Sunday, April 5, 2015

My first club launch of 2015 (part 2) - and now comes a little fire...

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I brought 6 rockets to yesterday's launch - my Aerotech Initiator, an Estes Majestic, an Estes Trajector, my Centuri RX-16 clone, an Estes Firebolt, and the Over Easy. Just after we arrived at the field, before any of my birds took flight, there was an issue - an errant chair had slipped in the gear unloading, knocking a fin off my RX-16. I was ticked; it is one thing for a rocket to show the scars of many flights, or to experience a hurtling death against the hard earth, but to suffer damage on the ground through poor handling, that just ain't right. My fault; I'm going to have to devise a better way to transport my mod rocs - throwing them in the back seat of a friend's vehicle is inviting an occasional mishap. Anyway, an application of 5 minute epoxy had the RX-16 ready to fly by late afternoon. It still looks bad, but I will attempt a cosmetic repair over the next few days.

And now, on to my flights...

My Initiator blasts skyward on an F20 White Lightning
motor (Click to enlarge).
The Trajector patiently awaits launch (Click to enlarge).
First up was my Aerotech Initiator. This is one of the oldest rockets in my fleet, dating from the very early 1990's and, though very battered, it is still a reliable flyer. Straight up on an F20-4W, with a gentle landing on the grass some distance from the pad. My thanks to Woody, who fetched it, cutting my walk in half.

Estes Trajector - My first flight was that of an old rocket; my second involved the newest, built in under an hour Friday night. The almost-ready-to-fly (ARF) Trajector flew well on an Estes black powder E16-6 motor, also experiencing a soft landing under its red parachute. One of the rocketeers on the field remarked that it spent more time in the air than I did in the building.

Estes Majestic - Also flying on an E16, the Majestic was majestic going up and serene coming down. Another member of the Estes mid power ARF line, it can be found in many Hobby Lobby stores, where the use of a 40% coupon makes this rocket an irresistible buy to those seeking a cheap mid power kit.

A full rack of rockets. My Majestic is the purple and silver rocket on the right (Click to enlarge).
3 flights, no problems. And then Murphy paid me a visit...

Estes Firebolt - It was supposed to follow the Over Easy, but ended up flying first because of ignitor issues. This rocket was loaded with an Estes E12-6, and did not even clear the rod before a spectacular motor CATO occurred, scattering fire and rocket pieces around the pad. The E12 I used came from a batch that Estes gave to the "Space Warriors" movie filmed at the Space and Rocket Center; Vince and I inherited several as thanks for helping with the rockets in the film. They must have been treated badly before we got them, because they have a 100% CATO rate so far (Vince had one blow up in his Hexagon saucer back in March). After I arrived back at the apartment, I marked those motors as bad - they will not be used, unless I wish to give them as a present to someone I don't like :)

Despite the appearance of catastrophe, the Fireboat suffered a minor zipper in the upper body when the payload section was blasted away. A little paper, CA, and silver mylar tape fixed it right up.

Image sequence showing the Firebolt's E12 motor CATO (Click image to enlarge).

Over Easy - This TARC rocket took 3 tries to get going; Bad ignitor on the first attempt, poor connection on the second. The D12-3 ignited on the third try, but once again there was a motor CATO, littering rocket parts on the field. The motor mount was blown clean through the Over Easy, with the upper centering ring still attached to the shock cord; the rip stop nylon parachute had several large burn holes. Amazingly, the body tube and payload section were unscathed. I constructed a new motor mount last night, and installed it into the rocket this morning. The Over Easy can fly again, though it will be using a different parachute.

The Over Easy erupts in flame halfway up the rod (Click to enlarge).
RX-16 clone - This rocket flew well on a D12-5 (no more CATOs, thank goodness!), but I could not get a connection to the Jolly Logic Altimeter 3 after my phone uploaded a firmware update. I could see the device in my Bluetooth setup, but the Altimeter 3 software would not connect. I may have to pair the altimeter to my phone again. Anyway, good flight with a safe landing. The RX-16 is now in the front of the repair line awaiting new fillets and cosmetic fixes.

Murphy is always present at these launches - in addition to my and Elliot's mishaps, we saw a high powered rocket come in ballistic, burying itself so deep that it took a shovel to dig out the nose cone. A rocket also accidentally launched when the high power pads were being loaded; a short was discovered in one of the relay boxes. No one was hurt, but there may have been some wet pants in the area afterward. These type things just emphasize the need to stay alert at a launch - never become complacent about safety.  Stand when rockets are taking to the air, and keep your eyes on the rocket; though it's very rare, they can come your way.

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