4/2005 Launch Report
Hello all - thanks to everyone who came out to Mansfield this
weekend. Hats off to Kent Newman for a great launch. We had to work
around the weather a little bit, but it seems like most folks had a
good time. Nicholas and I showed up Friday night about 8:30 pm -
Harold Kellums (hope I spelled that right!) was there, and the Daves
Woodard and Bill Munds arrived 5 minutes after us.
IT WAS COLD!!! Temp got down just below freezing. Next morning, after
the club GSE arrived (thanks Mark Kibbey!) we got some flying
started. I think Nicholas had first-launch honors with his new Quest
Penetrator ona B6-4. He flew it again later on a C6-5, and we had
quite a walk to get the top section!
As our waiver had just arrived on Thursday, it took a while before the
several agencies in the FAA were completely spun up as to where we
were launching and when; nice to have decent cell phone reception out
there. It's improved since last year, I think someone must have added
another tower close by. Excellent reception with my Verizon svc all
I flew my NCR Archer on a 5-grain Cesaroni J285 to about 3K feet,
then loaded my L3 bird Hell Bent for Leather II with a Aerotech M2400
- it's the 98/7680 Blue Thunder companion to the M1419. Fast,
straight boost after a little tip off into the wind, to about 6800
feet. That was HellBent's 5th flight at Mansfield. Good GPSflight
plot until the batteries died during the descent, and picture-perfect
touchdown about 300 yards out into the plowed field north of the
launch area. Discovered that the motor blast had dug a 5" deep crater
about 4 ft in diameter under the launch pad.
After HellBent, I flew my 38mm Art Applewhite saucer firston an I284
and then a J570. The older I284 took a couple of seconds to light
up. The J570 just screamed off the pad - it was on the pad, then1/2
a second later it was at 1000 feet.
Other cool flights on Saturday - Harold Kellum's K185 flight to 10,600
feet (right into the sun). Both he and I owe Bob Yanecek a big "thank
you" for his remarkable recovery feats this wkend.Some L1 certs,
Carl Hamilton and one other at least (can't remember the other name)
plus Katie Albrecht's L2 flight. The Albrecht clan had multiple
mid-power and some high power flights over the weekend - great
pictures on Eric's website!
There was one unsuccessful L2 flight - suspicions leaning toward
drag-separation of the fin can at or near motor burnout. Fortunately
both the altimeter and motor casing were recovered. Mark Kibbey flew
his big black Stealth at least twice during the weekend. Ray Stoner
flew a min-diameter 29mm bird to over 4K feet out of Bob Yanecek's
tower. We even managed to drag Andy Casillas over the pass for
several nice flights!
Tim Goldsmith and his father Steve came over for the day from Bellvue
- Tim has a nice scratch-built bird in anticipation of a L1 cert after
turning 18 sometime this summer. He flew it twice with Dave Woodard's
assistance, some slight but repairable damage after a hard landing on
the 2nd flight.
Sunday dawned a little rainy, but clearing and slightly warmer. Bob
Yanecek kindly loaned me his tower to fly my 54mm min-diameter bird
ona K1100 - what a hoot! 12700 feet, Mach 1.1, almost 30 Gs. It's
got both a Missileworks 50K and an ARTS crammed into it - altitude
agreed within 200 feet. Had an intermittent Walston signal during the
boost and recovery (it went out of sight pretty quickly), then lost
the signal. Nicholas and I went driving with the receiver, but
Bloodhound Bob 9000 went two-for-two, finding Harold's rocket the day
before, and mine today. I'm suspecting a worn-out coax cable for the
antenna. Mutiple other flights in the morning, hopefully others will
fill in details. Nicholas launched his Maxi-Alpha III several times
The last flight of the day went to Carl Hamilton - stretching his
newly-acquired L1 cert, he loaded his cert bird up with an I161 as the
noon-wavier-closing was approaching. Following a misfire, nice
straight boost on the white Lightningmotor, arc over, waiting,
Finally Carl's buddy says "Hey Carl, did you arm the altimeter?"
"ARRRGGGHHH!!!" In a miraculous turn of events, the rocket flat-spun
in to a soft landing ina freshly-plowed soft dirt field. Positive
ending to the weekend's activity, and more than likely a good
memory-jogger that'll remain with him for a while. Carl, you weren't
the first, and you certainly won't be the last - welcome to HPR!
Congratulations to those who had cert flights, thanks again to
everyone who came out, and especially everyone who lent a hand setting
up and tearing down. Great practice launch prior to the FITS at the
end of May. See you all Memorial Day weekend!!
Jim, great launch report. Yes, it was less than optimal conditions but
there were better than average windows of launching opportunity. The
crowd was just large enough to be interesting with all the different
flights but just small enough to friendly and not too crowded. It
gave everyone time to mingle with the other fliers for trading of
rocket tips of construction and motor selection. At the end of the
day on Sunday, there were only two missing rockets. One was my last
flight of the Altered Fat Boy before retiring it to the "hanger" and
one of Harold's Kellum's models. Thanks to Carl and Patrick!! for a
walk out to the last know sight line of the Fat Boy. While Dave and I
were packing up the last remnants of the PSP Propulsion Station, here
comes the "Rocket Finders" with the Fat Boy in hand. Thankyou
thankyou. Harold's model is still missing in action.
The other Level 1 certification was Mark Lyons. He pulled in with his
wife (sorry I missed your name) with a few rockets to launch on some
hopefully obtained "single use" F's. We ended up convincing Mark of
the economy of reloads and offered to loan him the case so he could
fly his rockets without leaving flightless. He purchased a G54 and we
set him down at the Propulsion Station for tutelage on reload motor
building. He successfully launched his rocket, a nicely crafted one
at that, came back for another reload. He asked about Level 1
certification paperwork. After filling out the L1 paperwork he
launched his bird on a H to complete his Level 1 cert. Congratulations
Mark. Katy Albrecht and Carl Hamilton did have exceptional flights on
Thanks to Jim Wilkerson, as Launch Director, WAC for sponsoring the
launch, and the Town of Mansfield for hosting us, as well as all the
other folks that helped setup and tear down and haul the equipment and
assist in occupying one chair or another to run the launch.
SPARC had 4 representatives at last weekends Mansfield event.
I only flew once but finally got in a good 38mm min diameter flight on
my I130. Boost was strong and straight, apogee event was audibly
detected, Main observed right as it deployed, close recovery made
Ray's on board RF tracker unnecessary but a good confidence builder as
it beeped a strong signal throughout the flight, Perfectflight
altimeter reported 7713'. Previous attempts had resulted in spit
casing(s), mild zippers, and one very lucky recovery due to a solo
pair of eyes providing the only recovery bearing.
The rest of my trip was spent wandering around on rocket searches. In
my 'new' custom footwear (desired boots were comfortably sitting on
the front deck at home). I really made a fashion statement but at
least succeeded in protecting my feet and ankles. Harold Kellams
rocket on a K185 was beautiful going up along with that great long
burn motor roaring into the heavens. The rocket was spotted shortly
after main deployed and a good GPS bearing acquired. After Harold had
problems locating the rocket, I took out with him to assist. We
started 1 mile downrange and against Harold's recommendation, I
decided it was farther out on bearing 116. I zigzagged out to 2 miles
between 116 and 117, and then returned zigging between 115 and 116.
With umpteen million miles under foot, the short jaunt back to the
launch site was rewarded by finding the rocket right on bearing but
only about .7 miles out. It was within 50' of where Harold had
already searched but just over the crest of a hill. Lesson of the
day: "If you get a good recovery bearing, walk it out from the launch
Marty had one of the most memorable flights. After a good boost (+ a
little wobble from a visibly bent airframe), the drogue failed to
deploy. The rocket was not observed at apogee but just before impact
there was a really weird noise that identified the landing site. Post
flight analysis showed the main charge (set at 700) had fired the
drogue during ballistic descent for a very high speed streamer
deployment that accounted for the tremendous noise we heard just
before impact. The rocket was recovered in remarkably good shape with
no damage to the electronics. Heck, he was going to straighten it out
anyway so now he has the perfect excuse to do that.
Ray's upscale unpainted Quark turned in another great no-spin flight.
What a weird shape to see ripping up into the sky. He followed it up
with a 29mm min diameter bird using a perfectflight altimeter for
apogee deployment only. It boosted perfectly, apogee tracking chalk
was observed then nothing. We searched till dark before aborting. The
rocket was recovered early Sunday morning in the field north of the
launch site. Analysis revealed the apogee charge had separated the
airframe but the streamer stayed in the BT resulting in a flat spin
and then a very small rocket to search for.
Jim Wilkerson's 54mm flight sure got up and out in a hurry, followed
by a bunch of nothing. I began drifting downwind on a random search.
I had my binoculars but forgot my GPS ... dangit! After Harold's
search experience I just 'had' to look over the top of every rise.
After 3 "this is the last rise I'll check" thresholds, there was the
rocket all stretched out and less that 50' from getting into some
really thick nasty brush. It was way downrange but without the GPS,
I'm clueless just how far out.
A great evening fire, superior company, casual atmosphere, and fun
rockets did a good job of offsetting the weather.
After a very hectic day that involved picking up my new trailer (2.5
hours later than I wanted to), I arrived at Mansfield at 11:15 pm and
setup the trailer. I was in bed by midnight and up by 6 on Saturday
morning. It was cold and the winds were low. Made some coffee and
talked and waited for others to arrive.
I got kind of a slow start on flying rockets and my first flight was
Charm, a 8x upscale quark on an I284. Motor ignition was quick and
the bird flew straight up, with nary a spin in sight. Electronic
deployment of the main at apogee at 2700' was really nice to see. The
rocket came down into the "swampy" area just north of the launch site.
The area was pretty much dry, but reeds and other water grasses
surrounded the rocket. The nose cone was embedded in the ground , the
rocket had two fins stuck in the ground too. Both were deep enough to
stand up, but not too deep.
The winds were "up" a bit, but seemed to be calming down, so I set to
prepping "According to Bob, baby, dinky, tiny, too small fins" that I
had extended for an altimeter bay. I got it prepped just prior to the
waiver closing (not that I needed it, the bird weighs 15 oz fully
loaded with motor and deployment, its still a model!). The winds were
nicely calm and I anticipated a good high flight. The rocket left the
tower (thanks Bob) nice and straight on the G40 loaded in it. Prior
to motor burn out some cork screws could be observed in the smoke
trail, but it kept going straight, just some spinning. I lost sight
in my binoculars a bit after motor burn out. Bob and Marty did too.
Marty spotted the tracking chalk almost directly over head, so we knew
that ejection happened, but nobody saw the bird again. Marty, Bob and
I were pretty confident that the rocket came down north of the launch
site due to the wind direction, but after about 1 1/2 hours of
searching we couldn't find it and gave up for the night.
The next morning just as I was preparing to go on another walk to
search, Eric Albrecht came walking into camp with "According to Bob"
in his hand. He said he was out looking for one of his birds, stopped
to look around and heard a beeping sound. He searched the soft dirt
surrounding him and saw just a small part of the rocket sticking out.
He was only about a yard away and hadn't seen it before. A big thanks
to him for finding it. The altimeter was beeping out 4817'.
It was a good launch. Lots of new friends, lots of old friends.
Weather we less then great, but good enough to launch a few rockets.
Had a great time.
The event started for us Friday night as we made final preparations to
get the GSE to the launch. Mark Kibbey stopped by about 7 p.m. with
his van and we sat in the dark n the backyard sorting through the
equipment and deciding what we had room to bring. We weren't sure who
would get there first so we each took a launch controller and some
pads, and Mark got most of the miscellaneous stuff.
Our plan was to leave by 6 a.m. on Saturday. Martin (our 3 year old)
puked on the floor just before we left, so that was not a good omen,
but we left anyway. The pass was snow-covered but driveable and,
after stopping in Waterville to check into the hotel, we arrived at
about 10. There was much rejoicing when folks saw the gear, and
within an hour we had it set up, by which time Mark was also there so
we put up everything.
I thought I'd start with something easy so I loaded an Estes E9 in my
recently zipper repaired Executioner. After I pushed the button it
exploded in flames and pieces of burning fuel flew everywhere. We
quickly had a grass fire about 4 feet high and 20 feet in diameter,
but quick action put it out and it ended up making a fine pre-burned
pad site afterward. The Executioner is probably a loss.
The wind was low so, after FITS last year, I didn't want to miss my
opportunity to launch my big stuff. I loaded an I195 Blackjack in my
new Binder Stealth for it's maiden flight. The first igniter didn't
take, which I understand is not unusual for a Blackjack, so I put a
little kink in the second one to make sure it would contact the
propellant. It smoked for about 4 seconds on the pad before lighting,
but then blasted off for a beautiful flight. Sadly, I found it with a
6 inch zipper. I assume the delay was burning the whole time the
motor was lighting so it went early. I had intended to use dual
deploy but didn't get it finished in time. I don't think I'll do
another big Blackjack without it.
Katy was going to do her Level 2, but the wind had blown it over
behind the van and the nose weight had come loose, so she was messing
with cold, thick, 5-minute epoxy trying to repair it. I took the
opportunity to prep my LOC Weasel with a G104 Blue Thunder. The sims
showed quite the stats for this flight, so I had modified it to accept
the Altaac for recording only. It was a pain to install it, but the
flight was crazy fast and straight. I discovered after landing that
you have to put a resistor across the MAIN terminals for recording, so
I didn't get any data.
By now Katy had her Yank Concept One ready, and after some ribbing for
not painting it she launched. It was a perfect flight in every way,
except it drifted forever because we hadn't finished dual deploy on it
either. I went off to retrieve. I found it in about half an hour in
good shape, and by then Katy had wandered out as well. On our way
through the weeds Katy was listening for rattlesnakes and heard some
beeping. We followed it and found an altimeter bay from a shredded
rocket, which the owners were quite happy we had found.
Our last flight of the day was Katy's Yank Iris on a G77R. The delay
was very long and the shock cord broke, sending the nose cone off into
oblivion. The body flat spun in and survived with a broken fin.
Someone had thankfully spotted the nose cone, so it will be repaired
Sunday morning we got back at about 9:30. We instantly prepped the
Arreaux with a F20 Econojet and it performed flawlessly as usual.
Next, I flew the Seawolf on a F24W. It always flies crappy, and this
was no exception. It wiggled it's tail all over, but survived as
usual, except it cracked a fin when it landed on a rock. On my way
back from recovery I found Ray Stoner's missing 29mm minimum diameter
bird buried in the dirt by accident. i almost stepped right on it
without seeing it, but I heard it beeping, which it was still doing
from the night before.
As the equipment was being broken down, we decided we needed one more
so a quick trip to PSP got us a F52T which was a *great* fast and high
flight. We headed out about 1:00 and got home about 4:30.
Although I brought it, I didn't get to fly my Black Brant since the
fates did not align to get all of the remaining items I needed. But I
got to show it off at least.
Thanks for a great time!
We arrived at the launch site around 10:30a on Saturday, very happy to
see that it wasn't raining. After getting the Mini-Winnie settled, we
headed over to the PSP tent to pick up our motors, and say hi to a few
people. Concerned that the weather would get worse during the day, we
decided to get prepping and get out there to start flying.
First order of business was Carl's L1 cert on his PML Explorer
("Dora"). Was a very nice flight on an H180W. Motor deployment just
past apogee, nice safe landing. Thanks to Andy & Kent for helping with
the RSO & observing duties.
Next up was my L2 attempt. I flew a J350 in a scratch built 2.2"
diameter rocket, with dual deployment. When I designed & built this
rocket, I did not explicitly design it for transonic/mach flights, but
did build it to be very durable. It was the 3rd generation of a
design that I've flown 50+ times in the past year, on everything from
F21's through H180s. I've used this as a platform to learn mid & high
power, lightweight building techniques, dual deployment, flying a
video camera, etc. I've had very good success with this design.
Since I don't make it out to the organized launches very often, I
figured this would be a good opportunity to try an L2 cert flight. As
this is my only rocket with 38mm MMT, it was my only choice. Because
it is near-minimum diameter, it was simming to about 6000', and was
predicted to hit about 1100fps. The airframes are cardboard, but are
reinforced with coupler stock on the inside. In this way, there are
continuous interior tubes in addition to the outer tubes throughout
the length of the rocket, which I hoped would be able to handle the
stress of going transonic.
The liftoff was beautiful, and the first 1200' or so was perfect. Then
the rocket turned a bit and then parts started flying off. From the
ground it was hard to tell what happened. Lots of theories were
discussed, from loss of fins, to drag separation, to the nosecone
getting bumped off the main due to quick deceleration. Luckily I was
able to get all the parts back and do a post-mortem to determine the
likely cause. Clearly the root cause was that the nosecone came off
early. This caused a spectacular zipper of the entire 22" upper
airframe, bent the e-bay allthreads, and snapped several Kevlar shock
cords. Remarkably, I was able to salvage both chutes, the electronics,
nosecone and motor casing. In a lucky twist, the 12" drogue stayed
attached to the e-bay and it coasted down to a nice controlled
landing. The main chute got tied up the tangle of cords, so it never
opened - it came down still attached to the nosecone, and was
virtually undamaged. If it deployed, I'm sure it would have shredded.
As far as I can tell, the booster didn't suffer any damage until it
landed (it must have come down hard and fast). The impact crumpled
the anti-zipper, and pushed the MMT about 1/8" back.
Driving home from the launch, I convinced myself that the upper
airframe broke at the nosecone, due to stress of going transonic.
After thinking about it longer and correlating some additional
information, I now believe that the main chute pushed the nosecone off
during rapid deceleration after burnout. (By the way, I was warned
about this possibility prior to the flight by Kent). One key data
point is that the electronics bay started its controlled descent at
about 1500' (remember it had the 12" drogue attached). According to
the sims, motor burnout would occur about 1400', so I feel pretty
confident that the breakup occurred after burnout. The video Bryon
Schopp shot of the flight appears to support this theory as well.
In case you're curious, I'm not at all upset about this flight. While
it was a slight blow to the ego, it was a great learning experience,
and I was able to salvage all the important stuff. And the paintjob
sucked anyway, so good riddance.
Thanks to everyone who helped recover the wreckage, particularly Carl,
Katy A. (who found the e-bay), the SPARC gang, Mark Kibbey and I'm
sure a bunch of others who helped locate the debris. And Dave Woodard
for loaning me the case, and then not getting too mad that it took
about 24 hours to find it. Also thanks for the advice for future
flights from Jim Wilkerson, Kent, Andy, etc.
That was my only flight of the day, as I spent most of the afternoon
searching for debris.
Carl got in a second flight on Dora, this time on a H218R, which
allowed him to do his first flight test of electronic deployment. Was
another great flight, cool to see a redline motor against darkening
skies. The computer deployed the main at apogee. Very nice.
On Sunday I got out my blue rocket, which is the previous generation
of the rocket that shredded. I have a small video camera that I can
fly on this rocket, so I wanted to get some aerial shots of the launch
site. I flew it twice: once on H97J, once on a H180W. The H180
flight went to 2600', and provided a nice view of the launch site &
recovery area. When I get a chance, I'll post the video from those
flights. Both came out pretty nice. I posted a few vid caps to the
images section on the website. It's cool to hear the audio of these
launches, especially hearing the blackjack motor come up to pressure.
Carl got in two flights on Sunday with Dora, doing more testing of
dual deployment. His first flight was on a H218R, and was his first
true dual-deployment. Worked great, was a really nice flight.
Congrats on hitting that milestone.
His second flight was the last launch of the day. Because he was
worried that the motor delay was too short, he decided to go all
electronic and used a plugged closure. It was a beautiful launch on
an I161W (?). Looks like it got to about 3000'. At apogee, nothing
happened. Hmmmm. At least it was coming down in a flat spin, so it
was slow and controlled. Then, at 500' nothing happened. Hmmm. "Hey
Carl, did you arm the electronics?" GRRRRR!!!! Unfortunately in the
rush to get the flight off before the waiver closed, Carl forgot to
turn on the electronics - Doh! Luckily the rocket came down in that
flat spin and landed in soft dirt. No damage at all, except some
minor bruising of the ego.
All in all we had a great time. This was our first "destination"
launch. It was really nice to hang out with everyone, put some faces
with e-mail addresses, and get some good advice. We were really
impressed at how nice & supportive everyone was. Good to meet some of
the Spokane crew too.
Thanks to everyone who organized the launch, got the GSE out there,
etc. Also, thanks to PSP for supplying motors. If it weren't for
them, we probably wouldn't have made the trip out there.