Sunday, October 31, 2010

Launch report

Today was the last launch of the year, and it saw decent sky conditions but excessive wind. The wind was around 15 mph, and resulted in several lost rockets for the day. I was lucky to have recovered all of my rockets, as you will soon see. No pictures this time because most of my efforts were battling the wind and recovering rockets.

To start, I flew the Drago on a G53FJ-5. This is a nice motor with a gentle profile and heavy smoke. The Drago is rapidly becoming a keystone rocket in the fleet, perhaps to replace the slowly failing LOC Graduator from 1998. In any event, despite the high wind, recovery was in the field and was visible even on the ground. Next the little Art Applewhite hourglass flew well on an F12J. For some reason, it went in a rapid spin even before burnout (usually that only happens at the end.) Perhaps the wind caused this, or the lower thrust.

Next, I flew the Thunderbolt 38mm from Giant Leap on an H400. The flight was fast and snappy, as expected. I plan to use more Vmax loads in the future. Because I used a large chute (28 inches), recovery was way out of the range. Out past the primary field (a solid 1500 feet), over a row of trees, and about the same distance again past those trees. Round-trip was well over a mile. By sheer luck, and the help of a local expert, I was able to grab the rocket and recover over $200 worth of hardware.

Finally, I prepped the Drago again to fly on a smaller motor, just an F52T. The flight was low, but sadly the parachute did not deploy. Only the nosecone came out, and the rocket came in very fast, if not ballistic. The very soft sod ground (ideal for rocketry) and the fiberglass construction ensure that the rocket only had minor damage to the nosecone. The airframe was fine, but it made a 4 inch core sample. These things happen sometimes. Much more disturbing was the location; this rocket "landed" within 30 feet of a group of people, children and a few adults. They were standing close to the range, and were not looking up. I began shouting "heads up!" and they basically saw it land near them.

I am very happy to report that no one was injured, but considering the speed of recovery (at least 50 mph, probably closer to 75) and strength of airframe, this would have caused severe injury or even death if it were to hit a person on the head. I am a bit upset about this because, no matter how much we say it is on every spectator to take on the risk of watching for themselves, if something horrible happened it would have still been on my head. I packed the 'chute that later jammed. Perhaps it just needs to remain clear that everyone should at all times look up and track all flights at least until a recovery event occurs. Yes even G flights can be dangerous.

Included is a map of the long recovery:

The two red X marks show long walks from the last launch. The large green X shows the recovery today, about twice the distance. It was nice to be out in the field on a autumn day, however, and I even saw a group of deer chased out by other rocket hunters.

Now is time to clean and repair, and wait for the spring.

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