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Last updated: Sep 5, 2003
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August 2003 launch report (8/25/2003)

STS-107 Memorial Launch
In honor of
Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist (Col., IAF).

It was wheat last month...

On Saturday August 23, rocketeers gathered for the second club launch at the new flying field near Buffalo. In all, 76 flights were recorded.

5th Annual Great UFO Drag Race, 2nd Annual Comanche-3 Drag Race

Big thanks and applause to:

  • Glen Overby, Mike Erpelding, Ted Cochran

A few of the flights:

MASA members - please send in your thoughts about the launch! 

Glen Overby writes:

Today was a nice flying day! I arrived just ahead of Mike (I think he followed me out of Rockford). Since the wind was forecast to be out of the southeast, I decided it was best to keep distance from the REF (Rocket Eating Forest) and set the pads 300' west of the end of the access road. I should have pushed them a bit further south, as the day started out by feeding the forest. I worked the first range shift from when we started flying until around 11am when Ted took over (Thanks!).

Around 1130 about half the fliers left. A lot of that was the Civil Air Patrol group.

I flew a bunch bunch of stuff, none of it all that exciting, all on Estes motors. I brought some G motors, but with the winds pushing the rockets into the forest, I decided not to fly and probably lose those rockets.

I let Mark Thell badger me into flying in the Commanche drag race. I loaded it with a weird combination C11-0 - C6-0 - B6-6. I didn't have a B6-0 with me for the 2nd stage. One of the neighborhood kids found my 1st stage, and I watched my sustainer drift all the way down, near the west end of the field.  One broken fin. I never found the 2nd stage.

I have 75 flight cards from today's launch.

How about some Ballistic Fenceposting Club nominees?

Ted Cochran writes:

Seth and I arrived at the field at about 1030 or so after an uneventful 55 minute drive. The place was already rocking, with about ten pads out, a few awnings, and lots of MASA members (including a bunch from the NW metro area that I haven't seen much lately--a good side effect of the new field.)

We'd brought five new rockets to launch for the first time, as well as a few older ones.  I flew two rockets early--a Fliskits Tumbleweed and an Estes Screamin' Mimi, and then took over from Glen as LCO/RSO at about 11. The Tumbleweed flew erratically on an 1/2A3-4T (it looked like a case of rod whip, but it departed the pad so quickly I can't be certain. It did, however, convert to tumble mode and was recovered uneventfully. I didn't hear much screamin' out of the Screamin' Mimi, but folks further away did. It went straight up and was also recovered without incident.

The wind freshened quite a bit during my LCO shift, and the crowd thinned proportionally as all of the MASA members who were there became spread across the countryside, looking for rockets. The northern rocket eating forest was fully in play, and lots of rockets ended up there. A surprising number were also _found_ there, which is a good thing.  Eventually the launch rate diminished to the point that we were able to switch to an informal "look around and tell whomever you see what you're about to launch" system.

My new Fliskits Deuce's Wild flew perfectly straight, with no spin, on two B6-4s. STS Columbia, launched in memory of Ilan Ramon, had an interesting flight--it backslid at apogee, and Columbia stayed attached to the stack for several seconds. When it finally came off, it was in a flat spin, but nevertheless recovered for a brief glide to landing.

Seth had a new LOC Lil Nuke that he'd received for his birthday. It was his first "major league" kit--epoxy, rail buttons, F motors, etc. I bought the parts I needed to replace the Lil Nuke that crashed a couple years ago (everything but the nose cone -)  We built both of them with the fins on upside down, to give a better stability margin. They now resemble the frozen confections called "Bomb pops", which I think is apropos, given all the silliness that's been going on in Congress. We finished (more or less) both of them last night, including painting. Seth has a black raspberry bomb pop; mine's strawberry banana. Given all of the rockets that the trees had eaten, we opted to use a screamer I'd made out of a piezo buzzer from axman. Seth lifted his on a smoky F23-4FJ econojet, and it flew perfectly and was recovered on the field. Mine went up a little later on an F20-7W for an equally nice flight, albeit with more spin than Seth's had.

Overall, it was a great day for the fleet.

The second annual Comanche drag race had five entries, and they once again filled the sky with smoke and noise. There was one failed second stage ignition leading to a lawn dart, and a few more pieces lost than last year, but it sure was exciting! The UFO drag race was equally fun--every pad was again filled, and the sky was full of aliens.

Other memorable flights

Mark Thell put a foam Space Shuttle parasite glider on his quad-Big Bertha. It didn't come off at apogee, but we'll see it again for another try. Mark also put up a nice two D cluster rocket, among others.

Larry Schwartz got his two stage AMRAAM(?) to fly perfectly, with recovery systems in the booster and sustainer.

Some neighborhood kids showed up with an astrocam. We gave them a motor, and it looks like they got a good shot of all the wheat stubble.

