April 08, 2006

Launch Report - 4/1 & 2/06

Last weekend our rocket club, NOVAAR, held a two day event out at Great Meadow.

Saturday combined a contest meet with the usual sport flying and a healthy number of Team America teams making test flights. Because the deadline for making qualified flights is on the 10th of April, more than a few (forty, to be precise!) qualifying attempts were made as well.

The day was mostly overcast and the winds were gusty enough to force the range to shut down for short periods throughout the day. They were also blowing in an unaccustomed direction, from the southwest, which meant we had to angle the rocket launches over a fair bit to avoid flying over the spectators and parking lot.

I decided that I was going to fly some rockets this weekend, since what had been happening lately is that I make a flight or two and then get caught up helping out with the range crew and talking to folks and just having a good time doing everything but prepping and launching my own rockets.

I also decided to not bring anything high-power because of the recent crap we've been putting up with from the BATFE.

Being April Fool's day, I brought an oldie out of retirement and flew her early on, before most of the crowd arrived. Good thing too, I guess.

1. Syzygy (aka "3 nosecones and a fin") - 3x A10-3T - "3 fins and a nosecone (3FNC)" is how we describe plain vanilla rockets (three fins being the minimum needed for stability). This cluster rocket is actually three rockets linked together into a triangle shape with shared fins. She's flown successfully before, but because the engines are out and away from the centerline, if all three motors don't light, you have a real problem.

Knowing that, I called for a "head's up" flight, and sure enough only two of the three motors ignited. She arced over and looped a couple of times up in the air before falling to the ground and ejecting two of her bright metallic streamers. Soft grass saved her from being destroyed, but I think I'm going to take some pictures for the logbook and then scrap her out for parts.

Frequent commenter Russ challenged me to a Zinger drag race. The Zinger is a small, lightweight Estes rocket which is truly 3FNC. It's also fun to fly because it really gets up there on a little A motor, goes practically out of sight on a B, and has been described as "aerial pornography" on C motors.

For a drag race, two rockets are launched simultaneously and there are generally three events judged. First off the pad scores a point, highest altitude scores a point, and then usually first to the ground scores a point. Two out of three wins.

Russ and I loaded up our Zingers with A motors and got ready to go. There was a brief delay as he accidentally broke his while prepping it up. He was ready for that though, because he brought three of them! I only had the one, and had only finished painting it the night before.

2. Zinger - A8-5 - Beautiful flight. I definitely beat Russ off the pad, but it was close. He was flying an A8-3 and the extra two seconds delay on my motor did the trick, as I coasted a fair bit higher before ejecting the streamer. We were both using plastic flagging tape for streamers (mine was about 3 foot long), and recovered without damage. Russ had to have been using some soft damn balsa for his fins though, because his Zinger broke two when it touched down.

That's why he built spares though. Next up: B motors. The plan is to launch until we lose them.

3. Zinger - B6-6 - A virtual replay of the first race. I barely beat him off the pad, beat him in altitude, and then lost sight of them both. Walking out in the direction of the expected drift, Russ found his and spotted mine nearby as well. Once again, mine was undamaged and his snapped two more fins! That was his last Zinger, so the C motor race would have to wait for another day.

4. Angel - D12-5 - This scratchbuilt ring-fin is another rocket that hasn't flown for a couple of years, and I don't know why. She looks cool, flies great, and because she's minimum diameter (the body is the same size as the motor), she gets great altitude. She landed close to the pad because she's built like a tank so I could get away with using an 8" parachute for recovery. Not much time in the air to drift, and landing on thick soft grass is a blessing.

I prepped four rockets at the car and took them out to the range. Unfortunately, between TARC flights and contest event flights, things were moving very slowly and I was only able to launch one more rocket for the day.

5. Groove Tube - C6-7 - This one kind of annoyed me. The Groove Tube was a kit produced by Centuri for over 10 years back in the 80's. For some reason, the Safety Check guy was worried about stability and was hesitant to give the ok to launch it. He asked me if it had flown safely before (ignoring the somewhat beat up paint job), and I couldn't hide the sarcasm as I told him that it had never been unstable in the previous thirty-odd flights.

Yep, that got the ok. Another beautiful flight, dang near out of sight, and as the streamer came out and I watched the wind push her along I wondered what I was thinking, putting a C motor in her on such a windy day. Oh well, another long long walk for recovery. Undamaged.

I spent the rest of the day doing a shift as Safety Check and generally enjoying myself, and helped afterwards getting things ready for the overnight (we were going to leave most of the equipment out on the field since we were flying again the next morning).

April second was a much nicer day. The wind wasn't quite a bad, the clouds weren't quite as heavy, and I slept in, not getting to the field until 11am or so (it's about an hour drive from my house).

Once again, the plan was to fly some rockets. I had those three still ready to go from yesterday afternoon. Cool!

1. Honest John - B4-4 - This scale model of the US Army tactical nuclear missile is painted in the orange, white and black test round pattern. Pretty flight and good recovery not too far from the pad. I used a small chute for recovery.

2. Odin's Spear - B4-4 - I need to do a better paint job on this ring-fin kit from Vertical Force Rocketry (over on the sidebar). This was a prototype that Rich gave me to test, and she flies great!!! But I painted her plain boring sorta-yellow, and she deserves better. Recovered undamaged on the very small mylar chute.

3. Vampyre - A10-3T - Another ring-fin, this one another original design of mine. Small, superquick, and gets great altitude. Painted red and black with silver accent stripes, she gets compliments for her looks too. I'm proud of this one and she's been perfect for some 30 or so flights. This one was no exception.

