Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A great Memorial Day weekend!

A high power rocket blasts off from the away pad as racks of smaller rockets await their turn (Click to enlarge).
Well, the National Association of Rocketry's National Sport Launch (NSL) 2016 has come and gone... It was quite the event, spanning Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, with rocketeers as far away as Wisconsin and Germany in attendance - all with rockets to fly! The preliminary count indicates that there were 595 flights during this year's NSL, 2 of which were mine. I probably should have flown more, but HARA, Nashville's MC squared, and Georgia's SOAR were hosting the launch, which meant plenty of work for all. My duty was to take in the launch and capture a lot of pictures so I can write the launch story for Sport Rocketry magazine. A pretty nice and fun job!

Range Safety Officers hard at work (Click to enlarge).
Since I am writing an article, I am not going to go into much detail about NSL here. However, it would be negligent not to write something, so I would like to share a few favorite memories from the past few days.

The PemTech tent, home to some mighty cool kits (Click to enlarge).
Meeting the PemTech folks - Layne and Kristine Pemberton are fantastic folks who have a terrific rocket company specializing in retro and exotic birds. I spent some time at their tent lusting after the offerings and got to witness the flights of some potential new releases. Naturally, I ended up buying a few kits, including a 18mm model of the Space Ark from "When Worlds Collide." Looking forward to building it!

Leo Nutz launches his Marauder (Click to enlarge).Bob Kaplow's Purple People Eater lifts off
(Click to enlarge),
Seeing Leo Nutz fly some unusual low power rockets - Leo is from Germany, and I have been following his internet posts about his home brew altimeter for many moons. It is a fabulous piece of work, and I got to see a version fly in a small, mini motor powered Estes Elliptic II - the world's smallest dual deploy rocket! He also brought along a 1970's vintage Estes Coldpower convertible Marauder, which he flew Sunday. Coldpower rockets were powered by freon, which is banned today, so Leo used airbrush propellant as a substitute. The Marauder flew well, achieving an altitude of a couple hundred feet.

Rusty Ward shows off an upscale Xarconian Destroyer
(Click to enlarge).
Mark Burdick and Whitney Richards compare old
school rockets (Click to enlarge).
Hanging with other rocketeers - I got to meet the infamous Bob Kaplow, noted for his "Kaplow clip" motor retention and propensity for flying strange model rockets. His "Purple People Eater" put in a pretty interesting flight. I also spent considerable time looking at Rusty Ward's collection of upscale Estes rockets - I especially like the upscaled "Asteroid Hunter"  and "Scorpius." Rusty is a master craftsman, as you can tell from the pic. I can only hope to build models that good looking. Introduced myself to a few rocketeers from the Wisconsin WHOOSH section, who brought along a considerable number of birds easier to fly. WHOOSH is one of NAR's more active sections, and it was cool to meet some of the rocketeers who post in that club's internet forum. Rocketeers are a friendly bunch, and I really enjoyed talking with those who came from near and far to fly on the Manchester field.

Scott Goebel from WHOOSH hooks up his tower launched, E-powered Saturn V (Click to enlarge).
Lots of Nike Smokes - Big ones, medium ones, and little ones, flying on Saturday and Sunday.

An E motor CATO damages Rusty Ward's upscale
Starship Vega (Click to enlarge).
My Quasar leaves the rod on a B6-4 (Click to enlarge).
Estes E motor CATOs - Also a fair number of these, unfortunately.

Art Woodling's level 3 flight - Art achieved his level 3 certification on Monday, flying a huge M powered rocket named "Baby Girl." It performed beautifully, generating excitement from liftoff to landing, which was a spectacular splashdown in the pond down range. Fortunately, no damage to the rocket or to the electronics, though Art did say that he was not allowed to bring it into the house because it smelled like swamp. Here's a vid of the flight taken by Max Tohline:

And that's just a few bits from NSL - you can find out more by visiting the NSL 2016 Facebook page or googling it.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Time for Geezer TARC!

Given that Duane and I are already working on designs, I thought it prudent to post the rules for the  2017 Geezer TARC competition. Have to get things in writing, you know.

The rules are the same as those for the 2017 TARC challenge with the following exceptions:
  • Geezer TARC begins with the announcement of the 2017 rules in May and ends with the contestants’ rockets being launched at a single event (date TBD, but well before school starts in late summer).
  • Each contestant may enter up to two rockets. These rockets may not fly before the official launch date, and the score shall be determined by the first flight of each on that date. The contestant's score shall be the better of the two flights, or the score of one flight if only one rocket is entered.
  • Any commercial altimeter may be used to determine altitude. However, reflights are not allowed if there is an altimeter malfunction; in this case, the flight will be disqualified (So choose a reliable altimeter). As per the 2017 rules, the rocket may contain only one altimeter, though the use of a Jolly Logic Chute Release is permitted.
  • There is only one rocket per design, and there are no test or sub-scale flights permitted for the design. Its merit will be judged solely by the rocket’s performance at the contest launch. If two rockets are entered, they must be of substantially different design - different number of motors, fins, or something major - an inch shorter or taller does not constitute a substantial difference, nor does the same design at a different scale (e.g., BT-70 versus BT-80 versions).
Let the games begin!

BTW, I have finished my second TARC design - the Vengeance. This BT-60/70 beauty is powered by a single E12, and shall serve as backup to the Agamemnon.

The Vengeance (Click to enlarge).

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

End of an era...

Yesterday, my friend Gordon and owner of Sandman Decals/Excelsior Rocketry announced he was being forced to close the decal side of his business. The Alps printers that have been employed over the past many years to produce Excelsior's quality decals have finally broken down, despite sending a couple of units off to Japan for repair. These printers have been greatly prized in the rocket community because of their ability to print white and metallic decals, which ink jets/laser printers can't do. Unfortunately Alps production ended years ago, and they are hard to find at a reasonable price, even on eBay. So when the print heads on Gordy's printers went belly up, it took the decal business with it.

Which makes me very sad... If you look at many of my postings on Ye Olde Rocket Forum and Facebook, you will see a familiar line - "parts by Semroc, decals by Excelsior." eRockets still produces most of the Semroc line of parts, but decals by Excelsior, unmatched in quality and service, has gone away. An era has ended, and frankly, it's now gonna be tougher to clone kits from the past. I can only do so much with a color laser, and my drawing skills positively suck.


The only bright spot is that Gordon still makes custom nose cones and adapters. Like the decals, these are of superb quality. So if you need a wood part, drop Gordon an email - you'll be extremely pleased with the final product.

Thanks for everything Excelsior! You will be missed.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The 2017 Geezer TARC season begins...

The 2016 TARC Nationals were held yesterday up in Virginia, with two Alabama teams placing in the top 20. Russellville took the #9 spot, and Lincoln High School came in at #16 - a big congrats to them both! Alabama is becoming a regular at placing in the top ten, which is something I definitely like seeing.

The rules for the 2017 TARC season were also announced last evening, and I must confess to being a little psychic here. I told Duane that it would be nice if 2017 TARC forced the use of two different diameter body tubes, and sure enough, that's what happened. For a lot of the teams this will totally preclude the use of last year's design, which is very good - nice to have a little variety! Anyway, here is a short summary of the 2017 rules:

  • The altitude goal is 775 feet, and the payload section must be down in 41-43 seconds.
  • The rocket must be greater than 25.6 inches long, and must consist of two sections of at least 5.9" in exposed length. The lower section containing the motor must not be greater than 1.65" in diameter (Estes BT-60 tube).
  • The payload section shall carry one large hen's egg (55-61 grams weight) and must recover by parachute separate from the rest of the model (which can use any type of recovery device). The rocket can contain only ONE altimeter - Perfectflite APRA, PNUT, or Firefly - which must be located in the payload section.
  • The rocket must be painted and/or covered with adhesive wraps.
  • 80 newton seconds or less total motor impulse (F class or lower).

The release of the 2017 rules officially kicks off the Geezer TARC competition, and I know Duane is already hard at work on a design using Open Rocket. Not to be outdone, I too got to work, and have an initial design completed. Payload section is minimum diameter (ST-18 tube) and the sustainer uses a BT-60; if all goes well, I should be able to achieve altitude with room to spare on a cluster of 3 C6-5 motors. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Agamemnon:

Agamemnon - My initial 2017 Geezer TARC design (Click to enlarge).
So what will be challenging in this year's competition? I think it will be a) getting both recovery devices to deploy successfully and b) choosing a motor that will not overshoot the altitude - the F's that most teams used last year have waaaay too much oomph.

Time to starting gathering some parts...