Mike Erpelding sent up a little teeny rocket on a long-burning Apogee motor. I have absolutely no idea how he saw it, but he tracked it to landing and recovered it intact.

A beautiful ASRAAM that I last saw drifting over the trees. Tim Bush's Ringhawk did the same thing a few hours later.

Overall I bet we had more than 100 flights today. The field worked pretty well, and would have been spectacular if the winds had been blowing across the long axis, instead of across the short axis.

Larry Schwartz writes:

I've been working on this project [2-stage AMRAAM] for three summers now

Summer 2001 Estes AMRAAM kitbash - 2 stages with "gapped staging", 18mm to 18mm. Way to slow off the pad. It always seemed to come off the rod and go "cruise missile" on me. Sustainer destroyed on third flight. Booster always "backglided" in.

Summer 2002 Purchased new Estes AMRAAM for kitbash - 2 stages with "gapped staging", 24mm to 18mm. A "D" in the booster does the trick -- great off the pad. Unfortunately, the booster is going way to fast at separation to transition to "backglide" and was destroyed on first flight (I get a nifty core sample, though). The sustainer's flight was impressive. Left the launch in disgust, and spent the remainder of the afternoon surfing the 'net. That afternoon I exchange several emails with a guy who wrote an article for the WOOSH(?) newsletter on "gap staging". He has a few ideas, namely trying "helicopter recovery". He also suggests a Sept / Oct 1997 Sport Rocketry article entitled "Investigations into Gap-Stage...Booster Recovery". Hey I have that one at home! Hey look, there's a Xerox copy of the article in the AMRAAM 2001's box. Conclusion Man am I stupid.

Winter 2002-2003 Rebuilt the core sampled booster to include "helicopter recovery". Way to heavy and fragile . . . tossed in the trash. Built a new booster (by now I have tons of extra parts -- sorry Alan, no need to buy another kit). The new booster includes it's own recovery system along the lines of the Sept / Oct 1997 Sport Rocketry article's "Test Vehicle #2".

Summer 2003 Perfect flight. I was so taken by the booster's perfect recovery, that I take my eyes off the sustainer -- Oh crud! I spend the next hour trying to locate the sustainer in the woods, finally locating it on the edge of the pond in the middle of the trees. (You did know there was a pond in there didn't you?). Just as I resolve myself that building another sustainer is in my future, another rocketeer approaches. During the ensuing discussion, he concludes that the "water isn't that deep". My response "I don't know man, it looks at least two feet." As we find out, we're both wrong -- ** He ** wades in chest deep to retrieve ** my ** rocket.

PS I suggest a new awards category for "Exceptional Fortitude in Rocketry Retrieval". I also nominate Corky Borgmann, a guest at today's launch from Springfield, MO. He's the intrepid rocketeer who went in after my rocket.

Many thanks Corky!

Ken Jarosch writes:

Since this was my first trip to this field I didn't want to try anything fancy especially with the winds.

I brought 11 rockets that could fly D to F engines. Most were modified Estes rockets for small fields.

1)Broadsword to test the winds on a D12-3. Some weather cocking but not too bad.

2)Big Daddy (Rebalanced with 1 oz. nose weight. Balance point now with an E9-4 1/8" forward of empty CG) Some what over kill.  Two flights- D12-3 and an E9-4 Very stable but performance down. Some weather cocking here too.

3)My Executioner was built for the F21-4w. But I wanted to try it again with another E9-4. After a slow liftoff it went horizontal over the south tree line and ejected about tree level. No damage as it landed beyond the tree line about 15'.

4)The extended Fatboy fitted for a F21-4w flew with the minimum D12-5.  Standard flight with weather cocking again due to the winds.

5) My 10 year old Commache was sitting in the basement. I gave a quick check on things before I brought along as a after thought. I did drill several holes in the D stage to reduce pressure and removed the cellophane tape and add masking tape to hold stage on better. I put it in so tight I was sure it might stick after 2 stage firing. I have had this many times.

The second stage did not fire although the nozzle end and inside were completely blacken. Flew minimal on a D12-0, B6-0 & A8-5. The rocket came in hard and crushed the tube in 3 places.

6) I used my Alien Space Probe to fly with the UFO drag race on a C5-3.

Comments While I had good flights in April with these rockets with the E9-4 the performance today with the winds and slow lift off was not better than using a good D12. Considering the price I'll go back to The F21-4w, D12-3 or 24mm reloads.

The Commache will be rebuilt for next year's flight but this time with new engines.


The Details:

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

The totals were:  76 flights, 95 motors.  The cumulative total impulse was 1660 Ns with an average total impulse of 17.5 Ns.  The motor breakdown follows:


# Burned

MicroMaxx 0





















(Alan Estenson)

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