Thursday, July 11, 2019

Test flights...

Monday was test flight day, so 4 PM found me - along with Allen, Duane and a few friends from MSFC - at the field across the street from our old launch site. It was very, very hot - the area was under a heat advisory, with feels like temps over 102 degrees - so I did not dawdle setting up the pad and controller. I had already prepped the rockets (sans igniters) the night before, so I expected things to go quickly - which would be good, as I wanted to get back into a place with some air conditioning.

Estes 1/200th scale Saturn V on a C12-4 (Click to enlarge).
First up was the Estes Saturn V, flying on a Quest QJet C12-4. I had a little trouble getting the igniter to stay in place - I'm still new to using these composite motors, and after trying various sizes of Estes igniter plugs, I finally settled on using good old masking tape, which worked fabulously. The Saturn rode a trail of thick black smoke up to 394 feet; I held my breath, waiting for the parachute deployment, which occurred well past apogee. Fortunately, the shock cord held, and even better, the Saturn missed hanging up in a tree near the road. A successful flight!

I had equipped all of the rockets with small altimeters, knowing full well I could get crap readings given the lack of vent holes in the models. But I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained, and the very small additional weight would not impact flight performance. So the Saturn and SLS rockets had Altus Metrum Micropeak altimeters and the Saturn 1B contained a Perfectflight Firefly. The Saturn V altimeter was the only one that returned usable data; the SLS Micropeak readings were a bunch of crap, and dumb me forgot to turn on the Firefly in the 1B (still kicking myself over this, but hey, I wanted to get out of the heat).

Saturn V Micropeak altimeter readings(Click to enlarge).
Next up was the SLS, loaded with an Estes C6-3. We adjusted the rod angle a bit to avoid the trees near the road and gave the count. The SLS rose into the blue sky, reaching a respectable altitude and deploying its parachute just past apogee - a very nice flight! I must express my thanks to Allen, who braved bugs and who-knows-what-else recovering the rocket from the knee-high weeds.

The Estes-built 1/200th scale SLS lifts off on a C6-3
(Click to enlarge).
Last to fly was my grizzled old Cox Saturn 1B. It blasted off on an Aerotech D10-3, which chuffed a bit before propelling the rocket skyward on a streak of white fire (I love the White Lightning motors!). The 1B achieved the highest altitude of the day, but the ejection charge rammed the parachute up into the hollow capsule/LEM adapter, which kept it from opening. I watched in horror as the model fell to the ground, hitting near the edge of the weeds with a thump. Fortunately, there was very little damage - the escape tower had broken off and was missing, but the rest of the model was intact. She will fly again, as soon as I can figure out how to make or get a new escape tower.

My Saturn 1B on an Aerotech D10-3 (Click to enlarge).
Test flights complete - we are now ready to launch the Saturn V and the SLS at MSFC's Apollo 50th celebration on July 16.

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