Monday, April 6, 2015

Great Launch Day!

Saturday, I went launching rockets with Chad, David and Jeff. Chad is only in town for about a week every month and a half, and the weather doesn't always cooperate. This week, it was beautiful, despite the weather report saying it was going to be rainy and windy all week.

Chad was in town, and really wanted to launch some rockets. I've had a few losses lately, and it was supposed to be a little windy. The field where we launch is pretty big, but a little wind (and the presence of a pond) can make it feel small.

But it had been a while, and I love launching rockets when Chad's around, and it's more fun for other, non-rocket friends I invite. Seeing two or more nerds geeking out over rockets is kind of a comedy show, but when I'm the only rocket guy there, the civilians get bored. Chad and Jeff both love model rockets, and David loves watching them when those guys are in town. These are funny guys.

So the four of us and Ted, a retired vet who used to produce theater for the Army in Berlin during the cold war (I heard some great stories this weekend), went out to the park to light some candles.

Chad left me a box of rockets when he moved to upstate New York - mostly ready-to-fly models. So I started with a little orange and white rocket I'd never seen, the Estes Scrappy, a kind of ugly little thing which flies on mini motors. Most of Chad's parachutes were a mess and had to be cut off. Re-doing parachute shroud lines is a real pain, which is why I like to use snap swivels to attach chutes to the rocket in the first place - it's easier to untangle the lines. But this rocket only had a tiny, 6-inch parachute. I've seen enough plastic models come down with no deployment that I decided to cut the chute off altogether.

I've always been a little skeptical whether a streamer really slows a rocket's descent that much, but after seeing the Scrappy descend with no recovery system (other than "tumble"), I can say I'm a believer. It landed in the grass about 50 feet from the pad with no damage.

Next I flew the Estes Shuttle Express. This is an easy-to-assemble model I got for my birthday, and it carries two gliders which deploy at apogee. I was surprised how cool it looked going up. Those gliders made it look kind of hulky, which was fun.

The "gliders" don't so much "glide" as "dive straight into the ground." But the chute opened beautifully, and David went to recover the rocket.

This picture turned out looking really dramatic. David Sheehan - bravely recovering the astronauts...
Next I sent up another of Chad's RTF rockets, the Estes Hi Jinks.

Up to now, I'd been launching rockets on Estes C6-5 motors, and this one was no exception.

Liftoff was great.

The rocket flew straight and high. But then, it disappeared over these woods...

It's not too densely forested, and I thought perhaps I'll be able to recover the rocket. But more likely, it had landed in a tree.

Now I decided it was time to launch one of my built kits. I selected the Estes Crossfire ISX. I said "This might be the last flight of the Crossfire."

It's a pretty high-flying model. I launched it...

And then I remembered I had packed a B6-4 motor in it, to be on the safe side.

The guys and I often joke about "hubris" when we're launching rockets, but I suffer from it. Even though I know it's sometimes better to put a less powerful motor in a rocket, I like to see them go high, and I like a longer burn on the motor. But the flight was great - and I didn't lose the rocket.

That sealed it - from this point on, I'd stick with B motors, with one exception.

Next in line was the Estes Der Red Max. This was my first build, and I love this rocket. It's what got me into rocketry in the first place. It flies really straight, and I didn't want to lose it, so I swapped out the C6 motor for a B6.

Chad decided to tape his phone to a long pole to see if he could get some video from below the rocket as it lifted off. Chad's full of brilliant ideas.

But actually, it turned out not bad...

Jeff's phone also got great pictures.

The rocket didn't go as high, but I got it back. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little altitude so you don't lose the rocket you spent hours, days or weeks working on. Take it from me, the feeling of loss outweighs the thrill of the initial flight.

Next up was the Cosmic Explorer - another favorite.

The ascent on a B6 was great - no roll!

For rocket n00bs, roll is that spinning motion a rocket gets around its vertical axis. You see it a lot in rocket-mounted camera POV videos, and sometimes it can make them hard to watch. Most rockets do it, but trying to build a rocket so it doesn't is the goal. The Cosmic Explorer flies straight, with no roll.

While the ascent was great, the recovery was... well, I'll just let you watch.

Stuck in the mud, about an inch and a half.

But when I pulled it out - no damage!

Whew! That was a close call!
Finally, we launched the Big Bertha, this time going back to a C6 motor.

The Bertha is what's called overstable. This means, in short, that it's really prone to arcing into the wind - for newbies, a phenomenon known as weathercocking. I have never had a straight flight with the Bertha, and I was sure it was going to end up in the dog park. Remarkably, though, it flew nice and straight, and it also landed short of the pond.

It's in the upper left-hand corner of the sky.
Once again, Chad got out his PVC camera boom, and I kind of got some good video out of it. I decided to make it dramatic...

The guys had to go back to the BPP, so they packed up and left. I went in search of that Estes Hi Jinks rocket.

The wooded area was very marshy, and I sank a couple inches into the earth quite a few times. The trees were sparse, but close enough together that I was sure I'd see it up in a tree. I looked up and down, and didn't find it in a tree or on the ground. I searched for 45 minutes to an hour. I even found a swamp, and a sign about wetlands. I didn't even know Bloomington had wetlands!

I got into some thicker forested area, and circled the school to the left in the above pictures - nothing. Eventually, I realized I'd gone farther back in the woods than the rocket could have possibly gone, and was about to turn back, when I decided to head further down the wide trail. And this happened...

For a day of launching mostly smaller rockets, it was a great launch day, and I wish more people could have joined us. And in the end, we didn't lose a single rocket.

In other news, the Trident 1A and Sounder I scratch built rockets are finished, and I'll have pictures to follow. The Quest Big Dog and Cosmic Explorer with an E-motor upgrade are also coming along, nearly ready to paint. The Big Dog series will continue in a day or two, and the Cosmic Explorer build series will start when I'm done with that.

And I need to finalize my rocketry camp plans and build the Donor's Rockets. A lot to keep me busy.

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1 comment:

  1. Daniel, you and your posse are having entirely too much fun. Regretfully, I must report you to the authorities! ;-)