May 01, 2004

Launch Report – 5/1/04

Today was the start of BattlePark 2004 in Culpeper, Virginia, and according to the weather reports, the better day for flying. Mookie and I went and had a great day, despite some not-so-successful flights.

The day started with high clouds but the sun burned through now and then. A cold front is moving into the area and intermittent rain has started, but the day was mostly dry. The winds were out of the south and stayed between 5-10 mph.

Culpeper is in the heart of Virginia’s horse country, and the area consists of gently rolling hills dotted with farms. Our route there takes us through the Chancellorsville Battlefield from the Civil War. On the way, Mookie spotted a deer back in the trees.

We got there early and prepped a couple of rockets. When the range opened we set up our FY2K with an F23 motor. We wound up making the first flight after the first rocket scheduled to launch burnt it’s igniter without lighting the motor. The FY2K is a smallish rocket, and leapt off the pad with a roar and trailing thick black smoke. The chute ejected right at the top and she landed softly within 100 yards of the pad.

Next up for us was the Super Ninja. The Super Ninja has made many flights for us, and today we were going to fly her on an E18, the biggest motor she’s ever used, and it simmed out to over 2000 feet altitude. I have no idea how high she actually went, and nobody else did either, because everyone lost sight of it while she was still screaming upward. While I was looking up, trying to see some glint in the sunlight, a friend told me that the rocket was probably already on the ground. Couldn’t prove it by me.

Mookie and I went searching in the direction she probably would’ve drifted, but after a good long walk we had no luck finding her. The worst part about it was losing a reloadable motor casing, which costs $40.00 to replace.

We spent some time visiting with friends and watching other rockets launch. After a while I prepped the Air Munuviana for a flight on a hybrid I-80. With the help of Doug Pratt we got her ready on the pad while I sent Mookie and Brian Pratt downwind several hundred yards to watch for where she landed.

The liftoff was perfect, and the I-80 really moved her along. I lost sight of the Air Mu in the sun, but others watching said the chute never came out and she came in ballistic. I heard the impact when she hit the ground, in the opposite direction where Mookie and Brian were stationed. As a friend and I started the walk to find it, someone said they had a line on it which was nice because it gave me a couple of reference points to use to tell me about where it came down.

We walked about a quarter mile to the first treeline, crossing an electric fence along the way, and there I continued on alone since I had to wade a stream to get to the meadow beyond. The meadow was pretty boggy in spots, and I covered it pretty good all the way back to another treeline. The second treeline was the start of a mature pine wood, planted at some point because many of the trees were in straight rows. It was also demarked with a barbed wire fence.

About this time, Mookie and Brian showed up. We found a spot to get through the barb wire, and made a circle through the wood beyond. It was a pretty good hike, but we had to be careful to pick our way around patches of poison ivy. No luck finding the rocket.

We’d been looking for more than an hour, so we headed back. The guy who saw the Air Munuviana come down couldn’t tell how far away it was, so just to be thorough I decided to check the near meadow after we waded the stream again. Brian and Mookie headed towards the truck while I walked the stream.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the purple of the anodized aluminum motor casing. Calling back to the kids to let them know I’d found our rocket, I took a closer look.

Usually in these lawn darts, the motor is the only thing that survives. Not this time, because I could see a dent in the casing. It was standing straight up in the mud on the bank of the stream. Pieces of the airframe were scattered around, lying in the water. I laughed when I saw a blinking light underwater, as either the altimeter or sonic beacon was still functioning and the LED was flashing.

When the kids got there, we climbed down into the creek and started locating the debris. The motor casing was dented, making it unusable. The altimeter was wet, and a closer look showed it to be trashed from the impact. The parachute was intact. We figured the nosecone had floated downstream and was lost.

I wanted to get a look at the other bank to see what might be over there. Climbing that side, I came across the nosecone. It had been flattened – the long way – by an impact in the tree above. Sure enough, Mookie spotted a branch about 30 feet up with a big bare spot where the Air Mu spacked at speed. We also found the motor mount, with the bottom 8” of the motor tube. How hard do you think it had to have hit that tree to snap an aluminum tube cleanly?

We also found a whole fin and most of another, as well as a few small shreds of delaminated plywood.

Now this flight cost almost $200 in destroyed equipment, but something about rocketry that is seldom talked about is that even crashes like this are kinda cool. It also felt good to find the pieces, much better than just losing it and not knowing what happened. This way, I can possibly determine what caused the failure. The ‘up’ part was perfect. I need to work on the ‘down’ part.

Once we got back to the truck, we all called it a day and packed up. Doug had invited us to join him and Brian for ribs at a killer BBQ place near there, and it sounded good after the long hike. Just as we were getting ready to pull out, a guy tapped on our window and said he’d found our rocket. I hopped out and sure enough, he had the Super Ninja (and my motor case – yay!). One fin was broken, but she was otherwise intact. He’d been looking for one of his rockets, and came across ours almost a mile and a quarter downwind.

The remains of the Air Munuviana are spread out on a table behind me, drying out a little. I’ll post some pictures tomorrow. The sonic beacon is still flashing, which amuses me, but all the drying out in the world won’t revive the piezo buzzer so it’s toast.

The ribs were awesome. I’m gonna be sore tomorrow from all that scrambling cross country. It was a great day.

Posted by Ted at May 1, 2004 11:00 PM
Category: Rocketry

Alas, poor Air Mu.

Ted, you really need to work on your landings! :p

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 2, 2004 12:26 AM

As sad it is to hear of the demise of Air Munuvia...I admit I was laughing at your descriptions. My only disappointment is you didn't get pictures of the impact area, and then submitted them to some tin-hat wearing, "There Are Aliens Among Us" websites. Heh.

That reminds me...I'll post it later.

Posted by: Victor at May 2, 2004 08:35 AM

Thanks for a great day! It was a lot of fun to hang around with you and the kids. That was my co-conspirator Ivan Galysh who went out with you to find your hybrid flight. He got off a nice flight on his I140 hybrid earlier in the day.

I know what you mean about the aches and pains...there seem to be parts of my body whose only known function is to hurt. Still, worth it.

Posted by: Doug Pratt at May 2, 2004 09:43 AM

So, were you able to tell how high Air Mu went? There is some Munuviana pride at stake here...

Posted by: GEBIV at May 2, 2004 01:56 PM

Just guesstimating here, but I lost sight of her at about 1250 feet, and she was still ascending quickly. She may have coasted to 2000 feet, over 1500 feet almost certainly.

Posted by: Ted at May 3, 2004 08:31 AM
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