Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The season begins at Pegasus...

My Estes Alpha streaks skyward on an A8-3 (click to enlarge).
My apologies for no blog posts over the past couple of months - it's been a busy summer, and I haven't found much time to write. Things seemed to have slacked off a bit for now, so hopefully I will be posting more regularly. Especially given that rocket season - at least in terms of TARC and low power - has begun in earnest.

A few days ago, Duane noticed that Pegasus field had been mowed, eliminating the high weeds, grass, shrubs, etc. that had prevented us from launching there over the summer. Naturally, such an event had to be marked by an inaugural launch, so 1 o'clock on Sunday saw Duane and I driving onto the field, where we met Allen for a little rocket fun. The day was beautiful - sunny skies with the occasional puffy cumulus cloud, and a light breeze out of the northeast. In just a few minutes, my low power pad (now equipped with an Odd'l Rockets' ceramic blast deflector) and Duane's rail were ready for action. We had brought rockets, and we were eager to see them fly - along with a passerby family, who had fun watching the birds take to the air.

Duane watches my ASP NEO Standard clear the rod
(Click to enlarge).
The Stars & Stripes shows its spirit on the pad
(Click to enlarge).
My ASP Neo Standard was the first to leave the pad on an A8-5, following a straight trajectory up into the blue. The parachute deployed nicely and the model made a soft landing on the dirt about 30 yards from the pad. I followed this performance with the maiden voyage of my Estes Stars and Stripes, a patriotic, easy-to-build model that went out of production a few years back. It achieved a decent altitude on the B6-4, lazily drifting back to earth on its parachute. My third flight was made by my newly-built clone of the Estes Hornet Mini-Brute; it ripped off the pad on an A10-3T motor, reaching a very respectable altitude of 339 feet (recorded by the PerfectFlite FireFly altimeter in the payload section). The Hornet recovered by streamer, which slowed the model to a modest 21 feet per second on its descent (you gotta love data!).

The Hornet leaps off the pad on an A10-3T
(Click to enlarge).
The PerfectFlite FireFly display unit shows the peak
altitude achieved by the Hornet - among other things
(Click to enlarge).
While I was flying, Allen and Duane had been busy prepping their birds. Allen led off with a launch of his red, white and blue QCC Explorer, which turned in a text book flight on an Estes D12. Next up was Duane's venerable Beast, his symbol of Geezer TARC glory. It sat on the pad for several seconds, the ancient (11 year old) Aerotech F20 chuffing like an asthmatic before lighting. As the Beast cleared the rail, it became clear that the motor did not have much left; the rocket clawed for altitude and arced over. Breaths were held as the bird dived for the ground, with welcome exhales occurring as the parachute deployed not more than 50 feet or so above the dirt. For those of you who don't know Duane, he is one of those guys who lets nothing go to waste - even decades old composites. This is one reason that his flights can be kinda interesting at times. Anyway, the Beast's flight was followed by the journey of his Estes Mammoth, flying on a much younger Aerotech F27 (also a black "smoky" motor). This launch was much, much better - the Mammoth shot way up into the sky, and the Jolly Logic Chute release popped the parachute right at 300 feet.

Allen's QCC Explorer is lofted by an Estes D12
(Click to enlarge).
Duane's "Beast" struggles to gain altitude on its ancient
F20 motor (Click to enlarge).
Allen launches his Blackstar Voyager
(Click to enlarge).
Duane's Mammoth trails black smoke on its way up
(Click to enlarge).
Allen's Estes BlackStar Voyager flew next, on an Aerotech E20-4 - Good chute deploy and a soft landing. Inspired by all the successful flights, he then brought out his scratch built "Fissile Missile". This orange and black beauty represents a step along Allen's path to a level 2 high power certification, incorporating a black powder drogue deployment and a main released by a Jolly Logic Chute Release - you will note that these devices are becoming frequently used at Pegasus, as they help ensure that mid-power birds flying over 1000 feet have a decent chance of landing in the field. The Fissile Missile's flight was perfect, soaring to just over 1030 feet on an Aerotech G38 and with drogue and main chute deployment as programmed. Allen was quite pleased.

The Fissile Missile on the pad... (Click to enlarge).And riding black smoke into the sky
(Click to enlarge).
I took over the action with my trusty Fliskits Deuce's Wild following the Fissile Missile. I was hoping for some good footage from the HD keychain camera taped to the side, but only one of the two B6-4 motors lit. The rocket barely cleared the rod, arced over, and plowed straight down into the dirt just to the east of the parked cars. I could not bear to look, so Duane recovered the rocket. As he handed me  the model, I was surprised to see that the body tube was not crunched; indeed, the only damage was to the balsa nose cone, the sides of which were sheared away as it was driven into the body tube. I cannot recall a body tube surviving unscathed from any of my previous lawn darts - as a matter of fact, I am still looking at the model with disbelief. Post flight inspection of the ignitors showed that one of the Quest Q2 ignitors had a broken lead, which explains why one motor did not ignite. I should have caught this BEFORE the flight, however - carelessness in rocketry can be expensive. Fortunately, the repair is a simple replacement of the nose cone.

Jim Flis - your rockets are tough hombres!

My Deuces Wild struggles under the power of just one
B6-4 (Click to enlarge).
The damage after the flight (Click to enlarge).
A GoPro view of the Deuce launch (Click to enlarge).
The final launch of the day involved one of my Estes Alpha clones, the one with the red, black, and white 1970's decor. The A8-3 got it up there and the parachute deployed with nary a problem. I intend on flying an Alpha at every launch until the end of the year, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the kit's release. It seems like an appropriate thing to do.

For the record, here's the onboard footage from the Deuce's Wild - not one of my finer moments...


  1. Hi, bill,
    Good to see that you are out flying.
    Kudos on the Mini-Brute Hornet flight. Now I know what can be flown in the payload section!
    You probably know by now that I have a special affection for that particular rocket design!

  2. I love your Hornet - it inspired me to clone one. Glad I was able to help filling the empty payload section! :)