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October 2010 Red Glare IX Launch Report
October 22-24, 2010 at Higgs Farm

Red Glare IX finally arrived after 6 months of planning. This Red Glare went pink to help raise funds for Maryland’s Afflilate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. Toni and I were assisting MDRA with this launch but we planned to sneak a flight or two in if time permitted. I arrived at Higgs Farm Thursday morning to help set up the field and returned home in the evening tired, but confident and excited that Red Glare IX would soon commence. 

Toni and I left early Friday morning to perform our assigned Red Glare duties. Toni was doing the pre-registration, sales, and assisting between registration and RSOing. I was responsible for the Range Safety Officers (RSO) desk, running the MDRA contests, and assisting in the filming of rocket flights for Rockets Magazine. The weather was blustery with gusts exceeding 20 MPH, a far cry from the gentle 8 MPH zyphers that were forecasted. Early arrivals kept the registration desk busy. The rocket launches started slowly before picking up later in the day due to “Go Fever”. While there was time to sneak a flight in, the gusty winds kept our rockets packed safely in the trailer. Day 1 ended with no flights and wind-burn faces but it was not a total loss. We dined for the night at Annies along Kent Narrows while sipping vodka martinis, shaken, not stirred of course.

On day 2, Toni and I awoke early to try to sneak onto the field and prep a rocket but unfortunately everyone else had the same idea. The warm sun was shinning in the cloudless sky and the winds had laid down which made for a perfect rocket flying day. The field was buzzing and there were rockets overhead at any given time. There were over 200 cars in the parking lot with more flyers and spectators arriving. We believe we broke an MDRA record for the most flights in a given day. Toni was busy at the registration desk and I was filming, signing up contestants for the various contests, and ensuring all was ok at the RSO desk.

Day 2 also saw MDRA member Curt Newport onsite signing his book, Lost Spacecraft – The Search For Liberty Bell 7, where he chronicled his experiences during his search, recovery, and restoration of Gus Grissom’s sunken Mercury Space Capsule over 3-miles deep in the Atlantic Ocean. I purchased a copy, and some artwork titled “Moment of Discovery” and was extremely lucky enough to get an actual piece of the Liberty Bell 7 Mercury Capsule. I will add this artifact to my other Liberty Bell 7 memorabilia. Day 2 was far too busy to even think about sneaking a rocket into the air. Day 2 ended with no flights. Check out what a busy MDRA field looks like here. That night we went to the MDRA banquet where the Damm Abresch Boys were awarded flight jackets for being the “Badest in the Land” for 2009 due to our Mach Madness win a year ago. Toni and I then returned to the hotel and crashed for the night.

“Go Fever” had set in and Toni and I awoke even earlier, skipped breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and headed to the field for day 3. Yes, blue skies, low winds, and many flyers still recovering from over indulging in cheap banquet drinks. This was our time. I broke out Sweet Vengeance that was prepped since Red Glare VII a year ago and assembled my Loki K960 motor. Toni extracted her Sally Ride from the trailer and started assembling her Loki J528. We were ready to fly when the launch opened.

Sweet Vengeance was taken to the C-Cell and carefully installed on the launch pad. The ARTS2 accelerometer based flight computer was armed first with the backup Perfectflite HA45K barometric altimeter next. Sweet Vengeance is a difficult rocket to recover due to limited space inside the rocket. It uses a tethered system that holds the main recovery parachute in place until the altimeters releases it at a programmed altitude. Sweet Vengeance has complex channels for preventing the wiring from tangling and ejection chimneys to direct the ejection blast forward of the main parachute bag. Everything must work in unison for the rocket to successfully recover.

At the end of the countdown, Sweet Vengeance roared off the launch pad doing 310 MPH on its powerful Loki K960 and arched over at 3024 feet. The apogee ejection charge pushed the drogue parachute out as designed while the main parachute was still held inside the rocket’s body by the teather until it was time. Sweet Vengeance descended at 36 fps under drogue until the tether system fired at 700 feet, releasing the main parachute and allowing the drogue parachute to pull it free before separating into two pieces. Sweet Vengeance’s nose cone now descended under its own chute while the main rocket descended at 24 fps under the main parachute. Due to a wind shear between 1000 – 2000 feet, Sweet Vengeance drifted quite some distance before landing inside a fenced area of a welding shop.

I hopped into the car and drove the 3 miles by road to the welding shop where I found Sweet Vengeance recovered and sitting on the front sidewalk. As luck would have it, the kind owner was inside the fenced area feeding his ducks and saw the flight and recovery. He put the rocket out front for me. I thanked the owner and loaded Sweet Vengeance into the vehicle for its ride back to the field. Close inspection revealed no damage and Sweet Vengeance lives to fly another day. Witness the great flight and the coveted successful tethered recovery here.

Toni was next with her Sally Ride. Toni entered Sally Ride into the Predict Your Own Altitude contest with a prediction of 1500 feet. Toni installed Sally Ride on the pad and was interviewed by Rockets Magazine for an upcoming DVD video. After the interview, the button was pressed and Sally Ride took to the skies on her Loki J528 motor until arching over at 1448 feet where she deployed her drogue. Sally Ride quickly descended through the wind shear layer before popping her mains at 700 feet. Sally Ride came to rest without any damaged in the green field. Toni’s 52 foot difference in her prediction held during the remainder of Red Glare and Toni won a 1/24 scaled Mercury Redstone from Sheri’s Hot Rocket. This is a great kit from a hot gal. See Sally Ride's flight here.

By this time it was back to work and we worked through the rest of Red Glare IX with our assigned duties. And then, as fast as it was started, Red Glare IX was over. Toni and I had enjoyed watching other rockets red glaring overhead as much as our own. The weather was great, the crowds large, Road Kill Cafe's food was delicious, and the company outstanding. After assisting in breaking down the field, we sat down and enjoyed a beer with other MDRA BOD members and reflected back over a very busy launch weekend. Toni and I were happy even though we only snuck in one flight apiece. We packed the trailer and headed home in the dark, discussing future rocketry projects. Enjoy all of the Red Glare IX fun here. Until the next launch . . .

By Peter E. Abresch Jr.
Camp Abresch along the flight line
By Peter E. Abresch Jr.

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Steve Eve's 1/10 scaled Saturn 1B
Flight Line
Camp Abresch along the flight line
Sweet Vengeance Flight Data
Steve Eve's 1/10 scaled Saturn 1B Toni with Sally Ride after recoveryLaunch for Life, It's All About RecoveryPeter with Sweet Vegeance
Launch for Life, It's All About Recovery
Flight Line
Peter with Sweet Vengeance
Toni with Sally Ride after recovery
Click to view Sweet Vengeance Flight Data