Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The celebration begins...

Today marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the mission that landed the first men on the Moon. Huntsville and Marshall Space Flight Center played a very prominent role in Apollo, as the Saturn V rocket was designed and tested here. So you can imagine that today and the next few days feature many local events to mark the occasion, the first being a new world record attempt at launching the most rockets simultaneously. Stuck at work, I was glued to my computer this morning at 8:32 AM Central Daylight Time, watching the live stream of 5000 rockets powered by Estes 1/2A6-2 motors take to the air. It was most impressive, and the initial numbers indicate that somewhere around 4920 rockets successfully left the pad, with about 44 of these not making it to 100 feet (a requirement of the record attempt). If these numbers hold, then a few weeks from now this launch will be the new record holder, surpassing the previous biggest mass launch by over 600 rockets. Kinda cool.

In case you missed it, here's one of the YouTube videos of the launch:

Loading the rockets on the racks (Photo by Allen Owens - click to enlarge).
After the launch - A pile of rockets!
(Photo by Allen Owens - click to enlarge).
The next event was something in which I was an active participant - the launch of the Estes Saturn V and SLS models kicking off the MSFC celebration. Chuck Pierce and I arrived at the center softball field around 2 PM, and set up a HARA low power rack and hooked up the the controller. 45 minutes later, we launched the Saturn V after a countdown done by a lot of kids from the daycare center. Just like in last week's test flight, the Q-Jet C11-4 powered the model to a respectable altitude, and it deployed the parachute soon after apogee. The breeze - about 10 mph from the SSW - carried it out of the field over into a nearby parking lot, where it was recovered by a fireman (on standby if the launch should start a fire). No damage, so I was happy. Flight #2 on my Saturn V complete.

My Estes Saturn V kicks off the MSFC Apollo 11 celebration (Click to enlarge).
The SLS was launched next. As you can see from the image, the Estes C6-3 motor seemed to produce a lot of flame on lift off, enough to burn through half of one of the black fins. I'm pretty sure some of this was caused by the model being too close to the flat metal blast deflector, which probably directed the exhaust onto the fin. However, the motor still looked a little "hot" to me - still scratching my head a bit over this one. The SLS put in a good flight, deploying its parachute right at apogee and landing just on the edge of the softball field. But the post flight inspection of the rocket showed not only the damaged fin but also no nose cone; it had separated from the clear plastic base either at ejection or upon hitting the ground. A quick search of the area turned up nothing, so I suppose you could say that the launch was successful, but we lost the crew on landing.

The SLS heads up the rod - look at the motor exhaust from the C6-3! (Click to enlarge)
After the MSFC launch, Chuck dropped me off at the newly mowed field across the street from our old launch area (I think I will call it "Pegasus East"). Here Vince and some of the Hope Rising rocket kids were flying models as part of the Space and Rocket Center's Global Rocket Launch. Vince launched his 1/200th scale Saturn twice, both times on C6-3's, and the Hope Rising students put up BMS school rockets on A motors, with everything recorded by the cameras of a visiting Japanese documentary crew. All flights were good, with nary a CATO or failed recovery. Being old, fat, and very hot, I sat in a camp chair and provided commentary - something I am very skilled at.

Vince in full NAR regalia; behind him, a student and Constance begin to load a
rocket on his very robust pad, built on a telescope tripod (Click to enlarge).
A School Rocket takes to the sky (Click to enlarge).The documentary crew at work (Photo by
ChrisAnn Driskill - Click to enlarge)
Saturn V flown, Apollo 11 launch commemorated - Good way to start off marking the 50th anniversary of the first steps on the Moon.

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