April 26 2003 launch report (4/28/2003)
STS-107 Memorial Launch
In honor of Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist of Columbia.
Fat Boys fly and Big Berthas sing...
On Saturday April 26, a huge crew of MASA members and guest
rocketeers turned out for the [probable] final club launch at the
Fricke and Sons sod farm in Blaine. With the developer's
bulldozers rolling within mere weeks, everyone wanted to take
advantage of this last chance to fly rockets from this wonderful
A misfire alley style range was laid out along the sod with as
many as 18 pads operating at the busiest time of the day. A
steady stream of range volunteers kept things moving. The
launches seemed nearly continuous through much of the early
Because "It ain't over 'til the Fat Boys fly", 13 Fat
Boys (and variations) took to the air in a mass launch. Later,
because "It really ain't over 'til the Big Berthas sing",
7 Big Berthas (and variations) flitted skyward in another mass
launch. Both were a great deal of fun to watch!
A 244 flight total tied the all-time MASA one-day record.
However, thanks to a large number of clustered flights, the 298
engine total obliterated the previous record. In addition, the
expended total impulse of 7,812 Newton-seconds smashed the old
record. Altogether, a fitting way to retire a great flying
Big thanks and applause to:
- Mike Erpelding - for filling his truck with gear
- LCO volunteers: Art Gibbens, Mark Thell, David Whitaker,
Ted Cochran, Mike Erpelding, Alan Estenson, Glen Overby
- RSO volunteers: Rick Vatsaas, Tim Bush (2 shifts!), Stuart
Lenz, Russ Durkee, Mike Erpelding
- Stuart and Ellison Lenz for feeding many of the hungry with
hot dogs, chips & beans. Thanks guys!
A few of the flights:
MASA members - please send in your thoughts about the
Glen Overby writes:
Let me get the launch reports rolling with mine.
Dave Fergus closed down flying at the Fricke Sod Farm with a
G35 that echoed off of the trees. What a way to end the day!
Everybody packed up and went home after a fun day of flying.
My flying of the past two days hasn't been nearly what Alan has
flown; Today I only added a few flights to yesterday's
D12-0 - C6-7 Ring-fin rocket. STRAIGHT Up! I don't know how the
CD of a ring fin compares to a 3-fin rocket -- I'm sure it's a lot
more -- but I sure like how they fly!
D12-3 Fat Boy (could use a D12-5)
F21-7 Aerobee 300A (2 stage version, flown as a single stage).
Became a tiny little dot in the sky and gently floated back.
E18-7 Aerobee 300A (single stage version)
[more from Glen]
I've been forgetting something very important - nominations for
the Ballistic Fenceposting Club. Please feel free to nominate the
best "core samples" from this year's launches.
For the April launch, I nominate these flights
Ellison Lenz (permanent member) for a 3-stage-something that
was, as far as I know, the first fencepost of the day.
Ted Cochran gets an "ouch" award for a Saturn V
fencepost (did you pay extra for that bonus delay?)
An unknown rocket scientist [Mark Thell] for a Nike-Ajax
fencepost (ejection, no parachute)
I'm nominating Alan Estenson for the MASA Swim Team for a great
Alan Estenson writes:
I enjoyed participating in both the Fat Boy and Big Bertha mass
launches. Thanks to Larry Schwartz for launching my Bertha;
I was busy playing LCO.
After all my fun on Friday, I still had a couple of H motors to
use up. First came my old, beat-up, stretched, repaired,
ugly LOC Graduator. It hurtled skyward on an H238.
This rocket made the first-ever H flight at a MASA launch back in
1998. Next, my LOC Cyclotron had another great flight; this
time on an H148 Redline. Gotta love that neon red
flame! Deciding that it was a worthy occasion to use up a
pair of expensive, darn-near-irreplaceable motors, I loaded two
G55's into my LOC Starburst. At 250 N-s, this flight won the
total impulse "prize" for the day. As usual, one
motor lit instantly and the other lit when the rocket was most of
the way up the rod. A nice flight, though, and that off-axis
thrust wiggle just makes life interesting.
Declaring that there are truly silly ways to spend $10, I put
an F21 in my flying pyramid - "Khufu's
Revenge". The flight was much nicer than previous
efforts on E15's or E30's. Low, slow, and noisy - especially
the startling BANG of the parachute "mortar".
