Sunday, April 27, 2014

Little Beth flies again!

Last night Nate messaged me about a launch today at the Harvest horse farm - The Falcon Rocketeers were going to get a little more practice before the TARC Nationals on May 10. With bad weather in the forecast, I had my doubts, but morning saw the Sun shining and a moderate wind, so I contacted him for a pickup around 11:40 am. No sense in wasting a chance to fly a couple of rockets! The chosen victims were my ever reliable clone of the Estes Big Bertha, which was loaded with a C6-3 motor, and the recently repaired Little Beth X-2. Little Beth was 0-2 in terms of successful flights, and I figured today might be her day. She was loaded with 2 B4-2 motors and a B6-0 in the booster, and a B6-4 in the upper stage. I also strapped a keychain camera to the upper stage - I was going to get video whether she sailed to the heights of glory or plunged to another devastating disaster.

Pink Floyd is prepped for flight as a small crowd looks on
We arrived on the field just after noon. The sky had already begun to darken and the wind was picking up - rain was not far away. The Falcon Rocketeers had set up the range, and were in the process of prepping Pink Floyd. There was a nice modroc launch pad made by Duane and belonging to one of the team's dad, so we left my pad near the truck and hauled the rest of the stuff over to the launch area. Nate had brought his Estes Satellite Interceptor to fly and it didn't take too much effort for me to convince him that a B6-4 motor was a better choice than a C6-5, given today's wind. He did want the rocket back, after all.

My Big Bertha on the pad

I launched my Big Bertha with the C motor first - she achieved an altitude of a few hundred feet (as the name implies, she is a bit on the heavy side) and landed undamaged about 50 yards away. Nate launched his Satellite Interceptor, which drifted a bit farther. He was visibly relieved when it missed the roof of one of the horse barns by a few yards; for a moment, it looked like he might have to find a ladder. Pink Floyd had perfect time of 49 seconds on his flight, but was a little low, at about 760 feet. The strengthening wind was causing a loss in altitude and a lot of walking; Nate was offering the kids a couple of bucks to retrieve his rockets (which I thought was an excellent idea, btw).

It was finally time to fly Little Beth. I inserted the Quest Q2 igniters (which are great for clusters like this), set her on the pad, hooked up the launch controller, and turned on the camera. After a short warning to the crowd that this was a "Heads up!" flight, I gave the usual 5 second countdown and pressed the fire button. All 3 motors on the booster came to life, and she streaked off the pad. To my immense satisfaction, staging occurred less than a second later, and Little Beth continued her path upward until the ejection charge popped the parachute. Success! The jinx had been broken, and all that remained was to recover the rocket. The booster was easy, as it was about 25 yards out. However, the upper stage drifted northeast the full length of the field, and I am very grateful to the Falcon Rocketeer and his dad who retrieved it for me. It saved me quite a walk!

Green Hornet also took to the sky today, for once out performing the more popular Pink Floyd. He was a little over altitude, at 850 feet, but landed with a perfect time of 47 seconds. I am excited for this Falcon team - they have a shot at really doing well at Nationals! The sky had gone from dark to ominous, but Nate managed to get in another flight of his Satellite Interceptor, also on a B6-4; it landed just about 30 yards away. We packed up and managed to load the vehicles just before the rain started.

As it turns out, the Little Beth video was rather disappointing - the camera did not catch staging well, and most of the sequence is spent looking at the parachute; next time I will have to pay more attention to the camera pointing. Nonetheless, here's the Little Beth flight video for those interested (Yes, I know there is a hole in the parachute):

And a few stills:

Leaving the pad behind
Booster begins to fall away… That's a happy me down below
Smoke trails as the Little Beth climbs. You can see the booster's trail
separate from the upper stage's track
The parachute deploys
A gentle descent under grey skies

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