The big one

Yesterday was the Syracuse Rocket Club’s Annual Family Rocket Launch, our biggest launch event with food provided, free launching, door prizes, and even a porta john. Friday evening some of us were there setting up the big tent, the pads, and some of the other infrastructure. Then yesterday I got there sometime before 9:00 and left about fourteen hours later. Long day.

The weather wasn’t quite what was advertised. The slight possibility of sprinkles early followed by afternoon clearing was instead heavy overcast all day and three rain showers — all fairly brief, fortunately, but they did cut into attendance and launch time. Things finally cleared up in the evening and there were stars overhead for the night launch. Winds started off moderate but became pretty calm later.

Between the rain and time spent looking for an elusive rocket I didn’t launch as many times as I’d expected to, but I prioritized and did send up everything I really wanted to. My first rocket, and indeed the first rocket of the event, was my Custom Razor on an A8-3. Didn’t get a picture. It flew fine, but drifted over the flight line, as did a number of flights that day. (I think the wind was mostly left to right but there was sometimes a component toward the flight line.)

Next was the first of a record number of composite motor flights for me. For my first contest flight, the Bad Cholesterol Block II went up with two eggs and an altimeter aboard on an Aerotech E15-4W.IMG_3066 MVI_3068aStability seemed a little marginal and it arced over away from us, losing lots of altitude points. I thought I got a good line on where it landed and I thought it came down short of the stream, but when I went out there it was nowhere to be seen. I searched a while, came back for my boots and searched again down into the growth around the stream, and came up empty. Finally I gave up and went to prep another rocket, only to have another person come up to me and hand me the Bad Cholesterol. Apparently I’d deluded myself about the line it was on.

My score on that flight was unimpressive with only 469 feet altitude and 27 seconds duration, but at least the eggs came back whole. I put the rocket back together, loaded up another E15-4W (what’s that definition of insanity again?), adjusted the launch rod angle, and sent it back up. This time it went up straighter and came down in the diametrically opposite direction; I worried it might have gone into the road, but it had come down short. Altitude 688 feet and time 39 seconds were better, but still well short of simulation. Once again the eggs lived. There were only two other contestants and one disqualified with a separation on his second flight, but I was very solidly in second place. Which was fine — once again, just having a viable entry and getting the eggs back was victory enough for me.

Flight number four, the one I’d been prepping when the Bad Cholesterol returned, was the first flight of my Aerotech Mustang on an Aerotech Econojet F42-8T. This one took off from lucky pad 13.IMG_3069 MVI_3071aAnd it went just fine. I was a little worried about the small size of the supplied chute (16″) so loaded a Top Flight 18″ instead. Slow recovery, and maybe the 16″ would have been okay. This was another one that headed toward the road, but came down short. I really liked this flight.

Next was the sustainer only from my Estes Loadstar II, with my cheapo video camera in a cardboard sled, going up on a C6-5.2014-08-23 16.23.28MVI_3072I thought I’d try getting better video quality by drilling a hole in the payload tube, so the camera wouldn’t be looking through the plastic. I suppose it didn’t hurt, but let’s face it, this camera was very cheap and not designed for action footage. The outward facing orientation was less than optimal too. Altogether the video is not especially watchable, but there are occasional frames where you can blurrily see things:SUNP0003-001 SUNP0003(The timestamp is not quite correct.) I think this may meet one of my NARTREK Silver requirements.

Next was The Rocket Doctors Recommend Most, flying for the first time, also on an E15-4W. I decided to load up the 16″ chute that came with the Mustang.2014-08-23 15.58.34 MVI_3072-001What happened when the button was pushed surprised me: It flew. Pretty straight, high enough. Deployment was fine and it came back undamaged… except for a hole burned in the chute. Well I’ll be… that ridiculous pile of junk worked.

I almost didn’t fly the Rocketarium Retro Rebel, odd-roc theme or no odd-roc theme, because I was running out of composite motor ignitors; eventually I realized, oh right, I can use (and have used before) a black powder C in it. In fact a C6-3 of which I have more than enough. So up it went.

IMG_3073 MVI_3074The up part went fine, but this thing is 0 for 3 on recovery. The first time the chute came back a little melted; the second time the nose cone screw eye pulled out. This time the nose cone ejected but the chute didn’t. No evident damage anyway.

That was it for the daytime. At the night launch the Loadstar II sustainer went up again, with the payload filled with flashing Christmas LED necklaces and a couple of finger LEDs. It was underpowered for that load with a B6-4 and the flight was unimpressive, but no damage done. Others stepped up the night launch standards this year, with a Leading Edge Alien, a Bad Azz White Wizzard, and a scratch build around a flashing toy magic staff or something that had a beautiful flight impersonating a UFO.

After that we took down the equipment and tent. In the dark. That was interesting.

Eight up, eight down, one toasted chute. Pretty good! Next launch: Sept. 20.

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