Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Destroyer of X-Wings...

Folks gather round the HARA table at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Click to enlarge).
Yesterday, the Jurassic TARC and Hope Rising TARC teams practiced at Pegasus field, but I was not there. HARA has a new arrangement with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to occasionally perform rocket demos, exhibits, and trainings on the museum grounds, and yesterday - USSRC Boy Scout Day - was one of those. Daniel, Allen, and I arrived a little before 11 AM, and we set up our display and my launch pad in the rocket park, near where the old Saturn V used to lay on its side (It's now safely inside the Davidsson Center at the USSRC, refurbished and protected from the elements). Unlike past Saturdays, the weather was not favorable for flying rockets - gloomy and cold, with a wind out of the north and the looming threat of rain. But, being veteran rocketeers, we decided to make a go of it anyway, hoping to put a few in the air for the benefit of those wandering around the rocket park.

Allen explains rocketry basics (Click to enlarge).
I had brought 3 "sacrificial lambs" to fly - my hardy Estes Snitch saucer,  a Space Camp Research Vehicle (I figured this would be appropriate), and one of the 1997 13mm Estes X-Wings. The Snitch flew several times, amusing spectators with its looks and by never landing on its wire legs. It was kind of battered after the fifth impact on the asphalt - a leg pylon had cracked and there was a break in the plastic above another pylon. I decided to retire it for the day, before another landing rendered it unrepairable. The X-Wing made two flights, both on Estes A3-4T motors. In both cases, the engine pod failed to eject, resulting in the rocket plummeting to the ground. On the first flight, it fell horizontally and landed on a patch of grass, resulting in no damage. However, on the second the pilot must have kicked in the light speed engines on the way down, because the X-Wing shrieked straight in and smashed into the asphalt, sending pieces flying everywhere. The rocket is a goner, much like its bigger brother in 2005, who suffered a similar fate at a launch in north Georgia. I was left wondering if I am secretly allied with the Dark Side of the Force, because I sure am tough on X-Wings.

Daniel hooks up his Estes Gauchito (Click to enlarge).The shattered remains of my X-Wing (Click to enlarge).
Daniel flew his Estes Gauchito - one of the old X-prize kits - on an A10. It too had a recovery failure, and the impact with the asphalt broke a couple of fins. Allen flew his Sonoma a couple of times before landing damage forced him to retire the rocket. The bravest of us all, he dared to fly his Jolly Logic Altimeter 2 in the model, surrounded by rocket eating trees and a harsh, unforgiving asphalt landing surface. The altimeter survived, registering both flights as topping out above 150 feet (I forget the exact numbers). In contrast, I was a chicken, opting to cut my losses by not flying the SCRV.
Allen and Vince talk rockets at the HARA display (Click to enlarge).
The folks in the rocket park enjoyed the launches, especially the kids, some of whom got to press the launch button. Daniel's Jayhawk and Little Joe II rockets got quite a bit of attention, as their large size and beautiful detailing could not be missed by those passing by. Daniel is a true master craftsman, and I can only hope that any high power rockets I may build in the future look 1/10 as good as his. Around 12:30, Vince arrived along with some sprinkles of rain, and we decided to move the display indoors by the Space Station exhibit. I was secretly glad, as the asphalt had claimed enough victims for the day. Or maybe I was being a bit hard on the asphalt, because one could argue that the damage would not have happened if the recovery systems had deployed - maybe the fault lay with the rocketeers more than the environment.

Daniel chats with an interested family (Click to enlarge).
The next hour and a half saw Vince, Daniel, and Allen chatting up rockets to those that passed by our table. The crowd was not the biggest I have seen at the USSRC - I'm sure that the icky weather was a factor - but we did have folks stop and show interest. I was some distance away from the display, sitting down nursing my sore knee, which has a minor stress fracture. At 2 PM, we packed things into Daniel's truck and headed to our respective abodes. All-in-all, it was not a bad day - we got to fly some rockets and sparked some interest in rocketry, which more than offset the model damage. I do think that we need to build some F/G powered saucers for these demos, as they produce a lot of noise and smoke, and are robust enough to take the landings on asphalt. And maybe we need to take a refresher course in parachute packing as well.


  1. What is your knee stressing about? I have a semi-successful history with the X-Wings, having flown the legendary "fighter jet with a missing pincher" at the 2013 NARAM. Subsequent flights with another X-Wing, the later all plastic bird that was battle damaged anyway, were not remotely successful except for the cryptic messages in the smoke trail. I had R2 ready for battle today, but couldn't shake my old bones into making the trip to the field, despite the sunshine and overall decent conditions. Too cold for me, even with the wadding packed and the engines plugged in.

  2. That X-Wing looks salvageable to me!☺