Return to the Launch Pad

Top Border

December 2013 Red Glare 15 Launch Report
December 12-15, 2013 at Higgs Farm

Tis the season to be jolly, falalala, tis the season to fly some rockets, falalala lalala. . . This year Red Glare came late due to a wet summer that caused a late crop harvest at Higgs Farm. Toni and I arrived a day early to check into the hotel and partake in the pre Red Glare rituals that included elegant dining, fine wine, great beer, and original moonshine trucked directly from West Virginia.

We grudgingly awoke early Friday morning and donned our layers of clothing to return to Higgs Farm for Red Glare 15 on Friday the 13th. The wind was hooping and the temperatures hovered around freezing all day but the skies were clear and the sunshine provided the illusion of warmth that kept the brave few that attended somewhat sane.

As usually I judged the early flights and discovered that a strong wind shear existed about 1,500 feet that forced most rockets to descend on a horizontal trajectory rather than a more vertical trajectory. I prepared Shaken, Not Stirred with a CTI H120 red propellant reload that I knew would keep her under the 1,500 foot jet stream. I used a new folding technique for my main parachute that allowed it to be easily installed in the upper payload section rather than my well proven previous method of stuffing and hoping for puffing at deployment.

Shaken, Not Stirred hobbled off the pad when the button was pushed and arced into the stiff wind. The drogue chute was successfully deployed on queue at apogee and Shaken, Not Stirred danced during its descent until 300 feet where the main parachute was ejected. However, the new folding technique failed me and the main parachute never inflated causing Shaken, Not Stirred to experience a hard landing in the soft field. Closer inspection upon recovery revealed no damage, other than my pride. I slinked back to the flight line to clear the mud from the rocket and blamed Friday the 13th for my woes. See Shaken, Not Stirred fly and recover hard here.

This was our only flight for day. Toni and I assisted with various MDRA activities until the early setting sun signaled the end of Red Glare 15 day one. We headed to Adams Ribs and met up with Ben and other rocketeers for a nice dinner before returning to the hotel for much needed rest.

Day two saw overcast skies, cold temperatures and windy conditions. The weather forecast for the day looked bleak with predicted sleet, snow, and rain. We arrived at the field early to make best of a bad weather day. Toni prepared Sally Ride with Sparkles the Elf. Sparkles was installed in the main sustainer with his own chute for apogee deployment. A J425 Blue propellant was used to get Sally Ride up to 1,624 feet where the apogee event ejected Sparkles and the drogue chute. Sally Ride descended quickly under her small drogue while Sparkles the Elf quickly drifted away in the upper winds. Sally Ride deployed her main at 700 feet and came to a gentle rest in the field. Sparkles continue to drift under his parachute until he could no longer be seen. See Sally Ride and Sparkles the Elf take flight here.

A massive search effort was initiated in attempts to find poor Sparkles. Sparkles had disappeared before anyone could witness his landing. Ben and I initiated a grid pattern search and found many lost rockets but Sparkles was not to be found. After two hours the search was called off. Toni was disappointed and continued to plot the expected trajectory and possible landing areas. Ben and I took to the Highlander and once again searched along the fields next to the roads but Sparkles was missing in action. Once again the search was called off and we all came to accept that Sparkles was in a much better place.

We continued to assist MDRA and other flyers. The skies were darkening and the expected bad weather could be seen in the distance. There were rumors along the flight line that someone had found an elf with a parachute. Toni excitedly walked the flight line in search of the source of these rumors and finally discovered that Sparkles the Elf indeed survived his adventure and was rescued over a mile from the launch point. Soon after the cold rains came and the launch was closed. We all made our way back to the hotel to clean up for the Red Glare banquet.

The banquet had delicious crab cakes and chicken as well as cheap drinks. The rocketeers that attended enjoyed a good time with good food and good company. Video of MDRA Past was shown and many old familiar members were recognized. Soon it was time to stumble across the parking lot and back to the hotel in the pouring rain thus ending Red Glare 15 day two.

Sunday morning brought a surprise. The skies were blue and the sun was bright. The forecast called for balmy temperatures that could reach as high as 37 degrees. Excited by this change of events, many rocketeers checked out of the hotel and headed to the field early. Toni, Ben, and I were no exception. The field was muddy and the breeze was stiff. We assisted other flyers and filmed some flights.

Ben and I assisted a flyer to recover a rocket that had landed across the road. The main parachute was tangled on a utility pole and the rocket presented a hazard to the local traffic. The flyer recovered the sustainer as I attempted to disconnect the upper section when all of a sudden the main parachute became untangled and inflated in the wind with a loud pop. This caught us off guard and the sustainer was pulled from the flyer’s hand and caught my foot. It dropped me on the road and dragged me across the asphalt. It then picked me up into the air before my boot finally ripped and dropped me into a ditch, that was naturally full of freezing water from the early morning rains. When I dropped, the rocket quickly accelerated missing Ben’s head before continuing across the field at great speed. The rocket was eventually recovered and we learned a valuable lesson. Always ensure that the main parachute is fully deflated before continuing with any recovery efforts.

I ended up borrowing some dry clothes and managed to warm back up. We packed up the field as the sun set and met everyone for dinner thus concluding Red Glare 15 day three. It was not the best attended Red Glare due to being so close to the Christmas Holidays and the cold weather but it was still enjoyable and now a fond memory. January 2014 brings the Annual Christmas Tree launch. Until the next launch . . .

By Peter E. Abresch Jr.
Red Glare 15 Parking Attendance was low

By Peter E. Abresch Jr.

Return to November

Go to next launch
Shaken, Not Stirred on CTI H120 Red clearing the launch rail
Shaken, Not Stirred main parachute failed to inflate
Toni rtrieving Sally Ride
Shaken, Not Stirred hard landing but no damage
Sparkles entering the rocket
Toni with Sally Ride prior to Sparkles wild ride
Sparkles safe return
Toni in the distance searching for Sparkles
Sally Ride landed safely but there was no sign of Sparkles
Shaken, Not
        Stirred main parachute failed to inflate
Red Glare 15 Parking Attendance was low
Shaken, Not
        Stirred on CTI H120 Red clearing the launch rail 
Return to the Launch Pad
Sparkles entering the
Some rockets do not land
        very closeSally
        Ride landed safely but there was no sign of SparklesToni
        in the distance searching for SparklesSome rockets do not
        land very closeSparkles safe return
Shaken, Not Stirred hard landing but no damage