cloudy side, with winds in the 8-10 mph range. However, the rain held off long enough for us to complete the Geezer TARC launch, and I must say it was interesting - for a lot of reasons.

So, where to begin? The wind was out of the South East, so we set up the range at the south end of the farm driveway. There were 5 pads - Duane's TARC rail pad, my MPR pad with a quarter inch rod, Woody's tower, Duane's wooden LPR pad, and my camera tripod LPR pad. Naturally, each pad had a controller, with the wooden LPR pad connected to Woody's crank type launch controller, which was a big hit with the kiddos that came out today. Forget batteries - they loved swiftly turning the crank to charge up the capacitors so they could launch the rockets! A classic example of low tech appeal...

Art's 45 year old scratch build lifts off as Vince and
Chuck look on (Click to enlarge).
Elliot's V-2 heads into stormy weather (Click to enlarge).
The 2016 Geezer TARC contestants that showed up at the Harvest horse farm were Duane, Woody, Vince, Randy Tyler, and yours truly, which was a couple more than last year. Geezer TARC is growing and I like seeing new faces in the competition; it adds variety and increases the challenge. I wish to give a big shout out to Randy Tyler - He came all the way from Memphis to launch with us today. That's real dedication! Anyway, Duane and I had 2 rockets, Vince sort of had 2 rockets (he used the same payload section on both), and Woody and Randy each brought one.  There were several non-contestants as well. Nate was there to cheer us on, despite feeling crappy, Art Woodling showed up with a couple of vintage model rockets, Woody had a few friends with their kids and rockets, and Elliot Laramie brought his son Joseph out for his first rocket launch. I do believe Joseph is going to be a range LCO in a few years - he was very enthusiastic about the launch and quickly learned how to handle the launch controllers. And I must not leave out Chuck Pierce, who arrived on the field with a Der Red Max modified to accept 29 mm motors. Mind you, I'm not talking about the big Estes Mega Red Max; this was the standard Red Max that is sent out of sight on a C6-5. I think Chuck wanted to put his up in the stratosphere, as there was serious talk of flying it on a G motor. My initial impression was that it was a goner on the first flight. Much to my surprise, I was wrong - the rocket was recovered after flights on an E30 and a F21. Der Rot G-Maximus still lives!

Chuck's Der Rot G-Maximus is a blur on an F21
(Click to enlarge).
Elliot and Joseph launch an Estes Ventris
(Click to enlarge).

There were a total of 7 Geezer TARC flights, and things did not start out well. Duane was the first to launch; it was a good flight, except that he forgot to turn on his altimeter, so we had no idea of the peak altitude.  It was an embarrassing moment for Mr. Check List, and I will be sure to remind him of this at the appropriate times <evil smile>. Vince flew his Frankenstein creation built of various kit parts next; unlike the rest of us, he just threw the rocket together, without simulations or anything. He had the simple goal of getting a qualified flight, but this one would not be it - the rocket got some air on an F44 motor, but the shock cord burned through. The parachute saved the altimeter and eggs, but the sustainer hit the ground hard and crumpled. Despite this disqualification, Vince was undaunted and proceeded to kluge together his next flight - Baron Frankenstein would have been pleased with the scavenging of the corpses of past kits.

Duane's 1st flight leaves the rail (Click to enlarge).Vince's creation #1 starts its ill-fated journey
(Click to enlarge).

Woody was up next. His rocket reached 766 feet on a F20 White Lightning motor (I love White Lightning motors - they are brilliant and loud).  However, the parachute failed to deploy - ouch, and another disqualification. Randy Tyler then flew his patriotic red, white, and blue rocket on an Aerotech F32. This beauty over performed, topping 1000 feet. It looked like we were going to have our first qualified flight of the day, but alas, one egg was broken. 4 flights, 4 disqualifications. Things were not looking good.

