Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Rain at high noon...

This past Saturday was the appointed date for this year's Geezer TARC competition. On Friday, the forecast did not look good, but Duane and I decided to wait until Saturday morning before making the weather call. At 7 AM Saturday morning, the radar showed rain all around us, and by 8 AM even Duane threw in the towel - the weather did not look like it was going to cooperate. I sent out a few "don't show up" messages to the folks I knew would be there, but Duane suggested we go down to the field to intercept anyone I missed that might show.

That decision had momentous consequences.

We found Patrick and Art at Pegasus East, with Patrick very eager to fly his 3D printed entry. Allen pulled up, and then Vince materialized with his Franken rockets - the pressure was on. Duane and I gave in to go fever, and we quickly set up the pad, controller, and table loaded with stuff amidst the occasional drop of rain. The sky did not look good, and my iPhone weather radar app showed the rain getting ever nearer, but there was no stopping this choo-choo. People were going to fly their rockets - weather be damned.

Patrick's rocket leaves the rail
(Photo by Patrick; Click to enlarge).
Patrick's model under parachute (Click to enlarge).
The flying began with Patrick. He was worried that his orange and blue 3D printed beauty might go a bit too high on the Aerotech E20-7, and he was right. His rocket shot past the altitude mark by a hundred feet, and caused us a bit of concern as it drifted across the road towards the Blue Origin rocket engine facility construction area. Fortunately, the model landed a bit to the south of the fence, so all was good, especially when a check showed an undamaged egg - qualified flight! I was pleased that Patrick flew the little used Perfectflite Firefly altimeter - it's small and light, and yields quite useful data when connected to the readout unit. According to the Firefly, Patrick's rocket reached 903 feet, had a max speed of 264 feet per second, took 7 seconds to reach apogee, descended at 17.2 feet per second (a bit slow - should be between 21 and 22 feet per second), and stayed aloft for 59.4 seconds. So this year's Geezer TARC started with a score of 168.

Vince's "FrankenSprint" gets going on an E12-6 (Photo by Patrick; Click to enlarge).
Vince was up next, flying a "FrankenSprint". His rocket was a Sprint XL with the nose cone replaced by an Estes Scrambler egg capsule - improvised to say the least. Powered by an Estes E12-6, his model hit 748 feet - 52 feet shy of the 800 foot mark - and stayed up for just over 59 seconds. This duration was about the same as that of Patrick's rocket, which went 155 feet higher. If you surmised that his parachute was too big, you would be right. Too large parachutes would plague both of Vince's flights this day. Sometimes a few calculations or simulations can be better than guessing, but his 117 score put him in the lead.

Duane's rocket starts its trek upward (Photo by Patrick; Click to enlarge).
Duane was number 3 - he loaded his rocket on the rail and gave the count. The Aerotech E30-7 sent the rocket skyward, but we could tell that he didn't make altitude. This was backed up by the very short duration of 35 seconds. After recovery, we checked the altimeter which beeped out a disappointing 665 feet, resulting in a 154 score. The Geezers were not doing so good.

Duane loads Ool on the rail as I look on (Photo by Patrick; Click to enlarge).
Then it was my turn. Ool was placed on the pad, and the count was given - but the igniter misfired. A replacement was stuck into the nozzle of the E12-6, and Duane reloaded the rocket on the rail. Another count was given, and Ool shot straight up into the increasingly gloomy sky. All seemed well until ejection, when it soon became apparent that my parachute was tangled up with the kevlar chute protector and shock cord. Ool plummeted to the ground, impacting with a sickening thud that foretold horrible things happening inside the payload section. A DQ - which was a darn shame, because Ool flew to 810 feet (the best altitude of the day), and even with the very short duration of 28.5 seconds, I would have ended up with 56 score. But a bad flight is a bad flight, and I cursed myself for not trusting my instinct to use normal chute wadding instead of the kevlar protection. I had seen too many instances of parachute failures when they were used by the TARC teams, and I should have heeded this knowledge. But I didn't, and paid the price.

Ool begins her ill-fated flight (Click to enlarge).
Ool doing the "dive of death" (Photo by Patrick; Click to enlarge).
And yes, Ool suffered quite a bit of damage - the body had failed under one fin which was hanging, another fin had a cracked edge, the body tube was crinkled near the end of the motor mount, and the top of the nose cone was bashed in. And, of course, there were egg guts all over the inside of the payload section. I ended up throwing away the Apogee egg protector, which was beyond cleaning; fortunately, the altimeter was shielded and survived unscathed. I am trying to repair the model, but alas, I fear she will never be the same.

Ool's flight profile from the PNUT altimeter (Click to enlarge).
We were now being subjected to sprinkles of rain - the weather was fast deteriorating. But Vince had to fly his second improvisation, this one being a Big Bertha topped by an egg capsule. FrankenBertha was powered by an Aerotech E15-7 - waaay too much motor, and this was proven when it sent her soaring to 1122 feet - 322 feet above the goal! Combine that with a very long duration of nearly 2 minutes, and you have the worst score of the day - a very, very bad 626.

Vince hooks up "FrankenBertha" (Photo by Patrick; Click to enlarge).
Now it was beginning to actually rain, so the launch was called - even though Duane and I still had another model to fly. Vince's 117 score was the best of the day, so we gave him the trophy and declared him the 2020 TARC Geezer. My parachute failure netted me the Skunk trophy, which appropriately enough has a Latin inscription of "Accidit Stercore"; I leave it to ya'll to look that up.

2020 Geezer TARC scores (Click to enlarge).
Vince triumphs! (Click to enlarge).
My Skunk (Click to enlarge).
And that, good readers, was this year's Geezer TARC. A new champion has risen from a pile of dismal scores, lousy weather, and the remains of an egg which died a horrible death.

Congrats Vince!

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