The wind was in a lull, so I pulled out the biggest rocket and motor combo that I'd brought for the weekend.

4. Hot Jets - F24-4 - That's right bubba, it was time for my cheerleader rocket! Beautiful boost, and right at apogee the x-form chute came out. She drifted pretty good, but not as bad as she could have because the chute did something I've never seen before. It began to spin, and as it did it twisted the shroud lines. As the shroud lines twisted it reefed the parachute more and more, causing the rocket to descend faster and the chute to spin faster and close tighter until, about 20 feet off the ground, the chute looked like a balloon. Balloons are good, if they're filled with helium, which this one wasn't, so the rocket dropped straight down to the grass. Undamaged, and I have no idea why the chute acted that way this time, although it was pretty cool to watch and saved me from a much longer walk.

5. YJ-218 - 2x C6-7 - Can't have a launch without a Yellow Jacket flight! This twin-engine cluster made her 25th flight, and it was perfect. Recovered under her custom matching yellow x-form chute (thanks Liz!).

Time for another mid-power flight. The winds were picking up again, so I didn't go maximum motor for the rocket, but considering how light she is, this was plenty.

6. Barenaked Lady - E18-4 - She screamed off the pad, angled into the wind, and went waaaaaaay up there. For some stupid reason, I put a regular sized chute on her and when it ejected, I knew I was in for a long walk to recover. She landed beyond the first set of fences, and when I got to that field I watched a TARC rocket come down gently under chute for a perfect landing. Unfortunately, a gust of wind reinflated the chute and dragged the entire rocket right into the creek. I couldn't get to it in time (and shouldn't touch it anyway, in case it was a qualifying flight), but when the kids arrived a minute later (out of breath from running), I pointed it out to them. One of the kids waded across the spillway and the wind pushed the rocket to him on the other bank. I saw them later and after a brief drying out the rocket was ready to fly again. Yay!

As I was walking back to my car I was passed by an enormous gaggle of Cub Scouts and parents. Unbeknownst to our club, a group of local scouts had built model rockets and were there for an afternoon of flyng (someone told me it was four packs, but it was probably one pack with four large dens).

I hustled to put my rocket away at the car and then scooted right back out to the launch area because I knew they were going to need help. Thirty or forty Cub Scouts (at least), most of which have never flown a rocket before, need close attention. We spent the next couple of hours pointing out how to fix the problems with some rockets during the build process (gluing the launch lug in line with the fins might be more aerodynamic, but it prevents the rod from reaching the lug), as well as providing help inserting igniters and hooking the rockets up (I would demonstrate, then unhook it again so the scout could do it himself). One funny moment came when I discovered the reason we'd seen so many parachutes strip from the rockets, it turned out that the adult who helped that batch of scouts assemble their rockets used hot-melt glue to attach the chutes. The heat of the engine, followed by the ejection charge, caused numerous problems for those kids. There are instructions for a reason, people!

All in all, it was a long, satisfying, tiring, enjoyable weekend. I stayed afterwards to help tear down the range and pack up the equipment and load it into the club trailer. They're going to do it again this afternoon and tomorrow, but we're headed down to visit Mookie, so I can't make it. Looking out the window though, Quack.

Posted by Ted at April 8, 2006 09:44 AM | TrackBack
Category: Rocketry

Well,Ted,here it is almost noon and I'm sitting at home.I totally wussed out on the launch today.I swore that if I got up and the wind was blowing I was gonna stay home.That's my story anyhow.Truth is I just didn't feel like fighting all of the potential TARC certs.As you probably know yesterday was supposed to be TARC certs only and even that got rained out.I'm sure there will be a ton of them today.
Now don't get me wrong because goodness knows I'm all for kids being able to come out and have a blast and all but sometimes it's just a bit crowded competing with them.That's why i'm really looking forward to Battlepark and the Camp Snyder launch.From what I understand Snyder may have the occassional rouge scout but the scouts aren't planning any type of rocketry program per se'so it should be kinda peaceful.
Anyhow,besides all that,I didn't get my spaceship One finished.Last night I sat down to put the stickers on it when i realized that in order to keep from looking half finished the underside of the nose as well as the wing tips will have to be painted dark red.I assumed the "decals" would cover it because the directions never said anything about it.Speaking of directions this bird would have turned out really nice had it not been for the nasty looking groove all the way around the tail section cause by using the plastic model cement called for in the directions.Normally I'm a rather "when in doubt follow the directions" sort but in this case you gotta think ahead.Of course being modern day Estes none of this should be suprising.
Now,Ted,as for the C motor Zinger race,do you wanna shoot for Battlepark?Not only do I still have the repaired one but I can build more.I hit the Micheal's in Winchester the other day and scored a load of balsa stock.On the subject of balsa you where right about the balsa I used being soft.Know where it came from?I once asked Ken if he carried balsa and he said yes.When it came time to pick it up he tore open a Launch Pad kit and took it out.Ken is really good like that.I,however,should probably be slapped for letting him do it.Even though I did ask him not to do it he insisted.I should have tried harder.No reflection on Ken or anything but that was some really crappy balsa.That doesn't suprise me either as I'm not the first to claim shitty stuff coming from The Launch Pad.
Well I'm glad you enjoyed yourself,Ted.Hope to see you in Culpeper.

Posted by: Russ at April 9, 2006 11:50 AM
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