Randy's patriotic rocket heads up into cloudy skies
(Click to enlarge).
Woody's rocket clears his tower (Click to enlarge).
It was time for me to get off my rear and fly one of my rockets. Nemesis, flying on 2 Estes E12's, was to be my primary bird today; however, there had been several modrocs flown off the low power pads using E's, and every darn one of the things went boom. Elliot's SpaceShip 1 had an E blow out on the pad, and Vince's (Rocketarium?) Hexagon was shredded by another E CATO as it cleared the rod. I looked at my beautiful Nemesis and thought of two of those things blowing her lower half to tiny bits. Chickening out, I switched to #2, my F powered backup. It turned out to be a good choice - #2 soared to 894 feet and was down in 56 seconds. And, wonder of wonders, the eggs were undamaged. The jinx was broken; we had our first qualified flight of the day. And with an 84 score, I was in the lead.

Vince's Hexagon is blown apart by an E motor CATO
(Click to enlarge).
#2 streaks off the pad on an F32 motor (Click to enlarge).

Vince followed my launch with Brother of Frankenstein, which also made a qualifying flight. At 41.6 seconds, the time was good, but the altitude was way low, at 656 feet. Still a qualifying flight, and Vince was happy. I was happy too, as I was in first place.

And then came Duane's last flight...

He readied his yellow and purple backup rocket, and after making sure to turn on the altimeter, placed it on the pad. The rocket blasted skyward on its F motor, achieving 878 feet, the best altitude of the day - only 28 feet over the mark. It also turned in a pretty good time - 48.9 seconds, just 2.9 seconds long. At this point, I knew I was doomed. Only a cracked egg could save me, but Duane's rockets feature his super-spiffy molded egg protectors - the rocket could come in ballistic and the damn eggs would still remain unscathed. And I was right; the eggs were undamaged. Duane now had a 39.6 score, twice as good as my 84.5. Now was the moment of decision - would I make another attempt using Nemesis?

2016 Geezer TARC results (Click to enlarge).
The flying bits of Vince's Hexagon swam before my eyes, and once again, I chickened out. The glory of winning would not match the agony of seeing Nemesis blown to bits. She will fly, but only after I sim 2 D12's and 2 C6's - even though it is a 4 motor combo, it will be much safer than flying using those sticks of dynamite Estes calls E motors. Duane can claim bragging rights again this year; I'll get him next time.

Duane Mayer - Geezer TARC champion for the 2015-16
season (Click to enlarge).
Vince Huegele gets the Flying Pig Award for proving you
can qualify with corpses of old kits (Click to enlarge).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ready to fly!

At long last, after battling with a sprained wrist and stormy weather, my 2016 Geezer TARC rockets are painted, decaled, and ready to fly. The red and white Nemesis is my primary bird for this Saturday's launch - a 4 motor cluster, she is also the heaviest TARC rocket I have ever designed. Fully loaded with eggs, altimeter, and motors (two E12's and two C6's), she weighs in at 620 grams, just 30 grams under the limit. However, Open Rocket tells me I should be able to reach the 850 foot altitude goal with just the two E12's, which gives me a little more margin in weight and reduces the "pucker factor" associated with trying to ignite 4 motors simultaneously. I am still nervous about using the E12's, though - they have a relatively high CATO rate.

My 2016 Geezer TARC rockets (Click to enlarge).
The backup is the old #2. He is pretty conventional, with a standard 29mm motor mount. He is also smaller and about 30 grams lighter than his sister. The limited selection of single use motors means that I am going to have to add about 70 grams of weight to keep from majorly overshooting altitude; otherwise, a F is going to put #2 way, way up there.

The launch begins at 10:30 AM this Saturday - it's going to be interesting!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Full production at the rocket factory...

