Sunday, April 11, 2010

First launch of 2010

Today was a very nice day for a launch. I had initially planned to launch yesterday, but the wind forecast, at 15 to 20 mph, was just too high to risk a 90 minute drive each way. Today was breezy, but generally nicer. There were, however, some pretty long walks.

There were some great flights, several K and L (and possibly M) flights, and a few serious failures (catos and shreds.) The flight to see all day, was an L3000 that was projected to scrape 2 miles. The owners had to wait for an FAA window, and this only helped to build the anticipation. Sadly the motor failed and the rocket may have shredded a bit. The power in that motor, even with a failure, was quite clear. This was in a fairly large rocket (ca. 4 or 5 inch diameter and 20 lbs.) Can you imagine what a similar L3000 would do inside a 54mm shadow aero kit?

I was able to launch 6 rockets, all of them were recovered after successful flights. Here is the rundown of the day:

The first to go just had to be the star of the fleet; the Thunderbolt 38mm minimum diameter fiberglass rocket. This flew on a smoky but fast G131 with a 5 second delay. The flight was gentle but firm, with this nearly full G motor burning out in about 1 second. The rocket flew straight and true, and looks ready for some real level 1 power. The delay was a bit late, and the rocket came down pretty fast even with a 30 inch chute. There does not appear to be any damage, particularly at the fin can and the coupler, both areas of concern. Still, this rocket needs another coat of epoxy here or there. I love rail guides, I think this is the way to go in the future.

Next came the LOC Graduator. This rocket is about 12 years old, and has flown somewhere between 40 and 50 times. Yes I tell everyone about this and always say it here, but this rocket is worthy of a formal introduction each time. It has survived an H238 at Blackrock, a nosedive on a D12, and most recently, a flat-spin recovery.

Today, the Graduator flew on a G106 Skidmark. Loud! Recovery was solid, but the rocket did drift pretty far. And it landed gently in a drainage channel in the sod farm. The epoxy overcoat prevented any of the nasty sludge from soaking into the airframe, so it was just a matter of wiping the rocket off with a paper towel. This is one reason why I swear by the whole epoxy thing.


The fiberglass Drago kit flew next, the third and final large flight for me today. This rocket was not ready to fly as of Friday night, but the 24 hour delay allowed me enough time to finish it. I used CA to apply launch lugs (temporary) just this morning, they dried on the drive over. This rocket flew on a G131, quite a powerful little thing this is! Altitude was probably between 1400 and 1600 feet. Somehow this kit wound up lighter than the Graduator! This was higher than expected, and recovery was very far downrange; almost to the end of the farm property. Because of the drainage channels, one cannot simply walk across the farm. One must chose the right field, and cross into it near the road, and only then is it possible to walk east for the recovery. Despite the great distance here, there is one great advantage; the relative lack of trees. On the flat farm, it is often possible to see a rocket from a mile away, even on the ground! Below is a Google image of the field, with a blue square at the general launch area, and two red Xs to show where many rockets were landing:

The round trip for one of these rockets approaches 1 mile. Clearly this is just about the best possible area for flying rockets within 100 miles of New York City (and then some.) These farms are surrounded by more farms, and since many of them are sod, they are soft and very flat.

The Drago kit drifted more than 1000 feet out into the field, but I watched it fall and then was able to see a white dot way out by the tree line. After a while, I began to worry that it was not my rocket, or a rocket at all. Above is a picture from half way out, looking back at the flight line. And below, from the same spot, is the rocket in the distance:

Next, it became clear that this was indeed a rocket. Slowly, the color of the skyangle 'chute came out.
Recovery was good, zero damage on this barely finished kit. More epoxy is needed on one fin, holes need to be filled near the fin roots, and the bottom needs a final coat of epoxy as well. Launch lugs or rails will be added as well.

An Art Applewhite hourglass was flown next. This 24mm kit is always fun because it tends to take off very quickly indeed, particularly on F motors. Here it flew on an F24, no ejection charge needed!

To finish a great day of flying, I put out two small rockets. The wind was picking up, and it began to look a bit like rain was moving in. Here we have the Art Applewhite paper 3FNC kit, a free kit available online.

The little paper rocket (made from blue card stock) flew on a cute little 1/2A3, the last 13mm motor I could find. (Must order more!) The custom rocket, built along with the two and three motor cluster rockets, all made from a bulk educators pack from Estes, flew on an A8-3. Both flights were nice, the custom rocket popped a fin off but it can be fixed.

Overall, this was a great start to 2010.

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