Saturday, June 25, 2016

A very hot rocket launch...

Today we (Chuck and I) conducted a small rocket launch at the annual Boeing Shrimp Boil, held at the Easter Posey Recreation Area on the Arsenal. Even though Redstone is the home of many Army missiles and Marshall Space Flight Center, launching model rockets is verboten there without special permission. Chuck managed to skillfully navigate through the bureaucratic hordes, which required a fair amount of paperwork, including the dimensions, gross lift-off weight, impulse class, and estimated altitude for each rocket slated to be flown. It came down close to the wire, as we received permission to fly yesterday, barely 24 hours before the event. I have to give kudos to Chuck - a less patient person would have given up or passed the buck back to Boeing.

Today's launch site (Click to enlarge).
Chuck picked me up at 2 PM, and we arrived at the Easter Posey rec area around 2:30. We set up the range - 3 racks of 3 rods with the appropriate banks and the HARA launch controller - in a small clear area surround by trees and power lines; the Tennessee River was just 50 yards to the south. It's a good thing this was a small launch - the heat was stifling, with a temp of 97. Combined with the Alabama humidity, we labored in a "feels like" temperature of over 100. Needless to say, we scurried for some shade as soon as the range was complete, drinking bottles of nice cool water as we prepped the eight Sky Duster and Fat Jax rockets bought by Boeing for the kiddos at the event. Given the smallness of the clear area, these birds would fly on 1/2 A3 motors and, being lightweight, would use "nose blow" recovery.

Chuck helps the kids load their rockets (Click to enlarge).
The launch began at 4 PM, with the kids' rockets taking to the air first. All landed safely fairly close to the pad; I was amazed at the energy of the children, who eagerly chased after the rockets in the oppressive heat. Young 'uns are tough! Our rockets followed next - I flew an Alpha 3 on an A8-3, a Snitch saucer on a C6, a venerable Estes Porta-Pot Shot (flying model of a porta potty) on a C6, and a Estes Color the Sky Pink Crayon on a B6-4. Chuck flew a red, white, and blue Make-It-Take-It rocket on an A motor. We then loaded up the stars of the show - A Real Space Rockets 1/92 scale model of the Boeing CST100 capsule perched on top of a ULA Atlas rocket, and a Dr. Zooch SLS model built by the Boeing guys. The Zooch SLS flew first, on a C6-5; it put in a very nice straight flight, but unfortunately became the day's sacrifice to the Rocket Gods when it landed in the top of a tall tree.  The CST-100/Atlas flew well on a C11 motor, and I gave it to the Boeing folk to commemorate the event. A rush job, it was not one of my best works - the model looked ok, but the capsule paint job left a bit to be desired as I suck with a paint brush.

A Fat Jax clears the rod (Click to enlarge).
After all rockets had flown, Chuck and I started closing up shop, but I began to feel nauseous from the heat and had to sit down. He completed stowing the gear in his SUV, and after drinking some more water, we headed home. It is very mportant to stay hydrated during summer launches, especially if you are old and chubby like me - way too easy to get overheated.

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