Now that I am done with travel for a bit, I can spend some time building rockets. This is a good thing, because the Geezer TARC launch is just around the corner! The wrist I sprained while in California is still giving me a bit of trouble, but I have managed to get two TARC birds built and into the final stages of finishing. The 4 motor powered Nemesis is ready for her first coat of paint, whereas my backup rocket - appropriately named #2 - is in its first coat of primer. #2 is a pretty conventional TARC design, made of standard BT-80 tubes (2.6" diameter) and uses a single 29 mm motor; he will fly, though I am struggling with the proper motor/weight combination. Weather looks stormy this week, so it will probably go down to the wire as far as getting these rockets all painted and decaled.

From left - #2, Nemesis (in white primer and 2 pieces), Quest Astra
(in back), and Estes Sizzler clone (Click to enlarge).
Joining the TARC rockets in primer is a clone of the old Estes Sizzler (#1906) and a starter kit from Quest, the Astra. I am a big fan of Quest designs, but the kit components can be less than - which is why I would hesitate to use the Astra in a beginning rocket class. The motor tube is flimsy, the body tube has deep spirals, and the laser cut fins are too big to fit in the slots on the tube, requiring a fair amount of sanding. Not much fun for a beginner, especially when you compare it to the BMS School Rocket, or even the venerable Estes Alpha.

Squirrel Works Vulture (from the Squirrel Works web site).
Estes Sizzler in the 1985 catalog (Click to enlarge).
I am also working on a couple of other kits - a Squirrel Works Vulture, which is now ready to have the wood parts sealed and sanded smooth, and the re-release of the Estes Goblin, which I threw together watching Star Trek and Svengoolie last night. It will be ready to go to finishing once I have filleted the fins with wood glue. Building the Goblin has sparked an anticipation of Halloween - I think my next build will be a clone of the old Estes Vampire, to keep the Goblin company. I have the dimensions, and I am pretty sure I have the parts to make a very close replica of this all plastic model,  which was part of the Estes Firing Line series (1973-1976).

Estes Vampire in the 1974 catalog (Click to enlarge).
I did a check of this year's builds against the list I made last October. I have finished the Big Bertha, Beulah, Centuri Micro Probe, Space X Falcon 9, and Scrambler; have not done the Gyroc, S.S. Cestris, Orbital Transport, and the Tiny Tim scale model. 5 out of 9 complete - not too shabby given my rocket ADD. Still have about a month and a half till October, so I may get one or two of the remainder built; you never know.

Lists are only guidelines anyway.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A second try at sponsoring a rocket contest...

Well, I had no entries in my first rocket contest. However, I remain undaunted...  The second contest description has been posted to Ye Olde Rocket Forum (YORF).  This time, I am digging into the kit stash to offer a classic for a prize - the U.S.S. Enterprise from the 1975 catalog!

Here's the contest description:

ORC #2 - Designing for the EAC

EAC ad from 1973 Estes catalog (Click to enlarge).
Back in 1972, the Big E (Estes) established the Estes Aerospace Club (EAC), the “most exciting rocket club on earth.” EAC members could advance skill levels by building Estes kits of increasing complexity; for example, to get to level 3 (Craftsman), you  had to assemble and fly 4 Estes kits other than those used to achieve level 2, with at least 3 being SkiII Level 3 (one had to be a multi-stage rocket). Your level advance was marked by a certificate and a colored thrust bar, which was used to augment the iron on emblem on your shirt. This was a status indicator among rocketeers in my neighborhood; if you didn’t have at least the green thrust bar (Advanced) on your T-shirt, you weren’t a rocketeer.
EAC Firecat (Click to enlarge).
The next best thing about the EAC was the ability to get  exclusive kits - the EAC Viper, and later (in 1974), the Firecat. The Viper was one of my all time favorite rockets, and one of the first models I cloned. The Firecat was a unique target-drone type design featuring an Honest John nose. Unfortunately, there were no EAC specific rockets after this; Estes phased out the club in 1986. A follow-on, the Estes Space Program, started up in 1988, but it did not seem to have the appeal of the old EAC. The Yankee Clipper rocket of the Estes Space Program, while patriotic, did not even begin to approach the coolness of the Viper or the Firecat. So, for many years, I have been wondering what a third EAC rocket would have looked like. Would it have been an exotic starship design? Or perhaps a cluster or multi-stager? Maybe even a boost glider? Who knows?

