I was nervous which is not unusual about the maiden flight of any of my rockets. A small crowd had gathered to watch what the 007 motif rocket would do. As the countdown ended and the clicks of cameras started, there was a rush of smoke and Shaken, Not Stirred leapt off the pad and streaked through the cloudless, frigid blue sky leaving a vivid white vapor trail in its wake. I received congratulatory pats on the back for such a straight and true ascent as we all watched the rocket slowly arch over to begin its journey home. The electronics fired the apogee charge right on queue. It was at this point that I instantly realized my mistake.
In the excitement of rockets firing all around me and the constant interruptions from spectators, I had forgotten to link the sustainer's shock cord to the upper section of the rocket. I watched in horror as the heavy sustainer quickly descended on the tiny 18" drogue while the upper section tumbled separately on its own trajectory. The sustainer landed with a splud in a freshly tilled field. Luckily, due to the recent cold rains, the sustainer buried itself into the soft oozing mud with no serious damage, other then my pride.
Meanwhile, the upper section tumbled down on its own until reaching 700 feet where luckily the still functioning electronics ejected the large main parachute. Due to the separated sustainer, the main parachute was far too large and the light upper section strained to succumb to gravity. After an eternity of floating around the field, it finally landed 300 yards from the sustainer and 5 feet from a rushing creek that was swollen from the recent rains.
Meanwhile, Ben had his new rocket, Warp Drive , which was a gift from his Uncle Joseph for Christmas. This rocket is very similar to Joseph's Suburban Propane . Ben and Joseph have already challenged each other to many contests with wages ranging from bragging rights to slaveboy for the day. The rocket was painted in a Star Trek The Next Generation scheme. The main paint scheme is reminiscence of Captain Picard's uniform, complete with communicator. Each fin contains a decal depicting one of the USS Enterprise models. Ben chose an Aerotech F52 for its maiden flight which we had simulated to about 1367 feet. The rocket launched straight and true and the small 15-inch main chute deployed on queue. Once again Ben's rocket lands just feet from the pad.
The rocket gods were kind to me this past Sunday but as the saying goes, you live to Die Another Day . Lessons learned: Always blame the spectators, I fly high performance rockets,,, dammit!