May 17, 2008 saw our first summer rocket launch at the Central Sod Farm on Maryland's eastern shore. The sod farm is a smaller field then Higgs Farm, with tall rocket devouring trees lining the edge that reach out and snag many a stray rocket. It is wise to stay clear of them. The winds were gusting up to 25 MPH but this might be our last rocket launch until July. The skies were blue and the temps were warm so we chose to test the winds.
Ben launched his small Estes Bull Pup rocket on a tiny B4 black powder engine. The rocket powered through the gust and attained an altitude of about 800 feet where the parachute opened on queue. It then drifted with the winds and landed about a half a mile away. However, it told us how the winds were funneling above those horrible trees. We realized that this was doable. See the Bull Pup skedaddle at Bull_Pup_Video
The next rocket to take to the pads is my favorite rocket, Shaken, Not Stirred. I reprogrammed the barometric altimeter to eject the main parachute at 400 feet. My idea was to keep it away from those snagging branches. It flew on a Loki H144 to an altitude of 1464 feet where the drogue dutifully deployed. The rocket quickly descended and the main parachute deployed on queue amongst the applause of the lucky spectators in attendance. I then made my fatal mistake and scoffed fate. I shook my hands over my head and exclaimed for all those that could hear, "Behold and bear witness to such an example of rocket perfection!" This exclamation was heard by the rocket gods and they would make me pay the price of such blasphemy. Shaken, Not Stirred proceeded to splash down in the only 2-foot wide stream in the area. I quickly rushed to dry the rocket and pondered my arrogance at such a foolish temptation of fate. See the flight at 007_Video
The next rocket on the pads was Ben's Canadian Arrow flying on a measly black powder D12. We tend to slum it on the sod farm with these low power engines. We were not paying attention until we heard the spectators gasp. We turned around and saw Canadian Arrow struggling against the winds to gain altitude where at about 400 feet, the main popped and the rocket gods, still smarting from my earlier remark, took the rocket and slammed it into the turf, bending the main body tube. Another rocket goes on the repair list.
JP, who did not want to temp fate, prepared an offertory to the rocket gods. He prepped his 2-stage rocket, CC Express, with a black powder D12 on the first stage and another black powder D12 on the second stage. These young rocketeers just want to go high and fast. CC Express leapt off the launch pad with a perfect launch. At 800 feet, the first stage dropped off and the second stage took over until it was just a speck in the sky. The green parachute opened and we all watch it until it blinked out of existence, never to be seen again. Enter the twilight zone at twilight_zone
Ben puffed out his chest and challenged Joseph with his rocket, Warp Drive. He assembled the Aerotech F52 without instructions because instructions are only for those that do not know what they are doing. Surely this does not apply to Ben, an experienced rocketeer. Because of this, he missed a critical step. When the launch button was pushed, the rocket leapt off the pad and at about 40 feet, during the rocket's fastest acceleration, the rocket suffered a warp core breach and the main parachute was prematurely deployed, zippering the main body tube. Another rocket added to the repair list.
Surely the rocket gods have forgotten my stupid remark by this time. I prepped my V2/R2 variant rocket with a new Loki 38mm G80 motor. I purchased this motor strictly for the sod farm and was anxious to see how it would perform, especially in the wind. The G80 lifted the rocket to 800 feet and the parachute successfully deployed. A smile broke across my face and I was happy, but only for a fleeting moment. The sod farm is surrounded by soft, velvety, cushiony, shag carpet of sod. Except for a very small area where the tractors run and pack the dirt to a texture of asphalt. Yes, the rocket gods chose this small area for my rocket to land and upon impact, off pops a fin. Oh, why did I have to open my mouth? Another rocket is appended to the repair list. See how close I came to landing in that oh so soft sod at R2_Video
With all these less then perfect flights, Joseph dusted off his rocket, Suburban Propane, and stuffed an Aerotech F52 engine in it. Joseph knew he had chance to have the best flight of the day, which only happens when 4 of the 8 planets (Pluto is no longer a planet) line up in asymmetrical orbits. The rocket shot off the pad with its characteristic ass wobble and separated at apogee, however, the parachute never opened and acted as a streamer. The rocket quickly descended and landed in the soft, velvety, cushiony, shag carpet of sod and received only a tiny minor scratch. Joseph beamed with pride and let everyone know that his rocket took flight, was successfully retrieved, and did not require repairs. We had no argument. Check the tally of Ben and Joseph's flight at talley_Video
I handed my G80 motor to JP and with slight assistance, JP had his engine assembled and his Sean Taylor memorial 21 rocket on the pads. The rocket took off and the main parachute deployed just slightly prior to apogee, however it descended beautifully and was recovered without damage. The offertory to the rocket gods must have worked. See it barely miss the power lines at Number_21_Video
Lessons learned from this launch. Lesson 1: Keep my mouth shut. Lesson 2: Keep my mouth shut. Lesson 3: Keep my mouth shut. We have two months to make repairs and we will soon hope to take to the skies again. Did you notice the flags flapping in the background?
PS. Take a look at the tonight's sky and check out those four planets lined in asymmetrical orbits because Joseph had the best flight of the day.
Spectators are always welcomed. Details at Maryland and Delaware Rocketry Association .