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Last updated: August 29, 2002
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Alan Estenson, Webmaster

August 2002 launch report (8/24/2002)

The stages are falling!  The stages are falling!

On Saturday, August 24, a lot of people came out to the sod farm in Blaine for the regular August launch.  18 pads were set up in two ranges, and they were kept pretty busy all day. Weather was warm, partially overcast, and just a light breeze.  It was a very successful launch with 183 flights!

A big thanks to: 

  • Ted Cochran for hauling out all that gear and running things in Alan's absence
  • RSO volunteers: Steve Hum, Stuart & Ellison Lenz, Lee Frisvold, Dave Fergus
  • LCO volunteers: Ted Cochran, Mike Erpelding, Stuart & Ellison Lenz, Rick Vatsaas, Leland Cheng
  • Everyone who came early to set up and stayed late to pack away the equipment.

This theme of the launch was multi-staging, and quite a few 2-stage flights took to the skies.  As a special event, a Comanche-3 drag race was held.  Five Comanche's took to the skies (4 of them "full up"; all of them with 3 stages).  What's incredible is that all of them staged successfully!  A few booster stages were never seen again, as, in one person's words - "There were stages falling everywhere!"

This launch also saw the 4th Annual Great UFO Drag Race.  However, only 4 UFO's were entered; a number decidedly smaller than seen in previous years.

A few of the flights:

MASA members - please send in your thoughts about the launch!  [I wasn't there, so I'm asking all of you to write this section. - Alan]

Ted Cochran writes:

The Comanche drag race was awesome! I spent the first second or so peering through the lens trying to capture a picture or two; then I gave up and enjoyed it. My most vivid memory was just after the second staging for four of the rockets--they were doing a Blue Angels-like starburst. And all of the boosters raining down. And Leland's sustainer making it back to within a few yards of the pads. I found my two boosters downwind, and near them there were two others in a puddle, and one of Glen's ended up floating in the N-S ditch to the East. Unfortunately, I was distracted from looking at my own rocket by all of the others. I got both boosters back, but the much repaired sustainer is finally gone for good (good riddance--this is the same beat up, brutalized rocket we used in RSO training two years ago (to fly or not to fly?) and this was the SECOND flight full up since then!).

The NCR X-Wing [Joe Schneider's] was pretty cool. The red cap acted like it had been taped on--it stuck there for a bit, and then with a mighty pop! the X wing leapt from the pad. Unfortunately, there was also a mighty twang from the rod, and it went southbound, a hundred feet or so over our heads. I think I saw Luke waving to us as he went by. Ejection was mere feet over the ground, and I'm not sure the chute had a chance to fully slow it down. Perhaps Joe can fill us in on the outcome.

[Joe Schneider writes - The chute did open fully, as one of the shroud lines broke free of the chute. The rocket did slow, but it still hit the ground hard. I'm not sure where the rocket actually touched down, but one wing has some moderate damage that will need to be repaired for next month's launch. Also, there was some damage to one of the laser probes or whatever they are at the end of a wing, so that will need to be glued back on. All in all, it was fairly light damage that will be repaired for next month's launch, when I will brave the model again and Alan can finally see what became of his old model.  Also, the poor flight trajectory could have been caused by a launch lug breaking off at liftoff. When the model was recovered, the front launch lug was nowhere to be found.]

Other memorable flights included the Venus Probe drag race--picture two Venus Probes flying perfect formation until ejection. The wingman caught a thermal and went up for awhile, but both ended up landing on their feet for perfect flights. If we're too tired of UFOs to get a good turnout any more, let's switch to Venus Probes--they're really cheap at a local hobby store I know, and we won't likely lose any parts (unless Steve Robb decides to convert his for a G motor or some such -)

Kerry Hodges lit all three motors on his Gabriel--it flies really nicely with full power!

