Launch Report, Spring WELD, April 2-3, and the 2-day Sport Launch, April 16-17, 2011

It is customary for the Spring WELD event to suffer from horrible weather conditions, and that was half-true for this weekend. The weather forecast for Saturday was “windy”, and that was exactly what it was! The winds started out at more than 15 MPH and increased all day long, there were periods of more than 25 MPH. I spend most of the day sitting in the lee of my truck and trying to keep my tool boxes from blowing off the tables. There were some bad dust storms on the eastern margins of the field that obscured the view of the tree line, it was just plain horrible, most of the time it was hard to stand up straight. In spite of the conditions, Warren English showed up and flew 2 rockets: A small rocket called Ghost on a G motor of some sort, that drifted so far he needed about an hour to find it and bring it home. Then he flew his new 4″ rocket, called Scratch, on an Aerotech I357T (I think). I’m a little vague about those 2 flights because those two launch cards did not make it home with me. They might have blown away!

Sunday was a lot better! The winds stayed between ‘calm’ and 6 or 7 MPH for most of the day. As usual, attendance was VERY poor, and I can give you a description of every one of the flights and ‘almost flights’ of the day. In sharp contrast to the wonderful weather conditions, the performance of the flyers was less than ideal. Warren English is the only flyer who has something to brag about this weekend. On Sunday, Warren passed his TRA L2 written exam and made a perfect L2 flight with his Scratch on an Aerotech J420R. This flight was a delight to watch, the Raven altimeter made everything happen on schedule, and the clear blue skies made everything perfectly visible. The Scratch is made from PML quantum tube with some G10 fins, a very substantial design.

Kevin Murray got things going on Sunday with a flight of his Black Hawk 29 on an H410, and kicked the motor out the back, preventing the streamer from coming out, and the whole package buried itself in the soil, destroying his Walston transmitter.

Then, Jim Livingston launched his Viper III which was loaded with a central 115mm M and 3 76mm L’s in attached side-pods. We fought a balky launch controller relay box for an hour and 45 minutes before we got the thing launched, and at that point only the central M and 1 of the outboard L’s managed to light. Even with partial thrust, the 150 lb rocket coned a little bit and then settled down for a perfect coast up to 2100 feet, at which point the mains came out and brought everything down nice and gentle.

Then Alan Whitmore brought his entry into the “2-stage rocket” theme out to the away cell with a project that was intended to start out with an L1200 in the booster staging to an I300 in the Astro*Mollusc VI flying as a sustainer. When one of altimeters in the booster was armed, it fired the ejection charge immediately, and, luckily, nobody was hurt. After I got my heart rate back under control, that project was put back in the truck for some major electronics redesign. Look for this one to fly in the fall.

Then, Warren English made his successful L2 flight, as described above. After that, Mike Harris used the unistrut rail at the away cell to put up his Ignorant of My Destiny on a homemade L1100. This flight had a perfectly straight up portion, but for reasons unkown, it put out the main at apogee and the rocket drifted off the field to the south-east, at least 2 miles away. I had to leave with the trailer a litte before 5:00, and Mike and Kevin were still out looking for this one. Let’s hope they find this one and can bring most of it home.

Kevin Murray finished off the day with a flight of his Wildman Jr on and Aerotech I357T. The apogee charge failed to fire, so when the main came out at 300 feet, it was moving way too fast and the main parachute was stripped and the remainder came in ballistic.

We are going to have one more launch on this field before the summer break, 2 weeks from now on the 16th and 17th. After that, I am going to need some major help in rebuilding the launch control system. I simply cannot fly anything off of the rolling relay box anymore. The April launch will pose some serious problems for medium to high-power flights and we will all need to work hard to keep that weekend from becoming an exercise in futility. I will broach this subject on NC-rockets and try to collect some ideas.

Many thanks to Jim Livingston for the new away cell relay box and a new marine battery to trigger it with.

April 16-17. Two weeks later we were back in Bayboro for the 2-day commercial motor launch that marks the end of the spring flying season in eastern North Carolina. The weather is the big story for this weekend! A devastating series of violent thunderstorms and tornados moved across eastern North Carolina on Saturday and produced thehighest winds we have ever seen at the Bayboro site on Saturday morning! I had to be in Morehead City on business all day on Friday, so I was in New Bern on Saturday morning, in spite of the really awful weather forecast. So I decided to take the trailer to the field and just see who showed up.

I was shocked! Dave Morey came by, as did Tommy Harrell and Dave Hash, to help with running the show. They may have brought some rockets, but you only had to get out of your car to realize that this was not going to be a good day for rockets. The wind was over 25 mph all day with gusts up to 55 [information from the Air Traffic Controllers at Cherry Point]. In spite of the absolutely absurd weather conditions, two families showed up with small boys and a huge stash of rockets and the lads flew B and C motors and ran their legs off until around noon or 1:00 o’clock. Alex Frederickson and David Moore flew the almost unbelievable number of 14 rockets on Saturday, and the miraculous fact is that most parts of most of the rockets were recovered.

The wind was so hard that we could not put anything on a table, even a car battery. We had to prop the LCO table on its side with the legs digging into the ground and the launch controller boxes and the batteries on the lee side, with the battery hung on the inner lip of the table to keep it from flipping over. During the day the buttons controlling the launch sequence and the continuity tests filled up with blown sand and grit and on Sunday, most of the buttons would not return to the “off” position without being pried up. To launch a rocket, we just ran out to the table, hunkered down in the shelter of the table and pushed the buttons.

Sand and grit were being blown everywhere, mostly in my eyes and ears. When I sat down here at my computer to compose this launch report, great drifts of dirt slid out from the cards into my keyboard.

By noon, the winds had increased to the point that children were in danger of being blown away and the club trailer was rocking on its wheels. We decided to bag the rest of Saturday. Dave Morey and I and the Fredericksons retired to the host motel and took a break from the wind while the storms worked their way across the eastern part of the state. It was not a good night for the people of North Carolina. About 21 people died in the storms, lots of homes and businesses were destroyed, and electrical power was interrupted for tens of thousands.

Sunday was the sort of day that often follows a night of disaster: sunny, golden and calm. Alex and David were back flying more rockets and they were joined by Bram Lovelace and Vivienne English to fill up the motor classification table in the lower power ranges. This would be a good place to stick in the motor use summary:

Motor

Sat

Sun

Both

A

2

2

4

B

9

4

13

C

2

9

11

D

1

10

11

E

 

6

6

F

 

3

3

G

 

3

3

H

 

3

3

I

 

2

2

J

 

4

4

K

   

0

L

 

1

1

 

14

47

61

Sunday brought back to Bayboro a few of the regulars and a few old friends we haven’t seen for a few years. Notable in the latter group was Mark Frederickson, who flew with us a few times back at Whitakers, but who has been busy doing other things for the last few years. Mark flew a very nice V2 on an F12 on Sunday for a perfect flight, and then attempted a very ambitious cluster with side-pods project that didn’t quite reach the goal. For some reason, the altimeter didn’t light up the powder charges, and the assembly came in ballistic. Mark has worked through the bulk of the diagnostic process to analyse that one, and we will probably see that project back at Bayboro in the fall. Welcome back Mark and Alex!

Dave Morey made 2 flights on Sunday that were absolutely spectacular. The first was a flight of his Cluster 8 which was carrying an onboard video camera. 4 E30’s lit up on the pad, 2 E15’s lit at burnout of the first set of motors, and 2 more E15s came on-line at 2 seconds into the flight. The side-pods containing the air-starts seemed to hang on a little too long, but everything worked great and all parts recovered intact!

Dave’s next flight involved his 6″ Starfire which was loaded with an Aerotech L850W. This flight was also a complete success and confirmed why so many people just LOVE the big, long-burning White Lightning motors from Aerotech. The Starfire coasted on up to around 7,800 to 8,300 feet and was recovered perfectly.

Tommy Harrell has built a new booster section for his Crazed Pink, and he was running it through its paces on Sunday. In the first flight, he used the Loki I405 in the booster and an Aerotech H165 in the sustainer for a perfect flight up to 3298’. Recovery was right on the money. The total installed impulse for this flight was 658.2 N.s, so this flight is listed under the J motors in the motor use summary. Tommy then tried the combination with an I540 in the booster and an H180W in the sustainer, and something went bad wrong when the sustainer lit up. I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but Tommy will get it figured out and bring it back in the Fall, most likely.

Warren English was clearly interested in exploring some of the more interesting possibilities open up by his new Tripoli L2 certification. He put the Aerotech J825 (!!?) motor in his Scratch [this is the red-flame propellant load that goes in the 38/1080 case. The burn was loud and fast and very red. This was the first J825R I have ever seen, and it was quite interesting.

John Hobson brought a new rocket called Satan’s Child, finished in a red and black paint scheme. He flew it on and Aerotech J275W for an almost-perfect flight: The main parachute tangled a little, but the recovery was just fine.

Dennis Hill made several flights with his son’s L1 cert rocket on a variety of G motors which all worked perfectly.

The signs that Dave Morey had made last year have finally begun to bring in the spectators. We had 5 people drop by this weekend to watch and learn about high power after seeing the signs, and at least one of them will probably come back in the fall to fly with us. That’s it for the Spring, we will get back together in the fall and fly some more!

Alan Whitmore

Prefect, Tripoli East NC

This entry was posted in Launch Reports. Bookmark the permalink.