March 13, 2004

Launch Report

pictures in the extended entry, popup style

The winds never did calm down, but it was still a beautiful day for rockets. Temperatures were in the mid-40's and everyone stayed bundled up, but it wasn't too bad. It helped that there wasn't a cloud in the sky, so the sun was warm. We had a great turnout, including a dozen or so high school teams making practice flights for the Team America Challenge, and two kids doing documented launches for Science Fair projects.

I personally only made one flight, and that was the maiden launch of our "Build It" rocket, the Fat Boy. It was a nice flight, but it weathercocked into the wind quite a bit and didn't get as much altitude as it should have (maybe 500'). It was recovered without damage and will fly again.

The team I'm mentoring was there and ready to go. They brought two completed rockets, and made three flights total. On their first flight, they had perfect ignition of all three first-stage motors, perfect ignition of their upper stage motor, and overshot the target altitude of 1250', hitting 1588'. That's not too bad, because it's easier to make a rocket go lower than it is to make it go higher. Both eggs were recovered in perfect condition, and they learned a lesson in picking the correct size parachute for the wind conditions (they had a long walk to recover the rocket).

Next flight for them was in their second rocket, and this time they used a smaller upper-stage motor. Another perfect ignition, but this time they didn't get enough altitude and had a problem with staging and the booster lost a fin when it separated.

Their third flight (first rocket again) was perfect except that at some point the altimeter reset when the battery came loose, so they don't know exactly how high it went. On all three flights, the eggs were recovered unbroken. They'll be ready for their qualifying flight on April 2.

Last year, there was probably an overall 80% failure rate for Team America flights. Today, I'd say there was a 90% success rate, and most of the malfunctioning flights happened at the end of the day when teams were rushing to get in one last flight. I manned the safety check-in table for the last hour, and the variety and quality of the rocket designs was striking.

Great day. Great fun.

The students I'm mentoring with one of the rockets they built.

Hooking up the igniters.

A closer look at their rocket. The two eggs are packed into the nosecone. Below that (where the hole is) is where the altimeter is. Below that is the parachute bay. The diamond fins are where the second stage begins, powered by a single engine, and the triangle fins are the booster section. The booster is powered by a cluster of three motors, and falls away after the upper stage ignites. Also, notice another team rocket in the background. Very different designs to accomplish the same goal.

Moment of ignition.

Happy team bringing back their rocket.

Their second rocket (blue and red one in the foreground). Same basic design except for the fins.

Posted by Ted at March 13, 2004 08:28 PM
Category: Rocketry
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