Monday, September 14, 2015

My First Club Launch - Upcoming

I haven't launched a rocket in months. Last time it was with the Ivy Tech Rocket Camp I taught in June. The rockets were all really small, I was the only adult, and because of where we launched, I had to make sure the rockets didn't go much above 300 feet.

Big News for Me, Guys

This weekend, I sent off the a check for dues plus a season launch pass to what will be my first rocketry club - CMASS, the Central Massachusetts Spacemodeling Society, a NAR section.

I need to get a hat like this.
(NAR clubs are called "sections." Clubs in the Tripoli Rocketry Association are referred to as "prefectures.")

I'll be attending my first ever club launch in just under two weeks, up in Amesbury, MA.

For the last year, I've been pursuing this hobby mostly in a vacuum. My friends would occasionally go launch with me. Chad himself likes rockets, and built a few, but is far too busy a guy to really throw himself into rocketry like I did. So, it's just been me, a few books, some websites, and a huge online community to turn to for help. This will be my first time meeting other rocketeers in the flesh. I'm terribly excited. This will be my chance to hang out with other rocket obsessives, and meet people I can learn from - back in Bloomington, I was the local rocket "expert." But I still have a ton to learn, and this... This is gonna be awesome.

This post was going to be about how nervous I was to go out to the launch and meet people, as I'll probably be going alone - my girlfriend wants to go, but she probably has a thing she has to do. I'm a pretty outgoing guy, but sometimes in new situations where I don't know anybody, I get a little shy.

But I just got a message from Howard, one of the officers of CMASS - three messages, actually - and not only has my membership been approved, but he told me there are probably several members of the section who either live near or work in Boston, and he kindly invited me to tomorrow night's meeting in Gloucester.

Gloucester is a little far, but I'll go as long as I can get my local parking pass worked out (driving in Boston... Not as bad as parking in Boston). In any case, rocketeers are a friendly bunch, and even if I don't get to meet anybody before I show up in Amesbury, I know it's going to be great!

Hearing such a welcoming message was really great. Rocketry is a real passion for me (you might be able to tell, if you read this blog), and I need it. CMASS is my best option to continue and to grow in this pursuit, so it's really good to feel welcomed.

. . .

The upcoming launch is a big one. The Amesbury field is CMASS' high power range, meaning that I'll see some high power rockets in person for the first time. But that's not what makes this particular launch a big deal. Actually, now that I read that last sentence, it totally is a big deal for me... It's a huge deal for me! But for the club in general, it's a special event.

It's the Jim Flis Anniversary Launch. Jim Flis is the owner and founder of FlisKits, a model rocket company. Estes is the 600 pound gorilla of the model rocketry world, and Quest has some great kits. But if you're looking for something a little different, FlisKits is one of the independent companies you should check out.

They do have standard sport models, of course, and some scale historical models, but what stands out in my mind when I think of FlisKits is the slightly more oddball-looking rocket. Boost gliders (for n00bs, this is a rocket that looks a bit like an airplane - it goes up under rocket power, then glides to a safe recovery), oddrocs (something that just doesn't look like a traditional rocket), or sport models which have unusual fins -
either very large, or attached at unusual angles. Or insanely wicked futuristic models. Check out this newer kit - the Tesla.

Copyright FlisKits, Inc.

I have no idea the kind of mad modeling skills it would take to build this rocket! Maybe I'll see one of these in person.

Here are a few other interesting FlisKits rockets (the above and following six images are copyright FlisKits, Inc.).

Frick-n-Frack, and oddroc which
is also a two-stage rocket.
Rose-a-Roc - a helicopter recovery rocket.
It goes up like a normal model rocket, then
the helicopter blades eject and the whole
thing rotates slowly to the ground.
S.P.A.D - a fat sport model
Decaffeinator. Yes - it's made of
coffee cups
Nantucket Sound. Yes. It's a flying lighthouse.
This is a rocket company with a sense of humor. And adventure.

FlisKits has been in business for 13 years, and Jim Flis apparently goes to CMASS launches quite regularly, so they're throwing him a rocket party.

. . .

I've got a huge rocket wish list. I forget to check it now and then. Now that I'm going to the Jim Flis Anniversary Launch, I really wish I'd checked it earlier.

One rocket that's been on my wish list for some time is the FlisKits Deuce's Wild.

Copyright Fliskits, Inc.
 Very early on, I developed a fascination for cluster rockets - rockets which have multiple motors burning side-by-side. Though I haven't had the chance to launch very many of them (mostly because of wind conditions and the size of the field from which I was launching), I find them spectacular, and it may be my favorite kind of model rocket.

The first cluster I built and successfully launched was the Quest Magnum Sport Loader. You can see how much more smoke and flame comes out the back of a cluster - so awesome to watch!

As you can see from the above image, the Deuce's Wild is a two-motor cluster rocket. But it's special feature is that it has canted motor tubes. The thrust comes at an angle. Both motors fire slightly outward, producing a fatter smoke trail. It has the added advantage that the motors are pointed roughly through the rocket's center of gravity. That's a good feature.

One of the tough parts about launching clustered rockets is getting all of the motors to actually ignite simultaneously. Sometimes you'll have the rocket leave the pad with one or more motors unignited. That can lead to a crooked, uneven flight (and, of course, less altitude). With the canted motor mount, even if one of the two motors does not ignite, the Deuce's Wild will still tend to fly more or less straight.

And it's an affordable rocket. I definitely should have bought one of these before, so I'd have a Flis rocket to launch in a couple of weeks. But maybe it will be even better to buy it directly from the guy himself at the field.

. . .

I have three rockets I've built but never launched - the Estes Cosmic Explorer with an E motor mount, the Quest Big Dog, and the Quest Quadrunner - a 4 motor cluster rocket. Some of those require a special launch pad with a miniature launch rail. I have built the pad, but until I have met some people in the club, I'm not going to show up with a bunch of my own stuff and say "OK, guys, where do I set up?" That seems presumptuous.

The pad is well-constructed, and I'm sure I'll eventually be able to get the Big Dog and Cosmic Explorer in the air, but for now, I need to see how the club operates. Some clubs have a range setup called "misfire alley," where rocketeers bring their own launch pads and controllers, and everyone sets up their own stuff. But that's often, if I understand it correctly, for newer clubs who don't have a lot of their own equipment. From what I've read, CMASS is pretty well-established.

I'll probably just take a few smaller rockets with me the first time, and see what I can launch.

I cannot wait - it's been too long!

Check out Jim Flis' personal website: Thanks to Jim for allowing me to repost images from FlisKits.

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  1. You'll love the club launch, especially if you have never been to one. I'll try to find you there to say hi.

    1. Please do! I'll be the guy who looks like he doesn't know where he is or what he's doing.

      I can't wait to go!