For some real altitude out of the same size motor, it was time
to put an F21 in my TLP PAC-3. It was its best flight ever -
arrowing straight into the sky. Of course, it then decided
to land on the bank of a drainage ditch, bounce, and topple over
into that nasty green water. Fortunately, it decided to
float nicely and was rescued by Steve "Flash" Hum.
Thanks Steve! Beyond dirt and icky green goo, it suffered no
Next, my upscale "Maxi Searcher" had a fun flight on
an E9-6. To end the day, I decided to go "full up"
in my scratchbuilt "Wanderer". The cluster of an
E9-8 and two C6-0's was actually about 130% of original design
power. For the first time ever, all three motors lit.
Unfortunately, the shock cord snapped at ejection and the top part
of the rocket suffered some damage from its free fall.
Another great day of rocket flying, and, this time, I
remembered sunscreen. [Thanks Glen]
Ted Cochran writes:
Saturday I started out well with a memorial flight of Space
Shuttle Columbia, which glided down very nicely. Then I tried to
fly a four year old G80-10 in Phobos. There was quite a bonus
delay, and Phobos impacted the bank of a drainage ditch at least
fifteen seconds after burnout, with ejection following about two
seconds later. <sigh>.
The rocket itself is built like a tank (phenolic body tube with
two wraps of fiberglass) and was completely undamaged--it had hit
right at water level and I just pulled it out by the shock cord,
attached to the fin can which was floating in the water after
having been flung backwards by the ejection charge. I elected not
to try to retrieve the nose cone from at least five feet under the
MIRV Gryphon was next--it had four A10-0s clustered in a single
booster staging to four independent sustainers, each with a 1/2A3-
4T. All eight motors lit, and the sustainers did a cool starburst
before landing fairly close to each other.
I flew my Saturn V for what turned out to be the last time; it
lawn darted very close to where the Phobos had ended up after a
decent ascent on an E15-4W. It kept smoking for several seconds
after impact, but there was never any sign of an ejection puff.
That's the motor I've flown it on several times before, and
ejection is usually right at apogee. The bottom half was virtually
undamaged, but the top half is a crumpled wreck. Maybe it'll be
reborn as a Skylab model, or perhaps a futuristic space plane that
I had much better luck with the Orbital Transport, Mars Lander,
Eliminator (its 15th flight, on the last of my NCR F62 motors),
and Sling Wing. My LOC IV flew for the 21st time, on an H165R--the
fifth different H motor I've used in that old warhorse.
Seth had a nice flight on Deltie Thunder, but less luck with
Deltie Airshow, which twice left gliders at the pad, and Tinee,
which rod locked once and broke in half at ejection the other
We enjoyed both drag races, and I had a busy LCO shift at
noon--lots of rockets launched, almost continually with almost no
waiting. I really like misfire alley!
The most memorable flight for me was of Tim Bush's Ringhawk,
that I was most happy to see reborn, and that flew several
incredibly nice gliding flights. I was happy to see the Exocet fly
with both motors lit. There was at least one cool clustered AP
flight, and whoever shot down Doug Carlson's stunt kite also
deserves a round of applause -) The mass launch of Fat Boys was
pretty nifty, too.
Prang nominations (other than my own, of course) I wasn't the
only one creating fence posts--there were a half dozen or so, I
think. The most "interesting" flight that occured on my
LCO shift was of an "artillery rocket" that flew a scale
trajectory and power pranged.
I'm going to miss Fricke's field....
Stuart Lenz writes:
This was the Level 1 launch weekend, our last scheduled launch
at the Blaine field and the weather could not have cooperated any
better, clear skies, perfect visibility and light winds. Ellison
and I arrived shortly after 9:00 and for the next hour everyone
present helped organize the launch equipment and the site. The
first rockets started to fly at about 10:00.
I started by borrowing an engine casing from Glen (Thanks
Glen), next I located Alan and picked up the H238T-M reload. I
proceeded to read the reload instruction having only yesterday
assembled my first reload, a D15-7, after which I assembled the H
reload twice (just for practice). I had test launched the PML
Phobos (my backup, backup rocket), Friday on a G80-10, so I was
now ready to install the engine and recheck the Phobos before my
flight. I then weighed the rocket and presented it to the RSO
(also one of my observers) Rick V and to Russ (my other
observer). They recommended a different engine retention
method and Steve Hum volunteered one of his (Thanks Steve). With
the engine retention method changed, I was ready to choose a pad
(turned out to also be Steve's) with a rail and heavy duty
controller. It was now about 10:40, a minute later my
gray/white/green rocket was at about 2500 feet suspended from its
parachute, having eluded all attempts to photograph it at launch.
