The weatherman predicted cloudy skies with cold rains for the entire rocket launching weekend. However, previous experience with Maryland’s Eastern Shore weather has convinced me that the peninsula is contained in a bubble with its own local weather pattern. Ben could not attend so I convinced my wife to join me with a promise of a nice dinner on the return trip. Toni agreed and we packed up the rockets and started our trek across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
We arrived at Higgs Farm and were not disappointed. The weather alternated between sunny skies and very high clouds. There was no wind and the temperature was warm enough to remove coats and long johns. Fellow rocketeers were also aware of the weather bubble which made the launch very well attended.
Low winds at the farm are a rare treat indeed. Not to squander such an opportunity, a Loki J528 engine was stuffed into the aft end of Shaken, Not Stirred. This would be the largest engine Shaken, Not Stirred has flown to date. Radio tracking is a must with such a powerful engine so a transmitter was attached to the main shock cord. Attaching radio tracking virtually guarantees a rocket will land close by. Shaken, Not Stirred exploded off the launch pad and at 1 second into the burn had already achieved mach .86 and over 575 feet of altitude. Shaken, Not Stirred soon disappeared from the naked eye and coasted an additional 16 seconds until finally hitting apogee at 6,324 feet. The drogue chute deployed on queue and it took 1 minute and 50 seconds for Shaken, Not Stirred to fall from the sky to 400 feet where the main parachute successfully deployed. This occurred within sight of the flight line. 6,324 feet exceeded my previous personal altitude best by 1,284 feet. A mile is 5,280 feet and this rocket was up there with the rocket gods. Fellow club members had the rocket in sight using binoculars the entire flight. Witness my personal best altitude here.
The next flight was Maxi Alpha. With Toni’s help, Maxi Alpha was prepped and on the launch pad with an Aerotech E28 engine. A short countdown later and Maxi Alpha was well on its way to over 1100 feet where the oversize parachute deployed on queue. Maxi Alpha slowly drifted down until coming to a rest next to a drainage ditch. Witness Maxi Alpha’s routine flight here.
Der Big Red Max was prepped with a black powder C11 engine. This engine spit and sputtered Der Big Red Max to a paltry altitude of about 800 feet. But what made this flight so extraordinary was that Der Big Red Max touched down exactly where it was launched, hitting its launch rail on its decent. It does not get any closer then this.
Toni grabbed a rocket from the club’s yea ole bucket of rockets and prepped it with an embarrassing black powder A8 engine. Toni christened the rocket Sawyer, after a character in the TV series Lost. I can only conjecture that this character must remind Toni of me, as this Sawyer character and I must look much alike. Anyway, the rocket achieved about 100 feet of altitude but Toni was still happy. See her lame flight here.
The clouds closed in and the temperature began to drop. A slight drizzle had finally made its way to the field by late afternoon. I confirmed some last minute details with my TAP members concerning my level 3 project. My level 3 rocket is constructed, painted, and decaled. Some final adjustments and a flight is all that remains. The level 3 rocket is on schedule for Red Glare VI during April 17-19, 2009. Get the latest status and final countdown at My Quest for Level 3 here. Steve Eve’s 36-foot Saturn V is on schedule for its April 25, 2009 date with the record books. Toni and I stopped at Old Stein Inn for some good Deutsch Rauch Bier und Etaller Dunkle that complimented our delicious Bavarian pork shank dinners. It was a nice ending to a nice day of flying rockets. Until Red Glare VI . . .
PS: TRA and NAR have received favorable verdicts from the 9-year court case concerning whether APCP (rocket propellant) is an explosive. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) had illegally classified APCP as an explosive. If this appealed verdict stands, and it is expected to, then the required BATF Low Explosive User Permits (LEUP) and special magazine storage would no longer apply. This should return hobby rocketry to its glory days. If interested, read the Joint TRA/NAR statement on the lawsuit vs. BATFE.