Saturday, February 11, 2017

Getting ahead of the rain...

Jurassic TARC readies one of their rockets for flight (Click to enlarge).
There was considerable doubt earlier this week as to whether the scheduled Saturday TARC practice at Pegasus field would take place. The Weather Channel and other online sources placed the rain chances anywhere between 20-40%, with winds 10+ miles per hour out of the southwest; local forecasters gave a more favorable outlook, with scattered showers and a rain chance around 20%. Sure enough, the day began overcast and breezy, but radar showed no rain anywhere near Huntsville - the launch was a go. It was a good call, for the day turned out to be pretty good for rocket flying, despite the wind. However, the gloomy overcast made for sucky pictures, so please excuse the few accompanying this post.

The Falcon Rocketeers load their rebuilt rocket onto the pad (Click to enlarge).
Members of Jurassic TARC were already on the field when Duane and I arrived at 1 PM. As the minutes wore on, more and more TARC team members arrived, giving both Falcon and Jurassic TARC their best turnouts so far this year. It was a very easy time for Duane and I, as the teams have "got rhythm" - the rockets were readied with a harmonious efficiency, with nary a debate. The "benevolent dictator" had very little to do - Duane spent most of his time talking to the TARC parents - and had no room for complaint, as he was also guilty of the only real boo boo committed by one team - someone forgot to turn on the altimeter. It was very nice to see the teams working so well!

The motor in Falcon's rocket ignites (Click to enlarge).
By 2:30 PM, Jurassic TARC had made 3 flights and the Falcon Rocketeers 2. The general trend was for the altitudes to be a bit over 800 feet and the durations long by about 2-4 seconds. Only one flight was excessively off the 775 foot altitude goal (Jurassic TARC's first flight of 675 feet), which is a good sign. The Pope John Paul II teams are close to the final trim of their rockets; a few more practice flights and they will be ready to qualify. I was particularly amused with the Falcon Rocketeers, who had built a new sustainer for the rocket which suffered the spectacular CATO last Saturday; they carried the rocket to the pad chanting like the monks in Monty Python's Holy Grail, with numerous references to the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch. Reflecting upon memories of last Saturday's destruction, I pointed out that this might not be a bad name for their rebuilt rocket.

After last week, a little prayer can't hurt (Click to enlarge)!
Intimidated by the clouds, Duane brought no rockets to the field, whereas I, in a fit of uncharacteristic optimism, had prepped three - a 1990's Alpha in red and black livery, my scratch-built Probe-18 with the Micropeak altimeter in its payload section, and the ASP 24mm Corporal. The Alpha was the first model launched, testing the wind on an A8-5 motor. It reached maybe 250 feet, a 9" ripstop nylon parachute landing it softly on the grass. The B6-4 in the Probe-18 powered it to 357 feet; the 12" nylon chute deployed nominally, causing the rocket to descend at a slow 13 feet per second. As a result, Probe-18 drifted quite a distance to the northeast - or so it seemed, as I had to recover the model while favoring an achy right knee. My final flight was that of the Corporal, which rode a bright burst of flame from the D12-5 as it left the pad. It was my highest flight of the day - maybe 800 feet - and unfortunately landed on the road bordering the field, causing considerable damage to the nose cone (Due to the small fins, the Corporal has a lot of nose weight, which is not good when landing on asphalt). Repairable, but it will take a little work.

The Probe-18 gets going on a B6-4 motor
(Click to enlarge).
Liftoff of the Corporal (Click to enlarge).
Micropeak summary of the Probe-18 flight (Click to enlarge).
Allen and Marc also defied the clouds by bringing rockets to Pegasus. Marc flew two - his Estes Snitch, which made 2 flights, and a very nice Binder Design Aspire mid power model, which got some decent air on an Aerotech F39. Allen brought his Estes Sonoma (Sequoyah by another name), which flew twice, and a green-and-orange Estes Leviathan, christened the BroncBuster II. It was powered by one of the notoriously hard to light green motors - an Aerotech G78 Mojave Green - and required one of the magical Duane Mayer igniters to get going. However, once it got moving, it was spectacular, ascending on a bright green pillar of flame. Both Marc and Allen exhibited incredible common sense in outfitting their mid power models with Jolly Logic Chute Releases; deploying the parachutes at 300 feet or so really cut down on the drift distance.

Allen's Sonoma on an A10
(Click to enlarge).
Marc's Snitch clears the rod
(Click to enlarge).
The recovery crew returns with Marc's Binder Design Aspire (Click to enlarge).
Allen hooks up the BroncBuster II
(Click to enlarge).
The BroncBuster II streaks skyward on its G78
(Click to enlarge).
There were occasional drops of rain after Allen's BroncBuster flight, so we decided to pack up. As Duane and I drove away, he commented on what a good launch day it had been - the TARC teams were doing well, and there were some decent mid power rockets flown. I agreed; all in all, not too shabby for a cloudy day.

The help begins to pack up (Click to enlarge).

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