Two minutes later it was down softly in a Southern field. By
11:00, I had returned it for inspection and completion of the
paper work. Mike E's level 1 attempt followed shortly after with a
Loc Sumo, also a success. Congratulations Mike. I started the
barbeque and cooked Beans and Wieners for everyone present (at
least as many as I could feed).
At 1200 my RSO shift started with Ted as the LCO, 45 minutes
that seemed more hectic and busy than the previous 3 hours and I
had still only prepped and launched one rocket.
I observed several flights by new or continuing members of the
Ballistic Fence Post Club and many successful flights by those
present. Ellison and I launched some additional rockets and packet
up and departed by about 3:30, tired, sunburned and again
suffering from "Fresh Air Poisoning".
I hope everyone had a successful and enjoyable day.
Thanks again to everyone and particularly Glen, Rick, Russ,
Alan, Steve and Ellison.
Ken Corey-Edstrom writes:
I , like many others, had a terrific flying experience
Having worked to finish up some last minute painting, I
collapsed in my chair with RockSim running on the computer late
Friday night. Unfortunately, I had done some surgery on the
nose cone for my first 4" rocket, "The Quaker"
which I have fiddled with for over a year and the glue I was using
on the nose cone was not working. Hopefully, we will continue to
be able to launch larger rockets and The Q will make its debut
As I was packing up my gear for the day on Saturday morning, I
got a call from one of my best friends, Don "Golden
Bear" Wiebold. Don shares my passion for rockets and has
always wanted to attend a MASA launch with me. He had checked the
website and saw us scheduled at Blaine. He asked if he could come
along. I was delighted of course and Don wound up shooting off
much of his inventory, and even joined MASA at the launch. My
flights also went well for the most part.
I started with a stock Public Missile Strong Arm on an F23-4.
First flight for this kit that I spent more time painting than I
did putting it together. Good initial flight, recovery right
behind the road. Next up was a First flight for an Air Spike
I had left over from a boy scout project of the summer of 2001,
also on an F23-4. This rocket is notable for being the first one I
used an airbrush on. Despite the somewhat tedious clean up
process, the results were so good that I have vowed to give up
spray paint cans forever. The launch was marred by my not checking
the panel on pad 13 to make sure all the other switches were
closed. I unintentionally launched another rocket on one of the
other pads at the same time as mine (luckily, no one was standing
near it ) and was so flustered I didn't notice where my rocket
went. It turns out it was in the deep, deep mud behind the cars.
Luckily again, no one had a camera as my gortex boots became
suctioned to the mud and I had to go barefoot and pull on the
boots for nearly 5 minutes before they came schlorking loose. The
Air Spike landed well, no damage. All that was lost was a pair of
Next came my Halverson Swinger, which has crashed a couple of
times, never having released the wings. I rebuilt it again and
under nearly perfect conditions put a C-6 in it and let it go.
Unfortunately, it went cruise missile right over the top of my E-Z
up and my terrified dog and into the mud field, crashing, breaking
and losing the nose cone. Having failed several times with the
swinger, it has been retired. It was one of those models that was
cursed from the start.
I next put up my Quest Navaho staging from a B-6-0 to a B-6-5,
a rocket that I completely fouled up when I put it together and it
flies like it. It wobbled off the pad and staged nicely, but I
think I need to start over with a different staged rocket to see
if I can get a nice flight path.
I brought my Rocket Vision Star Fire and launched on a D-12-?
Don't remember the delay - nice flight, always amazed that that
rocket flies that straight with the outrigger fins.
Final flight of the day was my "Old Reliable" PML 3
" Bull Pup on a G-38-7. I've always wanted to put a G-80 in
it but I was afraid I'd have to go back into the mud pit, so I
chickened out. Great flight, love that rocket with its cool purple
and yellow chute.
Thanks to all the people who did LCO and RSO duty and who set
up and took down. (I owe a lot of volunteer time to MASA and will
live up to this soon.) Thanks also to Mr. Fricke. Fricke Field was
great and it will be missed.
[Note - the preceding report marks the first ever use of the
word "schlorking" on the MASA web site. Webmaster]
David Whitaker writes:
I had a great day on Saturday launching rockets and having
fun. I launched my brand new LOC Norad Pro_Max on an H165R
(only my second H motor, hopefully not the last). The Norad Pro
had a great flight and wasn't damaged the least bit. Gotta love
those LOC kits. I also launched my TLP HellFire (which I had
previously repaired) and it flew nicely. Unfortunately, when I
retrieved it I noticed that the body tube got hit again by the
weighted nose cone. Weighted nose cones are just maces to bust up
rockets! My Mustang on an F25-9 flew very high and made it almost
to the equipment barn on a 14" chute. It was the
longest walk I've ever had at Blaine.
I always had a great time at MASA launches in Blaine and I
think we owe Mr. Fricke a great debt of gratitude. I hope we can
find a launch site that rivals the Fricke farm as a place to
Rick Vatsaas writes:
It was my pleasure to RSO most of the morning at what is
unfortunately probably our last launch at the Fricke Sod Farm.
Winds were light, the sky was clear, and the turf reasonably
un-soggy. Conditions were so perfect, I was disappointed not to
have any of my own rockets prepped to launch.
Never before was the Ratio of AP motors to BP so high. There
were a number of memorable flights, my favorite being the
recalcitrant chute on Steve Hum's Strong Arm, which pulled from
the tube and deployed a second before impact, Teach me that trick
As a newly certed L1 myself, it was fun to witness Mike
Erpelding's and Stuart Lenz's cert flights, which means I had
better get my paper work in! You guys better hold off
sending yours out for a couple of days.
It was a great gesture for the Lenz's to host a barbeque. Thank
you. That quality dog (not the low fat turkey dogs my wife buys)
really hit the spot.
Tim Bush writes:
What a beautiful day it was to launch rockets.
I got in eleven flights and two RSO shifts. I flew my RingHawk
(version 3, mod 2)with balsa rings twice, once with a C6-5, and
once with a C6-3. The delay on the C6-3 was just about right for
the model. Both flights gave nice glides and landings without
damage. The RingHawk (version 3, Mod 0) with 1/32 ply rings flew
once on a C6-5. It gained more altitude than the balsa version,
but has a higher sink rate. It flew nicely and landed, er,
ditched, in the drainage ditch. Luckily I found a handy stick to
help retrieve it and thus prevented it from becoming frog fodder.
I flew Taz, a downloadable plan from the NAR site, on a 13mm
A3-4t. This is a no moving parts helicopter rocket which I can
only describe the flight characteristics as 'cute'.
A Centuri "Moonraker" Clone flew on a B4-4. It flew
mostly upwards o) The maple seed recovery was fun to watch.
I flew a Quest Navaho on a B6-0 to B4-4 combo. This gave a very
nice flight. Ejection was at apogee and the model landed 4 feet
from the pad it launched off of.
I got two very nice flights from my Mercury Redstone on
D12-5's. This model is turning out to be an 'old reliable'.
I flew a "Wombat" boost glider twice. The plan is a
download from the JimZ site. The first flight was on an A3-4t. The
boost was very fast and the glider transitioned well. It went into
a right hand spiral and Steve Austin'ed in without damage. After a
little fiddling to correct the spiral I tried it again. Out of 'A'
motors I loaded it up with a B4-4. It was too much for the model
to handle. It exceeded the VNE of balsa and lost half of the wing
and the nosecone.
Finally I flew my Snort model on an F20-7 to a perfect flight.
F's have such a nice sound to them when they go off.
The group sigh after Ted's Saturn impacted.
The FlatCat that gave the Dutch Roll demonstration. (A little
less Dihedral Mike.)
Mark Thell's streamer duration rocket. The energizer Bunny must
be in that thing. I hadn't seen a streamer thermal before.
Prang nomination The Japanese Artillery rocket that power
pranged amid astonished onlookers.
Art Gibbens writes:
Phil and I had a great time for as long as we could stay. I had
to bow out early to go to work for a few hours. We burnt a lot of
black powder engines - As, Bs, Cs and Ds, and one mini-motor in a
helicopter rocket that Tim Bush gave to Phil. I think we flew
everything we brought at least once and a few twice. Phil
especially liked the Astrosat LSX and Death Star drag races we had
with fellow members whose names I have forgotten, please forgive
me. He also flew his Venture, a Quest kit he won at the Christmas
party with the Quest A6-4 motors we had won that night also.
