Launch Report, Bayboro, NC – January 28-29, 2012

The biggest news of the weekend was the weather.  Winter in North Carolina is not an unbroken spell of cold and ice and snow, but is often interrupted with brief periods of balmy warmth, clear skies, and calm winds.  Those golden idyllic intervals seldom occur on rocket weekends: nobody is that lucky.  But, this weekend we hit the jackpot!  Nobody who attended this launch failed to comment on how fine the weather was.

The next biggest story was the big group that came to visit from the SEVRA group, the Southeastern Virginia Rocketry Association.   At least nine adults and a bunch of children made the trip from the north looking for a place to fly while the runways at the Fentress field are being re-paved.  We all enjoyed meeting them and they enjoyed the huge field with its almost total lack of rocket-eating trees.  Looking through the flight cards I see the names of Phill Ash, Randy Regan, Joe Vanlandingham, Bill Pleban, Pat and Joshua Harden, Michael Pieknik, Joe Zawodny, “Naked Nick” DeBrita, and Jeff Goldstein.    (Those of you who have flown with us for a few years will remember Jeff Goldstein as one of the only 2 people to ever fly and successfully recover a J motor at the tiny and treacherous field at Battleboro, NC).

How about a motor use summary?!?!

Motor size Sat Sun Total
A 2   2
B 1   1
C 5   5
D 4   4
E 5   5
F 6   6
G 7   7
H 6   6
I 12 1 13
J 5 1 6
K 2   2
L 2   2
M 2 1 3
N   1 1
All sizes 59 4 63

Thanks to the Virginia group, the motor use summary is beginning to look more like a high-power rocket launch!  The certification flights are always the most important events of any launch, and this month we saw two.  First, Joshua Harden made a NAR “Junior L1” cert flight and it was completely successful.  Later, Michael Pieknik, a student at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA, made a successful NAR L1 flight with a rocket called Captain I, and followed that up later in the day with a fine flight of the same rocket with the long-burn smoky I195J motor.   Congratulations to both of you!

Dave Morey brought his friend Jeffrey LaCosse who made a number of flights in the H  range, some with on-board video cameras.  On-board video seems to be the theme of the month, as a huge number  of the rockets that passed by me when I was checking rockets at the RSO desk or loading them on the pads at the LCO table were strapped with little black things that looked like car keys without the keys.  The quality of video (in color!!!!) from these little gizmos is just amazing.  The links to several of these have been posted on nc-rockets already (Monday night) and they are quite clear.

A quick scan through the flight cards brings back a few vivid memories.

Morgan Ash brought out a beautifully finished little ESTES boosted glider kit called the Hawk  that flew on an A8.  This model needs a little trim work on the flight surfaces because it hit the ground at an angle that was considerably non-horizontal.  I would love to see that one fly again.

Tommie Collier doesn’t get to join us as often as his brother Mike, but when he does make the trip to Bayboro he brings some beautiful smaller rockets.  This month I was absolutely blown away by two of his kits, a two-stage version of the WAC-Corporal  from ASP rocketry that flew on a D12 boosting to a B6, and a larger version of the sustainer by itself that flew on an Aerotech G64W.  Both of these rockets were finished perfectly and extremely accurately detailed.

The most hilarious flight of the weekend occurred when Scott Schnegelberger’s Thing One carried its launch pad and about 25 feet of igniter lead for a flight up to about 400 feet and gently arched out away from the cars for a landing about 600 feet away.   Apparently the rail buttons on the rocket, which I estimate weighed about 9 or 10 lbs, hung up in the 10-10 rail which was attached to Tommy Harrell’s launch pad that was built to handle the TARC team rockets, which are usually about a pound or so in weight and powered with F or G motors.  I have been attending launches since about 1998 and I have seen rods and rails that were not adequately fastened to the launch pads carried away during the launch, but I have never seen the entire launch pad take off and head for the skies before.   Just when you think you have seen everything   ……….

Pat Harden and Nick DeBrita conducted a rocket “drag race” with LOC Mini Mags loaded with the very entertaining CTI I180SK motors.  Like most rocket “drags”, this one occurred in 2 stages: one rocket flew, the igniter in the other one was replaced, and then the other one flew.   Still, if the simultaneous ignitions occur, they are a lot of fun.

Dave Morey collected this month’s award for the best rocket name for his new 7.5” diameter  rocket based on the LOC Warlock shape, and constructed fire-hydrant strong using Dave’s magical application of balsa wood, fiberglass, and epoxy resin.  This beast carries a central 54mm motor tube and six 38mm tubes arranged around the central tube.  He calls this one the Evil Queen and it flew Saturday on an Aerotech K550W.  The flight was just perfect, and I cannot wait until we can see this one fly on the full complement of 7 motors, perhaps with some exciting air-starts.

At the big end of the installed impulse range there were two very exciting flights:  Nick DeBrita saw the 3800 acres of absolutely empty recovery area and figured this would be a good day for an M motor.  He flew his all-fiberglass Ultimate Wildman on the CTI M2045 blue-flame formula for a completely successful flight .  By the way, the “Naked Nick” appellation comes from the fact that Nick never paints his rockets.  John Elliott flew his 2-stage OBX with an L1390 in the booster and a K560W in the sustainer.  Lift-off was kind of lazy, and by the time the second stage lit up, the sustainer was pointed a little bit off-vertical, so it came down about 50 yards into the tree-line about 2 ½ miles to the northeast.  There was a tracker on board, so John knows which particular pine tree it is draped over the top of, but it has resisted all efforts to bring it down.  John was going back to the Paul farm on Monday with a few more tools, so it may be safe and sound back home as I write this.

Saturday finally wound down and we retired to the host motel in New Bern for the evening.  On Sunday, the weather was just as good as it was on Saturday:  clear blue skies, calm winds, and temperatures in the upper 50’s and lower 60’s – just like a spring day, but without the insects!!  I must remind you that this was in late January, traditionally the foulest weather of the whole year in North Carolina.

Sunday was the Tripoli Research Launch day for this month.  Alan Whitmore got things going with a flight of his Spork on a 3-grain 115mm M motor which used the new “Jim Scarpine Tribute Blue #4” propellant.  The boost phase was perfect and the 56 lb rocket coasted up to 8448 feet.  Main deployment got a little fouled up and the main parachute didn’t come out, so the landing was rough.  The electronics bay ended up in one of the smaller ditches, completely under water, but the Walston transmitter was still putting out a little signal and we were able to track it down.  A few fins will have to be replaced before the Spork flies again.   Even though both altimeters were completely under water for about a half hour before I finally tracked the rocket down, the ALTS25 was still beeping out the altitude after the water drained out of the e-bay, and the ARTS only needed a night in front of a heating vent to dry out enough to down-load the data.

Then, Jim Livingston launched his 120 lb Viper on a 5-grain 115mm N motor using a standard iron oxide-catalyzed propellant.  This rocket made it to 7717 feet and was recovered under two 16 foot parachutes for a perfect flight!

Alan Whitmore made 2 more flights on Sunday:  The Astro*Mollusk VI flew on a 2-grain 54mm motor made with cuprous oxide and magnesium, and the Red Snake made a short hop on a 38mm 4-grain I motor that was made from one of those tubes that lives over on the back of the work bench and gets the left-over bits of whatever large propellant mixing projects are going on at the time.  Perfect flight!

Running a rocket launch in North Carolina in the middle of winter is always a chancy proposition:  I have cancelled launches in January because the ice on my driveway was so thick I couldn’t drive my truck up to the road, and, at the other end of the spectrum would be a weekend like we had for the 4th weekend of January, 2012.  It seems that the people who attended just couldn’t stop talking about how fabulous the conditions were.   Many thanks to all who attended and made this weekend one of the most memorable rocket launches I have ever attended!  Special thanks to Jim Livingston who did most of the equipment tear-down this month while I was talking to visitors from the community.

Alan Whitmore

Prefect, Tripoli East NC

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