Launch Report, Bayboro, September 28-29, 2013

The high-power rocketry season 2013-2014 is now officially in session.

The fall launch season was kicked off under poor weather forecasts (which were not very accurate) and with a small but enthusiastic crowd.? The fields on the Eastern side of New Ditch Road, where we usually set up the launch equipment, was full of extremely un-ripe soybeans this weekend, so Clifford asked me to set the launch pads up a little more to the west.? Unfortunately, on Saturday morning, the winds, which were fairly stiff and steady, were out of the north-north east, blowing towards the second-closest tree line on the whole, vast, expanse of wide open space.? This inhibited a lot of the higher flights until later in the afternoon, when more experienced flyers began to use ?weather-cocking? to their advantage.

It?s fun to attend a big regional or national launch, where the skies are filled with rockets all the time, and the action is non-stop, but a small, local event like Bayboro, when the action is a little slower, and people can take the time to get to know each other, and talk and just hang out for a while, is also extremely enjoyable.? We only had 19 flights this weekend, so I can forego the usual motor use summary table, and tell you about every flight.?Mike Downs and Ed Withers kept the low-power pads busy.? Mike is working on the NARTREK skill demonstration series, and Saturday he apparently knocked the ?streamer duration? requirement out of the park.? He also flew another small rocket on a B6 with a tiny altimeter about the size of a pinto bean.? I got busy with another flight, and I don?t know what altitude was reported.? Ed Withers had 2 flights on C motors, one great, and the other one not so good.? Ed?s Goliath smacked in without benefit of parachute.? Mike Collier was on-site, and his Sonic Blaster flew on a D21 for a nominal flight.

Later in the day, Mike flew his Grave Danger on an F39T in some tricky winds for a perfect flight.? Ed Withers had another flight in the F range, a new Estes Nike Smoke on an F22.? The? winds made a mess of this flight, and Ed had to dig the pointy end of that nose cone out of the soft cornfield with a shovel.? There were 4 G motor flights on Saturday,? Mark Hartmann flew his Pitbull on a G64W and his? Barracuda on a G76G.? Both flights went according to plan.? Mike Collier flew his Hi Jacker II on a G64W and his Strongarm on a G53FJ.? The G64 experienced a failure of some aspect of the delay grain sealing arrangement, and pretty soon fire was coming out of both ends!

The Research motors started showing up in the H motor range.? Ray Bryant flew his ACME 38 on a 29mm sorbitol-based H motor, for a fine flight.? The sole flight in the I range was made by Dave Morey, who flew his LOC IV on a central H250G, with 3 E12s and 3 E9s air-started a few seconds into the flight.? Dave usually stages his sequential air-starts so that you can see all of the separate events, but this time he timed it so that the ignition of the second group of E motors occurred during the burn of the of first 3, so it looked like one long, smokey black powder motor burn.? It was a beautiful flight, another masterpiece by the guru of air-starts!? This rocket went to the pads with 396.3 N.s of installed motor impulse, so I am including it in the I motor class.

Alan Whitmore flew Astro*Mollusk VI on a homemade 3-grain 54mm J motor with enough red iron oxide in the mix to jazz up the burn rate a lot.? The rocket completely disappeared until the pop of the main charge announced the direction.? 5432 feet reported.?? Dave Morey flew his Darkstar DD on an Aerotech J800T for a perfect flight.? To finish up the J motors, Ray Bryant flew his Purple Haze on a 4-grain 54mm sorbitol motor for another perfect flight.

Chuck Hall worked most of the day on prepping his Patriot, a fairly heavy 6? diameter rocket that he planned to fly on the Aerotech K1275R motor.? Both up and down parts were perfect, and the motor made a LOT of noise!? Dave Morey was not yet finished with Darkstar DD for the day, he prepped it again and loaded it with a K805G.? The recovery part was absolutely hilarious:? the rocket weather-cocked directly upwind, and after apogee deployment, began to drift back toward the launch pads.? When the main popped out at 600?, the projected landing point shifted from a few hundred feet in front of us? – to directly in amongst us.? Dave had to dodge the fin section, the shock? cord draped itself across the launch control table, and the main parachute set the nose cone down about 5 feet behind the tail gate of my truck!? I have seen a lot of flights that produced the ?closest to the pads? award, to which the flyer had a very short walk to retrieve the rocket, but this is the first time I have ever seen the flyer actually have to jump sideways to avoid being hit by his own rocket on the way down.

To round off the day, Jim Livingston flew his AMRAAM on a 4-grain 76mm L motor made from the ?Jim Scarpine Tribute Blue #4? propellant that produced a fast flight to the 1 mile range, and one of the few recoveries made to the northeast (windward) side of the field.

Sunday, the winds were calmer, but the clouds were fairly thick all morning.? By noon, the clouds were beginning to break up, and produce big patches of blue sky.?? Jim Livingston, Ken Stroud and I hung around until almost 1:00, and then we packed the trailer and I made lunch and hung around a little longer by myself, enjoying the quiet and the solitude.? By 1:30 or 1:45, it was clear no-one else was coming, so I pulled the plug and drove back to Chapel Hill.

The Saturday launch proved how well the combined Research/Sport Launch arrangement is going to work for the Bayboro club.? The practice of homemade solid motor production has come a long way since the early days.? Motor design, the practical selection of materials and construction techniques, and the chemical behavior of the most common propellant formulas are no longer mysteries.? Information is freely shared on a variety of internet forums.? To drive the point home, there were 19 flights on Saturday, and only 1 catastrophic motor failure.? The failure was a commercial motor, the well-known and extremely popular Aerotech G64W, it was not a research motor.? You may attend combined launches at Bayboro in the future and witness failures of homemade motors, I can ?almost? guarantee it.? But those failures will take place at the same distance from the spectator area that failures of commercial motors of the same size would occur at.?? And, I can also guarantee that the failure rate of homemade motors will continue to be lower than the failure rate of commercial motors, simply because the people who make their own propellant and who fly at Bayboro, people like Jim Livingston, Eric Fadely, Ray Bryant, David Cox, Johnny Hoffman, Dennis Hill, and a few other experienced and careful people who I have forgotten to mention, are not the kind of people who make rookie mistakes.? They know what they are doing and they have been doing it for a long time.

For those reasons, unless I hear a landslide of popular opinion to the contrary, all of the remaining launches in the 2013 season, and all of the 2014 season will be conducted as ?TRA combined? launches.? TRA members, NAR members, and children all welcome!!!

Alan Whitmore
Prefect, Tripoli East NC

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