Even after Rock-Sim said my Maxi-Alpha 3 would be light enough
to fly, I strongly suspect that it is "over-finned"
because it weather-cocks so severely, even in light breezes. If I
rebuild this thing again, I will definitely look into putting
three engines in the booster to get it moving off the pad better.
My "Really Fast Balloon" will be dismantled and parts
used in other rockets. This is a BT-50 D powered rocket. It has a
Metallic Gold nose cone and the body tube is wrapped in
self-adhesive mylar, thus the name. Because it goes so high and is
so small, it was designed to glint in the sunlight when coming
down on a streamer. It separated at ejection, and the tube is bent
beyond repair from impact.
I also flew my oldest rocket in my arsenal, my version of a
Mercury Redstone. I was too young to build it as a desk model when
I ordered it way back in 1972 so I decided to make it a flying
rocket. It's kind of Big Bertha-ish when it flies.
We flew a stomp rocket, my Toblerone rocket, a Sith
Infiltrator, as well as my two newest old kits, a Comet and the
unknown rocket. (Alan told me the name of it once, but neither of
us could recall it's name for the launch card.) And of course, I
flew my scratch built Satellite Launcher with the real ugly nose
cone that spins nicely under boost. A real crowd pleaser, ahem.
Hear here, on the dogs, beans and chips. Hats off to the Lenz's
for their generosity!
I'll second the nomination for best fence post of Ted's Saturn
V. Someone else shared with me at the launch that one of
their rockets buried itself on the edge of one of the ditches, and
that he left the nose cone buried at least five inches under the
surface. The rest of the rocket was fine.
And lastly, a big thank you to those who helped out the St.
Anthony Team as they tried out some design modifications on their
Steve Hum writes:
Ah, what a bittersweet launch Saturday was. Beautiful day,
beautiful field, few aircraft, but the last time weíll be able
to enjoy the field. I managed to fly my Strongarm twice,
both on F22J-5s. The first one popped the nosecone right at
apogee, but the parachute didnít decide to make an appearance
until about 50 ft off the ground. Fortunately the rocket was
descending horizontally so its speed was down when the chute did
come out and it landed with no damage. For the second flight I
changed the Aerotech chute out for a PML, and that deployed right
For all the times Iíve flown my PML Callisto (about a dozen
times) Iíve never flown it on a G64. So Saturday it finally flew
on a G64W-7. Nice flight as usual and it landed just on the
north side of the road, making for a short recovery walk. It doesnít
get much better than that.
My last mid-power flight at the Fricke Sod Farm was with my
Binder Design Aspire. This also happens to be the first mid-power
rocket I flew at the Fricke Sod Farm. My Aspire is my old reliable
of the mid- power fleet, having flown 23 times. It has been
modified for anti-zip deployment, has flown an altimeter on
several occasions, come in without chute once, and separated
twice. Every time Iíve gotten it back to fly again. On its first
flight at Fricke it flew on an F50 with a small zipper, this time
it flew flawlessly on an F52T-5. Iím thinking that it may be
time to retire this one.
With the wind seeming to be down I decided to give the Ecee
Thunder a flight on a D12-3. My Ecee Thunder is snake bit. Once it
launched accidentally, on several occasions it has kicked the
engine, it has broken the canards more than once, snapped in half,
and it has made itself a fence post. This marks the first time
noting has happened to it. It actually flew like it was suppose
to, but was a little tail heavy. I added a small amount of clay to
the nose and tried it a second time. I knew I was pushing my luck
- the canard broke, but it still had a rather decent glide. I
think Iím gonna tissue the canard to strengthen it.
And Iíll third Tedís Saturn V prang. I was waiting for the
abort engines to fire and pull the capsule free, but it just didnít
Congrats to Mike and Stuart on their successful Level 1
Thanks to the LCOs and RSOs who worked Saturdayís launch. And
many thanks to Mr. Fricke for allowing us the use of this fine
field for so many launches.
Full launch tally (in
Adobe Acrobat PDF form, requires version 4 or newer of the Acrobat
The totals were: 244 flights, 298 motors. The
cumulative total impulse was 7812 Ns with an average total impulse
of 26.2 Ns. The motor breakdown follows: