Toni, Ben, and I left early Saturday morning to beat the Ocean City traffic across the Bay Bridge. We hit the bridge at 8:30 AM and even with EZpass, we had to claw and push our way to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We first met fellow club members at Higg’s Farm to reorganize MDRA’s launch equipment from the recent LDRS launch event that was held in New York. It was typical July weather and the air was hot and thick with humidity. Small white puffy clouds in the distance did little to block the sun’s heat. The weatherman did promise a small breeze in the afternoon. We quickly completed our tasks at Higg’s Farm and proceeded to the Central Sod Farm to set up and fly some rockets.
We arrived at the sod farm at 11:30 AM. The sod farm had undergone a transformation from last month’s launch. Most of the sod was harvested leaving hard brown dirt. The launch area was plowed giving us clumps of dirt and dust. A large diesel engine was noisily pumping vast amounts of water to the far reaches of the farm. The areas of sod that was just out of reach from these huge watering systems were brown and crispy. But the breeze had picked up and blew the thick humidity away, leaving only the 90+ degree temperatures and clear blue skies to contend with. We quickly setup the field and started preparing our rockets.
By this time the breeze had transformed into wind. Ben and I took our apogee deployed rockets and set them aside in the hopes that the winds would diminish later in the day. My duel deployed Shaken, Not Stirred was prepped with a Loki H144 engine and taken to the pad. The winds were whistling through the various launch rails giving an eerie illusion of ghostly whispers. I looked downwind for possible obstacles and only saw the tin shack housing the large clattering diesel pump, the road, and some power lines far in the distance. I deemed the wind direction safe and installed Shaken, Not Stirred on the pad. I angled the launch rail into the wind using the Optimal Trajectory Alignment Process and armed the electronics. Now all I had to do was wait for the button to be pushed.
Shaken, Not Stirred was the last rocket off the rack. It accelerated to 1,360 feet and slowly arced over. The small 18-inch drogue deployed and immediately caught the wind like a spinnaker of a downwind 12-meter yacht. I was flabbergasted to see Shaken, Not Stirred quickly descend more horizontally then vertically and of course heading straight for the obstacles identified as unreachable moments earlier. The mains deployed at a low 400 feet and Shaken, Not Stirred slowly drifted over the unreachable diesel tin shack, landing in the middle of the hard gravel road and missing the power lines by mere feet. The winds were obviously blowing stronger over our heads then previously thought. Shaken, Not Stirred was quickly recovered before it could be trampled by traffic. There was no damage and I thanked the rocket gods for living to fly another day. Witness the shaking and stirring flight here.
Ben took the 54-38MM adapter from Shaken, Not Stirred and installed it into Legend of Zelda complete with a Loki I405 reload for propulsion. After a lengthy RSO inspection, Legend of Zelda was installed on the pad. We angled the launch rail a few more degrees into the wind in hopes of avoiding those unreachable obstacles and then proceeded to wait for the liftoff.
Legend of Zelda scooted off the pad at ignition and arced over at 1,853 feet where its small 18-inch drogue caught the wind. It is amazing to watch an 8-pound rocket falling from the sky so influenced by the winds, even before deploying the main parachute. Ben had incorrectly specified his main deployment at 800 feet, but the altimeter was actually configured for 700 feet and at 700 feet, the mains were ejected. It was another 5 seconds before the mains inflated, bringing Legend of Zelda to an undamaged landing on the crispy sod. Legend of Zelda would have wrapped itself around the electric lines if the mains had deployed at ejection, as intended. Ben retrieved Legend of Zelda much to the applause of a small contingent of Legend of Zelda video game fans that were intently watching his rocket with glee. See the legendary flight here.
The winds never laid down for the day so the apogee deployed R2/V2, Maxi Alpha, and Canadian Arrow were packed up. We sat back drinking plenty of Gatorade in the still hot air and watched the other rocket flights until it was time to return home. It was a disappointing day with only two flights to show but we arrived home without any repairs.
The Mach Factor 2 project continued with major construction completed. The 54mm, 2800ns, 28.6 inch Loki motor case arrived and will occupy over 60 percent of the aft sustainer. The very small Parrot altimeter also arrived which will allow the electronic bay construction to progress. Toni’s construction of her level 1-2 rocket is also progressing with the fin can completed and installed. Toni is still working towards a level 1 certification in October. Follow the status of the latest rocketry projects here. Until next launch . . .