Seth's Deltie Airshow did OK, although I think it really needs to fly in very calm weather to get the full effect. Two of the gliders landed within feet of each other, even though one did a full extra circle.

My Phobos had a great first flight on an Econojet G motor. This is the rocket that my son Kevin won in the raffle at the [2000] summer picnic (with a ticket that I gave him to put his name on), that I then had to buy from him at retail. -S

--the very nice Mercury Atlas--it must have been Ron Hammer's, since there aren't any others listed on the log [it was Ron's] --which apparently suffered an engine fly through. I was out looking for a Comanche at the time, so I saw it from a distance, but there appeared to be lots of whooshing noises and low level smoke....someone who was up close and personal can fill us in, I hope!

[Ron Hammer writes - Yes, it was my Mercury Atlas.  As to what happened, maybe someone with more experience can tell me. The motor did NOT do a fly through; it was still right where it belonged. The motor was an E18-4 Reload. The case is still fine; I used in another flight after this.  The forward closure did lose some of its anodizing.  Damage report. On the booster both fin sections (slide into outer motors) lost 1 fin each. The "stuffer tube" (long motor mount) is burnt through at the end of the motor and just about to the other end. The inside of the main tube is completely black. The shock cord was burnt off and the parachute was shredded.  The end of the tube is slightly bent. The capsule landed fine on its own parachute.]

--The guests who flew an SR-71 without benefit of nose cone clay. Folks, you can make astronauts with the clay if you want to, but put them in the nose when you're done!

--Mollie Frisvold, who had the booster for her CC Express snag on the clothespin. It happily burned away, and then ignited the sustainer, which flew off the rod for a decent (if not exactly nominal) flight!

--My own Estes shuttle, which started by boosting perfectly, absolutely straight up to apogee. The glider then decided to hang on through the first part of a hammerhead turn by the rest of the stack. When the ejection charge blew, the Shuttle ended up in an inverted spin, which it had turned into an upright spiral before it ran out of altitude. No damage, and I made it go right back out and fly again two racks later, where it made a spectacular flight, complete with a pattern approach and perfect landing.

Lessons learned

--tell the equipment manager when theres a problem (a sticky safety key, say) so he can fix it between launches -)

--metal clothespin springs are very good at shorting out igniters--I saw this twice today, and undoubtedly it happened more than that. The pins are so black that it's hard to tell that there's metal in there, and many folks put them so far on the rod that the rod is touching the spring, and the engine hook is touching the spring, and the igniter is touching the rod AND the spring!

--the rain made the fields very wet, but very soft!

It was all in all a terrific day!

Steve Hum writes:

Wow, 182 flights? It seemed like the rate of launching was quite leisurely, with most racks not completely filled. I never would have expected that we put that many rockets up. And the workload while I was RSO was comfortable - I never felt that I was short changing anything. Maybe everyoneıs getting more comfortable with the present system.

The Comanche drag race was absolute incredible. Iıve never seen anything like that. I still canıt believe that all 5 staged every stage. Incredible. Too bad so many sustainers were lost.

Joe Schneiderıs X-Wing flight was a heart stopper. You could almost hear R2D2 screaming just before the chute opened at the last possible moment. Dave Whitakerıs Ecee Thunder had an awesome glide. I never knew this bird could actually fly that nicely.

As for my flights, the Ecee Thunder flew again and had a nice glide. This was rather surprising considering that it kicked the engine (again) and snapped off half of the canard! A little CA and it will be set to go again. The Callisto and Aspire flew completely nominal flights on G33s, other than the splash down on the saturated field for the Callisto. No damage to the rocket - in fact it cleaned out some of the ejection residue that built up in it. Gotta love that Quantum tubing.

My only other flight was the AMRAAM 2 on a G64. Another completely nominal boost and deployment, followed by what looked like a tangled chute. When I recovered it, I discovered that the nose cone had somehow gone right thorough the spill hole in the parachute! This caused the shock cord to be wrapped around the chute making it collapse. I understand that there was a Sport Rocketry article about where to place the parachute. Maybe I should read it....

While I was walking back with the AMRAAM I was only half watching the ongoing launches. I completely missed seeing Tim Bushıs Mercury Redstone launch. But suddenly, no more than 30 ft in front of me, I see the Redstone ³splash down² in the ditch. I couldnıt reach it, but it looked close enough that I could snag it with the AMRAAM, so I stepped onto the steep bank, leaned over a bit, extended the AMRAAM, and into the water goes my right leg, up to the knee. Now I can easily reach it. Next time I think Iıll bring waders.

Dave Fergus writes:

Most memorable was the Venus Probe dual flight. Both rockets went up at the same speed about a half second apart at launch. Both rockets curved over into the wind almost like synchronized swimmers, both popped their alien landers near simultaneously and deployed all four parachutes.  At this point, one picture could have framed all four elements under chutes, because they were still close to each other. David's lander came down slower than Stuart's but that was about the only difference in this near synchronous dual flight.

Glen Overby writes:

- worked 2nd RSO shift with Mike

- flew in the Comanche 3 drag race (full up). Thanks to Ted who recovered my 2nd stage and whoever recovered my 1st stage.  I walked two of the fields to the south with Ted, looking for parts. The only one I found was Ted's sustainer from an earlier 2-stage flight.  I later found my sustainer in a tree on the edge of the forest.

- flew one of last winter's "weird" designs, Deep Space Zero (6 fins, 2 transitions, nose cone) into the Nike Eating Forest to the East.

- Played with my new 70 - 300mm zoom lens.

After losing my neat "Deep Space Zero" (6 fins, 2 transitions and 3 different body tube sizes) in the Nike-Eating forest to the east, I was walking on the north side of the NEFttE and saw my rocket hanging from a tree! I suspect the missing Comanches may be in the forest. A big Thanks to Tim Bush for helping me with the big pole, and the gentleman who loaned me the pole; I can't remember your name.

Rick Vatsaas writes:

Spending all my spare time finishing my basement (I know you're all tired of hearing about it) means nothing new has come out of the Vatsaas Hanger in a while. Still I needed to get out and smell some AP, and I wanted to get in some LCO time.

Circumstances were such my son and I arrived at about 1130. Just as the Comanche Drag race went off (I was sorry to miss that). As soon as I got out of the car I went to relieve Ellison at LCO. I got to LCO for a while, and it was fun to sit back and just launch rockets without prepping anything, or mourning over a lawn dart. After an hour Leland Cheng took over for me and we shot off a few.

First up was Christian's F22 Boost Glider (he likes to call it a F22 Nose Diver, goofy kid). This rocket flies on a C6-3, but really needs a C6-1 as it always ejects well below apogee. It usually flies straightest when there is a bit of wind (it has been known to cruise missile). This boost was great, and when the glider was finally released it had a real nice smooth glide, due to my trimming the ailerons (it usually flies in a perpetual stall. I feared it would land in the woods, but it made a virtual three point landing on the gravel (thanks to Glen O. for preventing it from becoming road-kill)

I also flew my Explorer 2000 with a larger streamer, but again failed to get a 30-second NARTrek flight. I am going to have to change the shock cord to something lighter. The rest of my flights were good but nothing exceptional.

A couple of the most enjoyable events were meeting a new family that visited for the first time (I always remember the kids names, never the parents) who intended to join, plus another guy that came but brought along a scratch built Interceptor that looked better any I had seen made from kits.

Most Memorable Flight - That Ecee Thunder that swooped in right in front of the launch pads for a perfect landing.

John Carlson writes:

I however had kind of a bad day.  The first rocket I launched was my scratch built 1/4 scale WAC Corporal, with a g38-4 in it. The flight was great, straight as an arrow.  It really needed to have a 7 second delay on it, but it floated into the Nike rocket eating forest and I couldn't find any sign of it. It looked like it went straight in from the road about a 100 yds but I couldn't see it anywhere.  Good thing I didn't pay 67 dollars for the kit.  I'm off to Hub at lunch today to get parts for a new one. After that I couldn't bear to launch anything else, plus after tromping around in the woods for 45 minutes I was beat.  I'm looking forward to next months launch and hope I have better success. Loved the Comanche launch. I'm too afraid to launch mine. I finished it in about 1982 and it's been sitting on the shelf ever since.

Kerry Hodges writes:

Although all three engines lit on my Gabriel, the parachute got hung up on the shock cord like an inverted towel on a clothes line. The body tube crumpled at the mid-point.  It will not fly again. I plan to make a new "improved" version over the winter. As a cluster note, I have never been able to light a center E engine with two C engines. The D with 2 C's have always lit. I wonder if the the ignition time of the E is longer and the C's take the rocket off the pad too soon. Dan VanDyke had another successful launch of his scaled-up Monarch on a cluster of triple E engines.

The Gabriel was KIA'ed by the ground. At least two nice rockets were MIA'ed into the trees to the East. I believe John Carlson lost his big WAC Corporal and Ken Jarosch lost his Aerotech Sumo.

David Whitaker writes:

I got back all the parts to my Comanche-3. I was the one who wimped out and used the C11/B6/B6-6 combo to launch my Comache-3. I also got all my parts back.  Coincidence?  I think not! If I'd known that we were going to have an all up drag-race, I'd have probably sprung for the for all the extra motors. I was pleased by the C11-0's though.  I was quite impressed by the Comanche drag race. It was really quite fantastic. I wish someone had video taped it.  My brain was running in overload and I felt like I couldn't take it all in. As far as I remember, all the Comanche's seemed to leave the pad almost simultaneously. From where I was standing, my Comanche and another seemed to cross-paths shortly after launch. Then there were a bunch of stages falling from the sky and I lost sight of the Comanches. I remember seeing a long white streak in the center of the sky. As I watched the streak I noticed a point in the sky coming toward me. As it got closer I realized that it was a spent booster stage tumbling in (probably the second stage from my Comanche??).  After that, I didn't see much at all. I followed the rest of the folks around looking for spent sustainers but I didn't have a clue as to where they might have come down. When I got back to the LCO's desk, my Comance was sitting there with all stages present and accounted for. All stages has burned and no motors had been kicked.

I brought my Ecee Thunder to the launch since I had heard the winds were supposed to be light. I saw Steve's Ecee Thunder fly and I was impressed. It performed a beautiful curve over the cars and landed in the freshly seeded area.

When I brought my Ecee Thunder out several people came over to ask how it worked. This was the first time I've ever had anyone come over and ask about a rocket. People seem really interested in large rocket gliders. After launch, the Ecee performed a loop and headed upwind. It seemed to stall and then recover. The wind was blowing just hard enough that it could seem to hang stationary in the launch area.

Eventually, it turned and headed downwind and made a perfect landing near the LCO's desk. Many oohs and aahs. I was kinda surprised by people's reaction. It's almost like getting a new shirt, walking outside and having complete strangers come up to you and ask about your shirt.

I tried streamer duration again for the 7th or 8th time and again suffered a separation. This time the kevlar broke. I'll try a longer/stronger piece of kevlar next time.

Overall, it was a pretty good day for me. I didn't lose or destroy anything and had some pretty good flights.

Lee Frisvold writes:

Mollie and I had a great time even though we lost her Graduator and the sustainer to my Comanche 3 during the crazy drag race which had all 5 rockets successfully light all three stages! That fact alone should make it the best flight(s) of the year. Mollie's Graduator was our first mid power rocket; it had over 9 flights. As we waited for it's launch, I was thinking maybe a G35-7 was too much because of the wind BUT I thought the 18 inch chute would bring it down fast enough to not get into the trees.  Boy was I wrong, it must have caught a thermal and floated far into the trees as we walked for over ½ an hour and didn't see it.

