Friday, November 7, 2008
The date for the much anticipated Red Glare V had finally arrived. Ben and I packed the Highlander with a truck load of rockets, launch gear, and clothes. We quickly headed to the Higgs Dairy Farm in Price, Maryland. We would not return home until Sunday night. We staked our claim to a primo spot almost center of the flight line upon our arrival. This would allow us to conduct flight preparations and easily enjoy the other rocket launches.
The weather prediction for Friday claimed sunshine, warm temperatures, and low winds. These conditions were perfect for launching rockets. The colorful leaves clinging to the trees would make a perfect backdrop to this rocket flying weekend. Ben and I chose to complete the bulk of our high and apogee deployed flights on Friday while these weather conditions prevailed and before the crowds arrive on Saturday and Sunday. We assisted in preparing the field for launching and then quickly started our own preparations. Our ambitious goal was for nine launches today.
We waited for clear skies to arrive from our west but lost patience after an hour had passed. The 5.5 inch diameter V2 was prepped and we would test the cloud ceiling with a Loki I405 engine. The V2 quickly disappeared into the clouds within seconds of takeoff. We would not see it again until it emerged from the clouds 50 seconds later. It softly touched down across the street from the launch area and as luck would have it, it landed on a dead animal in the field. After cleaning the animal guts off the V2 with a corn stalk, we started our walk back to the launch area. We calculated that the cloud ceiling was about 1600 feet. See the flight here.
There were still clear skies to our west but they were slow arriving overhead. Our Der Big Red Max was prepped with a black powder 24mm C11 engine. This engine would keep Der Big Red Max below the clouds. Another rocketeer had a larger version of Der Big Red Max so I guess size really does matter. See Der Big Red Max spit and sputter at apogee here.
Again, the clear skies were still to our west. We prepped Maxi Alpha with an Aerotech E28 engine which would propel it to about 1100 feet, well below the cloud cover. Maxi Alpha whiffed off the pad and on to a nice, slow, successful recovery. Watch Maxi Alpha fly and land here.
The weather forecast was still calling for clear skies over Price, Maryland, however there were none to be found. I hate it when the weatherman is wrong! R2/V2 was prepped with a Loki H144 engine. Finally, a hole opened in the sky. R2/V2 was rushed onto the pads and the countdown started. R2/V2 quickly lifted off and into the small, blue, cloudless hole. It was lost for only a few seconds after it arced into a cloud. It appeared from the clouds just as the parachute deployed. Coincidentally, this was the same spot R2/V2 first took flight in my first level 1 attempt back in March of 2007. This flight went much better. Witness R2/V2’s nostalgic flight here.
Finally, the sky opened up a tad. Ben’s Legend of Zelda was prepped with a Loki J528. This would be the largest engine flown in Legend of Zelda to date and would be Ben’s attempt at his personal altitude best. Legend of Zelda would fly out of sight even on a totally clear day using this engine. We attached a radio transmitter inside the rocket for radio directional finding. This would allow us to locate Legend of Zelda upon landing. The rocket screamed off the pad and held together. It quickly disappeared and a full minute went by before the sound of Legend of Zelda’s main ejection charge firing drew our attention. It was 700 feet in the air and in the opposite direction we were searching. Once again, Ben’s rocket does not land far. Legend of Zelda landed a mere 15 feet from our flight area. Ben achieved his personal altitude best at 3456 feet. Legend of Zelda was successfully recovered without any damage to the rocket, people, or property. Witness Ben’s personal altitude best and lucky landing here.
The day was winding on and it became apparent that the promised clear skies would not appear. Shaken, Not Stirred was prepped next with a Loki J396 Spitfire propellant. The J396 is about four times more powerful then the Loki H144 engine that Shaken, Not Stirred normally flies on. There was some trepidation if Shaken, Not Stirred would hold together under such power. I entered Shaken, Not Stirred in the closest to a mile contest and the predict your own altitude contest. This was also my attempt at my personal altitude best. Again, we installed a radio transmitter for location finding. The J396 was chosen because simulations predicted that this engine would take Shaken, Not Stirred close to 5280 feet. The Spitfire propellant burns with thick black smoke and many, many sparks. I crossed my fingers and as the countdown ended, Shaken, Not Stirred sizzled off the pad and soon disappeared into the clouds, not to be seen again for over a minute. Once again it was the main ejection charge pop that drew attention, and once again, it was in the opposite direction then expected. Shaken, Not Stirred safely landed in the field in back of our prep area, a mere 100 yards away. It is a good thing we purchased radio directional equipment. Shaken, Not Stirred achieved a mere 5040 feet due to the moisture drag of those damn clouds, however, it was an altitude best for me. The 240 foot difference put Shaken, Not Stirred in first place for the closest to the mile contest and second place for the predict your own altitude contest. Enjoy Shaken, Not Stirred’s ascension on a thick cloud of black smoke and titanium sparks here.
By this time the sun came out but it was low in the sky and setting fast. I readied our pride of the fleet, Sweet Vengeance, with a Loki K960. Sweet Vengeance suffered a less then perfect recovery during Red Glare IV due to a documentation error that caused late deployment and created zipper damage. The documentation error has since been corrected and the zipper damage repaired. An additional 3 inches was also added to Sweet Vengeance’s length. Sweet Vengeance has very little room for parachutes despite its large size and the additional 3 inches allowed a better fit for the recovery gear.
The recovery for Sweet Vengeance is complicated due to this small amount of room. There is an accelerometer based ARTS2 recording flight computer and a backup barometric based Perfectflite HA45K altimeter installed in Sweet Vengeance. The recovery system was designed so that the 45-inch drogue parachute would deploy at apogee and allow the rocket to quickly descend under control at about 36 feet per second. The main parachute is held in place by a tether system. At 1000 feet, a charge fires, releasing the tether, allowing the drogue to pull the main parachute out of the rocket. The nose cone separates and descends on the drogue chute and the main sustainer descends on its own 84 inch chute. If the calculations are correct, the two separate sections slowly descend together at 21 feet per second for a nice soft landing. Of course this was all theory at this point.
After a 5 second countdown, Sweet Vengeance roared into the air at 311 MPH and soon disappeared. Sweet Vengeance topped out at 3108 feet where the 45-inch drogue successfully deployed. This was already better then the previous flight. Sweet Vengeance was soon spotted high in the sky. At 1000 feet, the tether released the main as designed and the sustainer dropped 20 feet before the main parachute fully inflated. Both the sustainer and nosecone gently descended together for a soft touchdown. The calculations were dead on. Witness Sweet Vengeance’s cool flight here.
It was close to dark at this time. We had two rockets left and these would symbolize the epic battle of good and evil, Starfleet against the evil Klingon Empire. Of course we are talking about the USS Enterprise in a drag race against the Klingon Battle Cruiser. Ben shoved a full Aerotech D24 in the aft end of each and waited for the countdown. Both ships simultaneously warped off the pad and ascended high into the darkening sky. The D24 engines proved too much and both ships suffered a warp core breach as both motors were ejected clear. Both ships were recovered without major damage but the search for the 18mm motors would have to wait until morning, as it was already too dark. See the epic battle here.
We cleaned some motors and packed up the vehicle well into the dark. We met Joseph and June at the hotel and went to Holly’s Restaurant for a well deserved meal. We had accomplished our goal of nine flights with no major repairs for the day. After dinner, we crashed into our beds.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Saturday morning brought the rains. Ben and I proceeded to the launch site to prepare our flights for the day, clean some more motors, and search for the missing 18mm motors from the Star Trek battle the night before. The weather man was calling for rain all day but by 11:00 AM, the weather had cleared up. I love it when the weather man is wrong! Joseph found one of the missing 18mm motors and a fellow rocketeer found the other. We were back in business.
First up for the day was Ben’s new Intruder rocket on a Loki H144. This rocket was the result of Ben winning the 2000 foot contest during Red Glare IV. Ben named the rocket Queen Anne’s Revenge after Edward Teach’s (Blackbeard the Pirate) ship. The rocket was decorated with various pirate stickers and sported Blackbeard’s flag as part of the recovery system. Queen Anne’s Revenge flew straight and true and quickly disappeared into the clouds. After a short bit, it eerily reappeared from the clouds, reminiscent of a ghost ship out of the fog, and Blackbeard’s flag was flying. Pillage and plunder here.
JP’s rocket, Sean Taylor Memorial, was next on the pads. JP chose a Loki H100 Spitfire engine. Sean Taylor Memorial quickly ascended on its plume of smoke and sparks. Unfortunately the ejection delay was too short. This forced the parachute out early, blowing the nose cone off, shredding the parachute, and zippering the sustainer. This was the second time Sean Taylor Memorial experienced an early deployment. Witness JP’s early ejection here.
Joseph’s dusted off Suburban Propane and chose an Aerotech F52. This would be the first time his rocket had flown since May. At the end of the countdown, something very strange happened, something nobody has ever seen before. Suburban Propane ascended and descended on a flawless flight. Joseph puffed out his chest and challenged Ben to a better flight. Ben looked worried. See Joseph’s rare flight here.
Ben took Legend of Zelda out for its second flight of the weekend. Ben chosed a more subdued Loki I405 this time, and entered Legend of Zelda in the closest to the 2000 foot contest. This was the same combination that Ben used to win the contest during Red Glare IV where his altitude was 2004. Ben was worried as the weather was quite different this time around. Also, there was another entry that was within 22 feet. After 10 minutes adjusting the various launch angles, Ben was satisfied and posted his flight card. Legend of Zelda quickly ascended and disappeared into the clouds for a few seconds before reappearing. It descended on its drogue until the mains dutifully deployed at 700 feet. Legend of Zelda gently touched down in front of the crowd. Legend of Zelda’s final altitude was 1996 feet and Ben would go on to win the 2000 foot contest again at Red Glare V. See his routine flight here.
Legend of Zelda was our last flight for the day. I was still in first place for the closest to the mile contest by 5 feet and second place for predict your own altitude. We grabbed some chicken and burgers at the onsite Road Kill Café and visited the various vendors. Steve Eves was on sight with his 36 foot scaled Saturn V. Steve demonstrated his ejection system using air bag technology. The Saturn V is almost ready to fly. We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the banquet. MDRA club members Jeff Taylor and Curt Newport gave a presentation on their Proteus 6 rocket. Jeff is owner and president of Loki Research and Curt Newport discovered, raised, and restored Gus Grissom’s Mercury Space Capsule, Liberty Bell 7, from over 3 miles deep in the Atlantic Ocean. Proteus 6 traveled Mach 3, reached a final altitude of 88,000 feet (about 17 miles), and was successfully recovered at the Black Rock Desert. The Proteus 6 rocket was on display. It was an interesting presentation. We drank a few beers and walked back to the hotel. Ben and I went to sleep while Joseph and JP conducted repairs on JP’s Sean Taylor Memorial rocket.
Sunday November 9, 2008
The next morning, the weatherman predicted cloudy skies and high winds. However, the field experienced sunny warmth and light breezes. I love it when the weatherman is wrong! Ben prepped his old Outlaw rocket. This was one of the first rockets that Ben flew as a kid. The old beat-up Estes Outlaw had a mild manner black powder B6. The rocket fizzed off the pad and landed close by.
Shaken, Not Stirred was on the pads for its second flight of Red Glare V with the more familiar Loki H144 engine. Shaken, Not Stirred had yet another successful flight to 1424 feet and a routine recovery. Celebrate its 10th flight here.
Ben’s Canadian Arrow was next with a black powder D12. The rocket slowly ascended to slightly over 500 feet where the parachute deployed. Canadian Arrow settled down close to its launch point. See its slow ascension here.
Next was Ben’s Warp Drive. Not wanting Joseph to outdo him, Ben chose the same Aerotech F52 for propulsion. Warp Drive warped off the pad so fast that I missed its quick ascent. However, the slow descent was capture here. Ben landed closer to the launch pad and he claimed victory.
JP had his freshly repaired Sean Taylor Memorial with a brand new parachute, prepped with a Loki H144, on the pads next. The overnight repair was barely noticeable. JP figured he would extend the delay as to avoid any more early ejections. But . . . as it became apparent later, JP was using the wrong settings while setting the delay and instead of extending the delay, he was making them shorter and shorter. Witness his results here. Hopefully the Sean Taylor Memorial rocket will be repaired and flown again.
JP’s flight was the last flight for us at Red Glare V. Ben took first place in the 2000 foot contest and I dropped into second place for the mile high contest. I remained in second place for the predict your own altitude contest. Ben and I performed our assigned Pad Manager duties and assisted with closing the field. On our journey home we reflected back on Red Glare V. We accomplished our goals of trying different propellants, flying higher, and faster, and not incurring any repairs. However, we were exhausted with all the rocket preparations, motor cleaning, retrieving, filming, and assisting. For next Red Glare, we agreed not to fly the entire fleet, but to sit back some, relax, and enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow rocketeers. See my other videos and all the pictures and video from Red Glare V at MDRA here. It was a good weekend and we all live to fly another day, well, except for JP. Until next time . . .