Saturday, March 7, 2015

Clear skies - finally!

Yesterday, the clouds lifted and the Sun started to melt the ice. Today, it warmed up into the low 50's under sunny blue skies - a perfect day for much-needed TARC practice. Duane and I journeyed to the nearby field around noon to meet up with three teams - Liberty Middle's Team Orion (7th graders) and Team Centrons (8th grade), and the Falcon Rocketeers. The field was not in the best shape - muddy, with lots of puddles from the ice melts.  However, there was some higher, drier ground where we set up the launch pads. Duane had to go to work for a bit (to make up for Wednesday/Thursday's ice event), so he headed out soon after the pads were set up. This left Woody and I to provide the Falcon Rocketeers with any guidance they might need; Nate had the two Liberty teams well in hand.

The launch kicked off with Nate's yellow Satellite Interceptor, which emitted a nice orange fireball just after leaving the rod - the Estes motor had cato'ed, but fortunately there was little damage to the rocket. A Balsa Machining School Rocket was launched next to test the winds, which were light out of the southwest. The flight went well, landing about 50 yards from the pads. I followed with my Estes Citation Patriot clone on a B6-2 (yeah, I know, I'm a chicken for not using a C motor). Low flight to maybe 200 feet and a soft recovery on the grass. 

My Citation Patriot clone takes to the air on a B6-2 (Click to enlarge).
Next up was a Woody Bevill scratch build (you can see it on the ground to the left of the tripod in the pic above), flying on a G79. Woody has not had much luck with this motor - 6 have failed (some fantastically) while powering his other vehicles. No one had brought a launch pad that could handle a  1/4" rod, so he simply jammed one into the wet ground, meaning that the rocket would literally launch from the "ground up." Not normally safe, but there was no chance of a fire given the soggy field. As expected, the G79 had issues - but no fireballs, no explosive rupturing of the casing. It simply had trouble getting going, as you can see from the video below.  This turned out to be the rocket's last flight, as the nylon shock cord zippered the tube beyond repair at ejection. Woody took advantage of the turn of events to disassemble the rocket and show me his neat removable shock cord mount.

The TARC rockets took to the air after Woody's flight. There were 11 flights, with the best score  of 15 achieved by Liberty Team Centron. Their rocket, the Orange Crush, was by far the best performer of the day, achieving altitudes of 791, 807, and 725 feet. Unfortunately, the last one was made during the one and only qualification attempt of the day. Being 75 feet shy of the 800 foot goal and a short duration of 38.15 seconds resulted in a 106 score, far worse than the 15 and 23 achieved on their practice flights. No worries, though - they still have two more qualification attempts.

Liberty's Orange Crush leaves the pad riding purple flame (Click to enlarge).
Liberty's Team Orion was consistently low in altitude with their two rockets, Pluto and Jupiter IV. These blue rockets just couldn't seem to grab enough air, even on F impulse. Jupiter IV flew highest, reaching 578 feet on an F20; its previous flight had a peak of only 407 feet, caused by yet another malfunctioning composite motor. That F motor "chuffed" on the pad for a few seconds before building up enough thrust to propel the rocket skyward. Poor Pluto couldn't best the bigger Jupiter - after a first flight to 561 feet, he came apart on the rail when the motor broke retention and shot clean through the body.

Team Orion's Jupiter IV finally clears the pad on a balky F motor (Click to enlarge).
Pluto comes apart on the rail as the Falcon Rocketeers look on (Click to enlarge).
The Falcon Rocketeers were not idle, putting in 4 flights with their "Roll Tide" and "War Eagle" rockets. The red and white Roll Tide had trouble reaching the goal posts; its highest altitude was 769 feet on an F24. The blue and white (?) War Eagle did a little better - its first flight peaked at 849 feet, whereas the second one was a bit low at 758 feet. Like Liberty Team Orion, they need to do a bit more work on their rockets.

Falcon Rocketeers' Roll Tide leaves a lot of smoke behind as it clears the rail (Click to enlarge).

The blue and white War Eagle streaks to 849 feet (Click to enlarge).
There were some scattered model rocket flights in between the TARC launches. Nate flew his Estes Snitch on an A8 to about 30 feet, and I launched my Estes Patriot semi-scale model on a C6-5. It got some nice altitude and landed about 50 yards away. I need to man up and fly more C's! My last launch was the Estes rocket used at Space Camp, the SCRV (Space Camp Research Vehicle) on a B6-4. It carried my Micropeak altimeter, but I stupidly left the thing on and the data got overwritten before I could download it into my computer. Got to remember that this altimeter has an on/off switch.

Nate's Snitch on an A8 (Click to enlarge).

Semi-scale Patriot blasts off on a C6-5 (Click to enlarge).
The SCRV's B6-4 motor ignites as the Liberty teams watch (Click to enlarge).
I just got an email from Duane - more TARC flights tomorrow. The push to get decent qualification scores before the end of the month deadline has begun... It looks like I'm gonna be busy the next couple of weeks!

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