Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Rocket City Blastoff

Last Saturday saw the revival of the Rocket City Blast Off, an annual launch HARA used to host back in the 1980's and 90's. Held at the Old Airport (now John Hunt Park) in Huntsville, the RCBO provided an opportunity for residents of Huntsville to come out and fly rockets without having to look for a field or worry about setting up launch pads. HARA provides the range, complete with launch pads for rockets up to G motor impulse and the appropriate folks to assist in helping people get their birds up in the air. I was the unofficial organizer of this year's launch, and was lucky to get lot of good support from the club and the local chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). The latter was terrific at generating publicity and also managed to get a couple of interesting exhibits, such as suitcase rocket motor demonstrations.

Rocket City Blast Off banner (taken as we were breaking down the range).

Even though I was very busy in the first 3 hours of the launch (which lasted from 10 AM to 3 PM), I did manage to fly 5 rockets:

  • Estes Porta Pot Shot - The flying porta potty produced a fairly nice flight on a C6-3. Launding on the defunct runway asphalt was a bit rough, but no damage.
  • Estes Spirit - One of the new ARTF (almost ready to fly) kits, this patriotic rocket flew on a B6-4. Landed in the grass under a fully deployed parachute.

My Spirit leaves the pad on a B6-4 (click to enlarge).

  • Estes Red Max - This battered veteran took to the air once again on a B6-4. Nice soft landing on the grass.
  • Estes Snitch - Nothing but a C motor in this flying saucer - it's very draggy. The C6-0 took it to maybe 100 feet before it fell to the asphalt.
  • Estes Big Bertha clone - This was the last flight for this 10 year old bird. Launched on a C6-3, it took my keychain camera up to about 250 feet or so; unfortunately, the parachute did not deploy, resulting in the body folding up like an accordion when the rocket slammed into the pavement. The camera survived, but the rocket is not worth repairing - in addition to the crumpled body tube, the motor mount was also shoved forward into what's left of the body tube. The flight video is below - as you can tell, the landing was a bit rough :/

Despite the loss of the Bertha, it was a very, very good launch. There were over 120 flights, many made by a bunch of cub scouts who came out to fly their just-built rockets. A lot of fun was had by all, and we agreed that we must have an RCBO in the coming year. I hope it becomes an annual event, just like its predecessor. It would be a nice way to end the flying season of each year!

Only real problems with John Hunt Park are the numerous power lines
leading to the fields and facilities. The RCBO saw only one victim; unfortunately
it was a very nice Estes AMRAAM (click to enlarge).

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