Monday, October 28, 2019

A soggy start to the flying season...

Members of the Auburn rocket team awaiting the start of the launch (Click to enlarge).
Saturday October 19 saw the first HARA high power launch of our winter flying season. It was supposed to be on October 12, but we postponed it for a week due to lack of a waiver and a crummy weather forecast. On Friday night, the forecast for the 19th was also looking pretty lousy, but the club decided to press ahead with the launch - rocket mania is a hard thing to dampen, even with faced with the prospect of rain. I prepped four rockets, and Duane readied his tribe of Cherokees for their anticipated flights the next day. It would be good to fly on the big Woodville field and hear the roar of some high power motors once more.

Funny how bad weather can put things into perspective...

John gives the flyer's briefing (Click to enlarge).
We arrived on the field just before 10 AM. Quite a crowd was assembled, including many, many students from Auburn eager to certify (I understand their rocket team has over 50 members - wow!). The clouds loomed low, not more than 2500 feet above ground level, a fact that John pointed out as he gave the customary flyer's briefing right before the launch began. Even though our waiver was for 12,000 feet, it is forbidden to launch Class 2 (high power) rockets into clouds, so the altitude of the cloud deck set the maximum allowed altitude for the rockets - a bummer for some, but not for me, as none of my birds would even get close to 2500 feet.

Vince takes his NCR Eliminator out to the pad (Click to enlarge).
After the briefing, the launchings commenced, albeit slowly due to a slight drizzle that began right after the range was declared open. Patrick launched his low power 3D printed "Example" rocket, which flew very well and showed nary a sign of melting after recovery. Josh flew a Fliskits ACME Spitfire and Duane put up his first Cherokee, which rose into the cloudy sky powered by 3 E12-6 motors. The most spectacular flight I witnessed was that of Vince's nicely painted North Coast Rocketry Eliminator. Its Estes F15 motor blew out the nozzle upon ignition, causing it to climb all of 6 inches off the pad on a spectacular pillar of fire. It then settled back down and belched smoke like a dragon for several seconds. In true Vanguard fashion, it popped the chute after the delay ran out and the ejection charge fired - at least that part worked. Chuck then launched his Dynasoar "Man in High Castle" rocket glider on Aerotech E's - the first flight went a bit squirrelly due to some control issues, but flight #2 was very cool, with a nice glide and landing.

Josh's ACME Spitfire clears the rod (Click to enlarge)
Vince's Eliminator reaches max altitude
(Click to enlarge).
Duane's Cherokee streaks skyward on 3 E12 motors
(Click to enlarge).
Chuck's "Man in High Castle" rocket glider coming in for a landing (Click to enlarge).

Video of the "Man in High Castle" flight

And me? Well, I was huddled under Duane's canopy, listening to the rain hit the top of the tent and moving around to avoid the leaks. The rain had intensified, and I had decided there was no way I was gonna launch my rockets in that mess. It's one thing for a rocket to die an honorable death by fire or ballistic impact, or be lost on a strong wayward breeze. But to collapse in a heap of wet cardboard, well, that's a fate I could not bear my beauties to suffer. So I left them nice and dry in the car, as more daring souls trekked out into the rain to load their rockets on the pads. Duane felt similar - after his first Cherokee flight, he decided it was too rainy to fly the others. As a matter of fact, it was getting too rainy under his canopy, with all the leaks.

So we packed up and left the field, after a stay of only a couple of hours. Mother Nature proved to be too much for us that Saturday.

Folks staying dry under the LCO tent (Click to enlarge).
But a few hardy souls stayed on - I understand there were a couple of qualification attempts, at least one of which was successful. Also, Chris Short of CS Rocketry made the long trip up from down south to support our launch, and I hope people bought a bunch of stuff from him - I know Duane acquired a few motors for the next launch. HARA is lucky to have Chris show up at our launches, as not many vendors would have come out in face of the lousy weather forecast.

Here's hoping for better weather at the November launch!

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