I was able to get my new PE V-2 back (G35-4) but we found it at the most far east corner up against a fence 3 fields over. Anybody have any ideas on how to make it less tail happy? Too much motor? Not enough nose weight? My 2 stage Fat boy was interesting wanting to take the launching pad with it. The Mercury Atlas motor failure was wild as was a few of the Lenz's fence posts and unstable flights.  The X-wing was sure a heart stopper.  All I could think of was John Knoll's X-wing that came back in a bag after its flight. That clump of trees on the east side of the launch site sure had a good time on our account - more than a few large rockets, nice WAC Corporal and Sumo, ended up in there.

All in all it was great to launch some rockets again!!!!!

Tim Bush writes:

I took it leisurely and only flew a couple of models.  I got two nice flights out of my Estes Mercury Redstone, both on D12-5 motors. This motor is a nice match for the rocket. The first flight was in the morning when the winds were very light. The booster, capsule, and chunks of the wadding all landed within feet of one another. The second flight ended with a NASA style water splash down of the booster. Luckily, Steve Hum was nearby recovering his AMRRAM and rescued the paper tube from the frog ditch before it got water logged. Thanks Steve! I don't think you heard it but the flight line folks were all applauding you!

I put in two flights on my Estes Darkwing V2.0 (modified to be an Apogee style boost glider). The first flight was on a B6-4. It gave a nice boost and the glide was better than I expected. With the weight and drag of the thing a fast, high sink glide and a stall are very close together. The second flight was on a C6-5 which is too much power for it. It arced over SR71 style and ejected the pod at low altitude. The pilot couldn't pull up in time and the vehicle made a very good lawn dart. Only minor damage sustained.

Finally I flew my Centuri clone 'The Point!'. I can't kill this thing.  Like the energizer bunny it keeps going and going.................

Stuart Lenz writes:

I sure enjoyed the Comanche Drag race and the duel Venus Probe launch was also exciting. Ellsion had great fun launching his Norad twice on G40-10s. This was his birthday present from last December and he has patiently waited almost a year to launch them.

Ed Eastman writes:

I had a shortish but fun day. Launched my first new bird in months (moving SUCKS)--a Launch Pad HAWK (small version). Flew it first on the recommended D12-3--caught up a teeny bit on the launch rod, but ended up flying very nicely. Nearly wound up in the RET's on the east side of the field, but ended up in the high grass at the edge. Flew it later on a C11-5--also flew nicely, and didn't drift so far.

The "fun" came with my Estes Magnum. First, I had 2 igniter failures (and just with basic Estes igniters--one wasn't far enough in, I dunno what happened to the other). Finally, she flew very nicely--D12-0 to B6-6. After ejection, however, she started doing a wonderful imitation of a sailplane. (Turned out the parachute had lost shroud lines on opposite sides of the chute--made it a sailor, or so it seems) Landed halfway over in the next fields to the East--rather too close to a tractor for comfort. After a run I got her back (who SEZ rocketry is a couch potato activity) and the tractor driver gave me a thumbs up--nice fellow!

My Stomp flew and BOINKED nicely on a B6-4, but my Crossbow Bolt (a modified Alpha from the modification meeting last year) flew well on an A8-3, but the chute came out in a wad. THAT will teach me to always open up the chute on launch day....Fortunately, no real damage. Had to leave after that--other stuff to do.

And the Comanche drag race ROCKED!!


The Details:

Full launch tally (in Adobe Acrobat PDF form, requires version 4 or newer of the Acrobat reader)

The totals were:  183 flights, 220 motors.  The cumulative total impulse was 4450 Ns with an average total impulse of 20.2 Ns.  The motor breakdown follows:


# Burned

MicroMaxx 0





















(Alan Estenson)

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