Why not high

Here’s a response to postings from several different places.

Start off with a question posted by Michael Mann on the NAR Facebook group:

I have a question for the masses. What keeps rocketeers in the low power side of the lobby? Money, nostalgia, etc? I personally love to see all the old classic models, and I have a few, but I find myself drawn to bigger and bigger rockets.

Not that I read the Facebook NAR group. I don’t like Facebook very much and don’t use it very much. And while FB groups work OK for small, intimate groups exchanging small numbers of messages among themselves, groups like NAR and Model Rocketry Fanatics with thousands of members end up as unstructured, noisy messes. No thanks.

But I do read Chris Michielssen’s blog and I saw his response there:

  • First up – I love watching mid and high power launches. I have great respect for the guys who successfully fly the big models.
  • It seems the larger the rocket, the simpler the design. (Not all, but most.) Most mid and high power rockets seem to be 3FNC designs. I like doing detail work on the smaller models.
  • Money is a consideration. I can fly five models at a club launch for $15.00, instead of my entire budget going to just one flight.
  • I don’t have the storage area for 4″ diameter rockets.
  • I don’t care to use epoxy or learn fiber glassing.
  • BP Dual deploy seems a bit daunting. I do like the Jolly Logic Chute Deploy, though.
  • And last (I’ll catch some flack for this) – my BT-50 model with a C engine looks about the same at apogee as a larger mid power model.

It’s a pretty good response, several of whose items match up with my own reasons for continuing with low and medium power rocketry. (I do think that last item sort of misses the point. A HPR at 3000 feet and a model rocket at 300 may look pretty similar, but the look, sound, and feel of a C motor’s brief hiss cannot compare with those of an M motor’s prolonged burn. That plus the satisfaction of being able to build a rocket that will withstand the stresses of a high power launch and fly higher or farther than a low power model can are undoubtedly a large part of high power’s appeal.)

But another way of responding to Mann’s question, for me, is to point to this sad recent post on Greg Smith’s blog:

In honor of Mike “Sparky” Jerauld’s lengthy service to the DART club many folks flew Skidmarks, Dark Matters, or Metalstorm motors. I elected to bust out the CTI Pro75/6GXL 6827M2080 Skidmark purchased during last fall’s Wildman sale. As always the prep took much of the morning but I felt good about the setup. Thanks to Darrel for helping out at the pad and that was a fine, joltingly quick liftoff:

Mark Treseder later shared that he thought the motor had cato’d but I had used the stock CTI igniter and I’m guessing it was the high aspect ratio, 7G motor that caused the quick pressure up. I never saw it after burnout but had GPS lock from about 14,000 feet until it landed. Later Darrel and I drove right up to it on the concrete runway about three feet North of the dirt. It was clear that the apogee ejection had worked but there had been no main ejection at 800 feet. Having flown this rocket based on a recipe that had served me well for about nine flights I was shocked and saddened at the recovery failure. I forgot to shoot a photo but the booster was on the runway painfully close to the dirt (which would have saved it) and the payload section was in the dirt. I’m guessing that the payload section had bounced off the concrete, however, as it’s nearly totaled as well. The booster clearly landed at an angle as the AeroPack motor retainer has a huge dent in it, the epoxy sealing the retainer in is mostly fractured out, and I can see that the casing itself is dented. I will publish a separate entry on the failure analysis but I’m quite certain the new M-tek ‘initiators’ are to blame. Kenny Harkema spoke to the folks at electricmatch dot com and they told him there was a defective batch of pyrogen material for these new matches. Friggin’ sheer awesomeness. I should note that their J-teks have never failed me.

My sympathies. That’s definitely not the kind of experience one wants to have when one pushes the go button.

But it’s a near perfect illustration of why I’m not interested in leaving LPR and MPR behind. Let’s start with the motor: I don’t know what Wildman was charging during last fall’s sale but at present their club price is $341.96. That’s nowhere near a price I can justify spending on something I’ll burn up in a few seconds, especially now that I have a new car whose monthly payment is, well, fairly close to that same amount. Granted, if you mix your own fuel, an M motor can be made for considerably less than that. But that’s if you’re willing to expend the time, effort, and setup money on getting into EX, and aren’t daunted by the very real risks involved in dealing with rocket fuel to which even CTI is not immune. And even if $342 isn’t a problem, you can fly dozens of LPR and MPR rockets for that money.

Next: “As always the prep took much of the morning”. Nothing wrong with taking most of a morning to do something you enjoy, of course, But hours spent prepping one flight versus hour spent prepping and flying multiple flights?

And then there was the recovery failure. Crash a Big Bertha or a Ventris and you feel bad. That’s money, time, and effort now lying in a crumpled wreck. But it’s a lot less money, time, and effort than Smith put into his rocket… and you’re likely to have a lot more other rockets you can still fly than the person who’s invested heavily in that one big bird.

I think I’ll continue to have a foot, or at least a toe, in HPR; not M motors, but the occasional H or I, maybe at some point J or K. It’s fun stuff. But so are the smaller rockets, and the bang for the buck is arguably better.

 

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