Sunday, September 6, 2015

Yesterday's HARA launch...

Saturday marked the next-to-last or last club launch in Manchester for 2015; I'm betting that it will be the last, because the sod farm folks were already re-sodding the northern part of the field. Once this gets fully underway, we will be unable to launch there until March, when the grass is grown. Nonetheless, it was difficult to get my carcass out of bed at 6:30 AM, especially after a busy week at work. But I did manage to get moving and drag my stuff outside to meet Duane at 7:30. The two hour drive to the field was normal and uneventful; I was impressed by the efficiency of the Winchester Hardee's staff in handling a very large morning crowd - we got our biscuits within a couple of minutes of ordering.

A rack of rockets ready to fly (Click to enlarge).
I think the best word to describe this launch would be work. HARA had the range duty, and Chuck was already there unloading the trailer when we arrived. I did my customary setting up of the low power pads, leaving the mid and high power stuff to the others. We were a bit under staffed, so the range was not ready until 10:15, about 15 minutes behind schedule. This would not be a problem, as the crowd of attendees was about medium for a club launch; no one was in particular hurry to fly. The weather looked great, with a light wind out of the southeast - for once blowing AWAY from the trees. Chuck gave the flyers' briefing, and we were off to the races...

A successful level 2 certification flight begins (Click to enlarge).
Just a few high power rockets would take to the skies. Art flew the largest rocket with some fancy electronics to over 4000 feet on a J motor, Tracy certified Level 2 on a J, and Keith Nyman flew his Laika on an I239 Blue Thunder motor; the rest of the high power flights used H impulse. One gentleman put an H in a 38mm minimum diameter rocket, which got some air, and then stuck an H400 into the same rocket. It streaked off the pad like a bullet, and I did not see it until it landed near the road about a hundred yards away. Another H flight netted a young rocketeer a Jr. Level 1 certification. That was about it for high power.

A red and black Leviathan lifts off (Click to enlarge).An E motor suffers a nozzle blow out
(Click to enlarge).
We had lots of mid power flights; there were several Leviathans flying on F's and G's. The Leviathan is not available from Estes any more, but it is a very popular rocket on the flight line. Duane flew his Goth Geezer TARC rocket 3 times, finally reaching an altitude of 867 feet, about 17 feet above the 850 foot goal. However, it was a good thing he substituted dummy weight instead of eggs, because the shock cord broke in each of the last two flights, perhaps cut by the end of the brass tube used in the shock cord mount. An Estes Silver Comet from the 1990's flew twice on E motors, and there were many others I cannot recall.

3 Crayon rocket drag race (Click to enlarge).
The low power pads were the most active; a 3 crayon rocket drag race and one involving 2 Estes mini motor powered ready-to-fly models delighted the crowd. The crayon drag race was especially colorful, and those crayons would individually fly several more times in the morning. Brenna Nyman flew a 3 stage mini Comanche-3, which had an issue with the upper stage, and a Red Max. Lots of other model rockets took to the air, but I was not paying much attention, being tied up with RSO (Range Safety Officer) and LCO (Launch Control Officer) duties.

Brenna's Mini Comanche-3 leaves the rod (Click to enlarge).The first stage falls away from the Comanche-3
(Click to enlarge).

A RSO is the person who checks the rocket for stability and workmanship; he or she makes sure the rocket has the fins glued on, has a recovery device, that the motor is installed properly, and that the flight card is complete. If the rocket is not a kit, the RSO also checks the rocket's stability, visually verifying that the center of gravity is forward of the center of pressure. Finally, the RSO assigns the model a pad number. The LCO is the individual who controls the range, makes the launch announcements over the PA system, ensures the range is clear, and does the actual launching. At past launches, I have performed one or the other of these duties; I took stints as both yesterday. I actually like these roles, but it does take time away from flying and picture taking. However, range duty is a necessary evil if your club is running the launch.

My Falcon 9 blasts off on its first flight (Click to enlarge).Nemesis' dual E12's leave behind a trail of smoke
(Click to enlarge).
The net upshot was that I only got to fly 3 of the 6 rockets I had brought to the launch. The Quest Astra, Balsa Machining School Rocket, and Beulah would have to fly another day, while the Space X Falcon 9, Nemesis, and Probe-18 made their inaugural flights. In my last post, I characterized Estes E motors as "sticks of dynamite"; that was not true at this launch, where all 3 E12's I flew performed superbly. It was probably a bit too much motor for the Falcon 9, which got way, way up there; I had a very long walk to recover that one, which gently descended under a black 18" nylon parachute. Nemesis flew to 878 feet on her 2 E12 motor cluster, proving that you can achieve this year's TARC goal by clustering Estes black powder motors.  My scratch-built Probe-18 model soared to 322 feet on a B6-4; however, the payload section carrying the two altimeters snapped back into one of the fins, ripping the body tube. Notice that I did not say "knocking the fin off" - the double glue joint technique produces a very strong bond; the fin will break or the body tube will fail before the fin comes loose. I am still trying to decide whether to repair the damage (which will conserve parts) or build a new sustainer (which will probably be quicker).

Probe-18 heads into the clouds from Pad 10 (Click to enlarge).

Probe-18 altitude profile as reported by the Micropeak altimeter. The major dip is caused by the B6-4
motor's "shotgun" ejection charge (Click to enlarge).
Around 1:30, pop-up thunder storms began showing up in the local radar, and 15 minutes or so later, the sound of thunder convinced us it was time to go. Everyone pitched in to break down the range, and we had the trailer loaded by 2:15. Rain had started to fall, bringing to an end the last HARA Manchester club launch of the season. Even if there is a launch next month, it will be the Music City Missile Club's job to run the range.

Which means I will get to focus on flying...

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