Saturday, March 05, 2011

Living Up To The Moniker

My son TJ and I went out to Great Meadow Equestrian Center today for a NOVAAR rocket launch. The weather was grey and windy, but not quite breezy enough to cancel. It was a chilly 40-ish degrees out there.

There was the usual crowd. At least one cub scout troop making their first ever flights with Alpha 3's (a classic beginner rocket). There were several groups of students and mentors present, making practice flights for the upcoming Team America Rocketry Challenge. There were also some competition flyers, putting up gliders and rockets for duration contest points. All in all, a very busy day for the club working the pads.

I caught up with some old friends I hadn't seen in awhile, including Ken Allen of Performance Hobbies. I asked him to bring me up to speed on the current high power rocket motor regulations. You may recall that the organization I belong to, the National Association of Rocketry, sued the BATFE over their insistance that rocket motors were the same as explosives. Well, we won. Not only that, but we also won back some court costs incurred during the multi-year battle too.

Bottom line: no government regulation! Woot!

So I've got some high power rockets that have been doing nothing but hanging on the wall and looking cool as shit, that will be returning to the air in the near future.

But that's another day. Today was windy, so to try to limit the drift on the way back down we stayed with streamers instead of chutes. Here's what we flew:

1. Der Red Max - C6-5 - a classic, built from plans at Jim Z's amazing site.* Perfect flight, but as expected, lots of drift.

2. Saturn Wannabee - 4x A10-3T - this is an original design that uses a cluster of four mini-motors. All four lit, she got great altitude, and it sounded like popcorn when all four ejection charges went off almost simultaneously.

3. Groove Tube - C6-5 - another classic built from plans. This tube-finned rocket made her usual arrow straight boost, but the nosecone and streamer separated when the ejection charge fired. This demonstrated something aerodynamically odd about tube fins, namely that in a breeze they produce lift and the rocket body essentially glided to the ground. TJ recovered all the pieces, which landed very close to each other. I'll replace the shock cord and she'll be good as new.

4. Sparrow - A10-3T - this was my very first rocket, the one that started it all for me. Almost 20 years old and looking just beat up enough to have some character, she lifted off in a hurry and, because she's so small, most of the crowd lost sight of her. I knew what to expect, so I had no problem keeping track. People just don't expect the smaller rockets to go that fast or that high. I usually fly this one once a year, just to keep her in the logbook.

That was it. We were getting cold, so we headed home. I'd been neglecting the fleet lately as other interests had my attention, so the day did what I was hoping it would, it reignited my excitement (pun intended) about flying rockets again.

* Jim Z contacted all the old rocket companies like Estes, Centuri, MRC, etc. and got permission to post scans of the original plans and decal sheets on the internet. Every company agreed without hesitation (because they rock), and for years now rocketeers have been scrounging in their attics and basements for forgotten boxes and rocket kits. I'd guess that about 90% of everything ever released has been found and posted online, for free and open use.


CGHill said...

Few things in life are more delightful than seeing a snotty government agency taken down a peg. :)

Elisson said...

I have a huge pile of old Estes Model Rocket News issues, going back pretty much to when the whole thing got started up until 1967 or so. Plenty of classic plans in there, you betcha. Can anyone say "Astron Scout"?

Went to see my first high-power launch on April 2... even wrote a post about it. A (very brief!!!) YouTube video is here: