Saturday, August 16, 2014

A not-so-agonizing defeat

Today was Geezer TARC.

And I lost. Duane is THE man for this year's TARC season.

But I am not perturbed. Any day that sees rockets flown is a good day, and several birds took to the air this morning. It was a great day to fly, and I, Duane, Nate, the kids and parents who came out to watch had a good time on a green field in great weather. Liberty Middle School kids who are thinking about doing TARC for the first time got to experience what a TARC launch is like. Who can complain about that?

Now for the details…

We arrived at the Harvest horse farm right on time at 10 AM, and quickly set up the tent and pads. About 8 Liberty and former Falcon Rocketeer kids showed up, along with their parents; Nate was there as well, but brought no rocket to fly (slacker). I was thrilled with the turnout, especially the kids - it's always nice to have a recovery team to chase down the rockets.

First up was one of my Alpha III's on a B6-4 to test the winds. It reached about 400 feet and drifted a bit to the northeast. The drift was not much, which gave us confidence that we would miss the evil rocket eating trees off in that direction (They had claimed my TARC rocket and $70 altimeter last year). The winds established, I somewhat nervously set the Bullpup 1 on the pad; it would be the first competition rocket to take to the air. After giving the standard 5 second countdown, I pressed the button of Duane's controller and watched Bullpup 1 streak skyward under the power of 2 Estes D12-5 motors. The up part was beautiful - straight and high; you could tell that it was close to the altitude mark from the ground. I only wish the down part had gone as well; the payload section's parachute tangled, resulting in a very fast descent at about 43 miles per hour. It hit the ground with a sickening thump after only 22 seconds in the air, far short of the 46 second goal. The raw hen's egg inside the payload section was obviously a goner, but I waited until the recovery crew brought back the sustainer before listening to the altimeter beeping out the peak altitude - 855 feet (or so I thought - analysis of the altimeter data showed that the rocket actually reached 867 feet), which was not bad. Only 55 feet high on a first flight.

Bullpup 1 on the pad (click to enlarge).
Then it came time to open the payload section, and it was as I had feared. The egg was shattered; not even the saran wrap I had wrapped around it was able to prevent yolk and shell fragments from covering the inside of the section. And not just the payload part - yolk had also flowed into the altimeter tube, coating my Perfectflite altimeter in a yellow gooey mess. Fortunately, I was able to clean things up (mostly) with paper towels. Bullpup 1 is ready to fly again at another launch.

Flight 1, broken egg. Disqualified. Things were not looking good.

Duane launched his yellow and black beast on an Aerotech F32 (His description, not mine. He described today's launch as my "beauties" versus his "beasts"). His rocket soared to 862 feet (the best altitude of the day, it would later turn out), and the payload section landed safely 56 seconds after liftoff. At 94, this was the winning TARC score of the day.

Duane's yellow and black "beast". Today's winner (Click to enlarge).
Flight 2, 94 score. Duane in the lead.

One of the Falcon Rocketeer's had brought a couple of rockets to fly, and he launched a Rocketarium Witchcraft on a B motor. It put in a nice flight, but ended up landing on top of one of the horse barns. Nate came to rescue by texting the owner, who said he would recover the rocket and return it to us the next time we fly at the field. The rocketeer then launched a scratch build, which also flew well, if you do not count the fact it came in without deploying the chute. Fortunately, there was little damage to the rocket. That young man and I had much in common today - we could not get our recovery devices to work right.

Duane's brown and silver BT-70 rocket made TARC flight 3, powered by an Aerotech E15. Altitude was a little high and time a little long, but it ejected the motor during flight, resulting in a disqualification. I followed with Der Eggcracker on the final TARC flight. It flew a bit too good (over performance issues, maybe?), soaring to 1047 feet on an Aerotech E20. The payload section parachute deployed fully, landing safely after 70 seconds, but the sustainer parachute tangled. The rocket gods smiled upon me though, for even though its landing was a bit hard, there was no damage. Der Eggcracker did not live up to its name, for the egg was in perfect shape, giving me an embarrassingly high qualifying score of 339. I think I would have preferred a disqualification.

Flight 3, motor kicked. Disqualified.
Flight 4, 339 score. Qualified, but sucky to the max.

Duane's BT-70 TARC rocket (on left) and Der Eggcracker (click to enlarge).
Geezer TARC was over, and I congratulated Duane on his victory. He, however, was not content to leave things be, and flew his BT-70 rocket again on an E20. It chuffed on the pad, and flew off at angle to the southeast; not exactly what was hoped for. I closed out the day with a flight of my Big Bertha on a C6-3, to test out a new keychain camera I purchased at Southern Thunder. Here's the flight video:

This launch was a lot of fun, and Duane and I agreed it should an annual thing. Perhaps next year we can persuade others to join us. That would be exciting indeed!

P.S. For those of you who like flight details, here are plots of the altimeter data from Bullpup 1 and Der Eggcracker's flights:

Bullpup 1 altimeter data (Click to enlarge).

Der Eggcracker altimeter data (click to enlarge).

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