Which brings me to the point of this contest: Can you design that third rocket, taking into account some of the things a rocket company has to worry about, like parts availability and cost? A exotic design is great, but if it costs a fortune, it may very well not make money. Too elaborate and complex may scare the less experienced rocketeers away, resulting in poor sales, even if the production cost is reasonable. And generating new parts is a pain and adds more cost; better to use parts from the existing inventory. So this, then, is the goal - come up with an awesome looking EAC rocket while minimizing the cost and using only the standard Estes parts available in 1974.

Are you up for the challenge?

The rules:
  1. Design and build a stable rocket powered by one or more 13 mm, 18 mm, or 24 mm motors. This rocket must be constructed only from components available for sale in the 1974 Estes custom parts catalog ( Substitutes may be used, but only if they are exact matches in size and shape to the catalog components. Custom decals may be used. Assign it a skill level based on complexity/difficulty.
  2. Take a “glamour shot” of the rocket when it is completed.
  3. Make at least one flight of the model, marking this flight with pictures (minimum of one pad shot and one showing the rocket lying on the ground (or in a tree) at the end of the flight.
  4. Document the build and the flight on a thread in this category
  5. Only 1 entry per contestant, please. Contest deadline is 11:59 PM Central Daylight Time on October 15, 2015.
How to participate:

a) Send a PM on YORF to Vanel or an email to cookewj [at] stating your intent to enter the contest.
b) Create a thread in this category containing the following items before the contest deadline:
  • Open Rocket or Rocksim design file. Traditional Geezers may submit a paper plan showing all dimensions (including CG/CP locations) and a parts list. Parts list or design file component names must conform to the part numbers in the 1974 custom parts catalog. The rocket’s name and skill level must be part of the submitted design (Use the comments section for the skill level designation if you use Open Rocket or Rocksim). If the rocket features decals, a jpg, png, or pdf of the decal sheet with specified dimensions in inches must also be submitted.
  • A file listing the parts and their costs according to the catalog, and a total cost of the rocket. This file may be a text file, a csv file, an Excel-compatible spreadsheet, or a scan of paper calculations. Note: Decal cost shall be computed according to the following formula, which was derived from a linear fit to the costs of waterslide decals in the custom parts catalog:
               Decal cost (in dollars) = $0.283 + 0.006 x area of decal sheet in inches
  • Post (hopefully multiple posts) documenting the build and flight.
  • The “glamour shot."
  • The two flight images described above (more if you wish, but please, no more than 5).

Design (40 points maximum):
     20 points for Open Rocket file, Rocksim file, or paper plan/parts list (and decal sheet if such are used)
     20 points for minimizing costs, computed according to
               Number of points = (# entries + 1 - cost rank) X 20 / # entries  
               where cost rank is 1 for lowest cost model, 2 for next lowest cost, and so forth.

Documentation (20 points maximum):
     10 points for build and flight documentation thread
     4 points for “glamour shot"
     3 points for pics of rocket on the pad and just after landing
     3 points for image of rocket in powered flight and/or descending via recovery device

Flight (15 points maximum):
     15 points for stable flight

Appeal and complexity (25 points maximum - determined by vote of the YORF membership):
     Number of points = [Sum of (# entries + 1 - voter rank)] X 20 / (# of voters x # entries)
                                     + [# of votes agreeing with skill level x 5 / # of voters]
     where voter rank is 1 for first place, 2 for 2nd, and so forth. The sum is over the # of voters.

Winner is the one whose entry has the most points.

Prize table:
  • $60 eRockets gift certificate 
  • Estes Leviathan 
  • Estes #1275 Starship Enterprise (OOP)
  • Estes Altimeter
  • Semroc Centaur
  • Estes Snitch (OOP)