Saturday, May 13, 2017

The pad's on fire!

Last Saturday Duane and I joined members of Liberty Middle School's TARC team at Pegasus field for an end-of-year celebratory fun launch. The day was sunny, albeit quite breezy - most of the rockets drifted much farther downwind than they travelled up. Despite the wind, there were quite a number of students and parents present for the launch, which featured the 3 inch diameter Balsa Machining Service School Rockets (an awesome deal, btw) built by the team earlier in the year, along with a few Estes rockets. Liberty brought the rockets and motors, and it was up to me and Duane to furnish the launch gear. We were prepared - I set up my trusty camera tripod launcher and unpacked my Pro Series launch controller while Duane placed his two Tilt-A-Pad clones (1/8" and 3/16" rods) next to the clips of his very nice home-brew controller.

Liberty Middle's TARC team gets ready to start their last launch of the school year (Click to enlarge).
The first School Rocket's flight went without a hitch - straight up on an Estes E9, with a soft landing a considerable distance downwind from the pad. However, the E9 motor in the second model, which was poised atop my pad, completely blew out the nozzle upon ignition. As the rocket sat motionless amid an expanding cloud of smoke, hot propellant flowed freely from the bottom, catching both the rocket and my pad - namely the plastic top of the camera tripod underneath the blast deflector - on fire. It took us a few minutes to extinguish the flames, and I stared mournfully at the melted part of my pad; the deflector will obviously have to be replaced, and I may have to do the same for the tripod  head as well. The bottom of the School Rocket was severely burned, but enough was left of the fins and motor mount to enable it to make a safe and stable flight a few minutes later. That rocket was one tough hombre!

Did I mention that I am beginning to hate Estes E motors?

Smoke billows from the burning pad and
School Rocket (Click to enlarge).
Aftermath: The top of my pad (Click to enlarge).
Aftermath: The bottom of the School Rocket
(Click to enlarge).
The scorched School Rocket takes flight
(Click to enlarge).
The rest of the launch went pretty well, with the only loss being a Quest Nike Smoke, which drifted way out of the field to be lost somewhere in the high grass - the combination of C motors in small rockets and a windy day is not a good one. There were some nice flights, including those of an Estes Black Star Voyager and a Renegade-D, both of which landed within the field. Duane and I left Pegasus around 2 and headed to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, where we helped Vince set up a small rocket display outside the Space Station simulation area. We chatted rockets with the passers-by for about 3 hours before packing up for home.

Lift off of an Estes Black Star Voyager
(Click to enlarge).
And the crowd watches it descend under chute
(Click to enlarge).
A Liberty team member hooks up an Estes Patriot
(Click to enlarge).
The Renegade-D gets going (Click to enlarge).
All in all, a good day - now to make repairs to my launch pad. I'm wondering if I should insist that all Estes E motors launch off someone else's from now on. It seems the safe thing to do...

Vince mans the display at the USSRC (Click to enlarge).

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