This was our first launch in several years so we decided to start small. My friends Bruce, and Tim came out to watch the launches. My wife Debbie came to watch and run the video camera. First, we went to a radio control airplane field south of campus and asked the guys flying if they minded us using their facility. The organization is C.O.R.C.S. or Central Oklahoma Radio Control Society I believe. The people were very gracious in allowing us to use their field for our rockets. I want to thank C.O.R.C.S. again for the use of their field. We intend to join their club since it's only fair to help pay for upkeep of the field if we are using it.
The wind was rather gusty and some of the lighter radio control aircraft were having a rough time of it. Since the wind in Oklahoma is a constant, we couldn't very well wait for a calmer day. Sure, we could have, but we could have been waiting for the turn of the century also. We set up the launch pads, and inclined them into the wind.
The first rocket to go was a small Estes Mighty Mite. This is a small rocket using "A" series engines. The unit comes with its own launch pad and launch controller. The entire package was available at Hobbytown (405-292-5850 ask for Todd) for 15 or 16 bucks. I know they are available elsewhere for a few bucks less, but Todd special orders a lot of strange stuff for me and it's worth a few bucks to make sure I have a reliable source when I need odd items.
We put batteries in the base of the launch pad, but were unable to get an "armed" light on the controller. We tried pressing the FIRE button just in case, but no dice. Since the pad needs the batteries for ballast, we just left them in place, and went to the big launch controller. That is a nice unit. It gives audible cues to the crowd so everyone knows what is going on. Unfortunately, I hit the FIRE button before my wife Debbie was ready with the video camera (my fault there, sorry) The radio control aircraft were well away from our launch area and if I had waited, I might have gotten too close for anyone's comfort. I do not suggest sharing a field when there are aircraft in the air unless there is a great deal of room as there was at the C.O.R.C.S. field. The last thing anyone wants is to go out launching rockets, only to end up acting like a SA-7 battery and knock down someone's $1000.00 pride and joy.
While we did not get the launch on film, it did go very well. The rocket went up, turned gracefully into the wind, and ejected the nose cone, and streamer system perfectly. The radio control guys were watching as well. The rocket came down behind us about 300 or so feet and I added shims under the feel of the launch pad to aim the rocket a bit more into the wind. The recovery was beautiful, the streamer system worked beautifully and I must commend Estes on this lovely beginner kit. I do know that at 600 foot or so, that thing is awful hard to see, but its already "International Distress Beacon Orange" so what can you do except have lots of people watching for it. (maybe my being nearsighted affects that. Hehehe)
The second launch was the same rocket. This was also my first experience with the new engine retention system where you just insert the engine, replace the aft engine retainer, and go for it. A very nice clean system, again, nice work Estes. The second launch was beautiful. The rocket tracked a bit further south (into the wind as we wishes) under boost due to the increased firing angle. When the motor burned out we all waited for the nose cone to come off. I heard the ejection charge, but the nose failed to separate. I suspect that when I repacked the recovery system, I got some of the streamer between the fuselage tube and the nose cone. This made the interference fit between the two too tight and instead of a recovery system, we had a LAWN DART! Since there were R/C aircraft up at the time, we did not go and try to recover at that time. We did go look later, but to no avail. I have since obtained a new projectile, I mean rocket, to continue with the small rocket series.
The next rocket we sent up was an older unit that actually belongs to my granddaughter. We moved to the regular sized launch pad for this, and aimed into the wind again. Using a "C" series engine donated to us by a spectator, the rocket went up, and down range with authority. When the ejection charge went, the nose separated, and I do mean separated!
When we recovered the nose, the shock cord had been burned through! The fuselage went tumbling to the earth somewhere to the south of us and was not recovered, at least not yet. Another "tactical victory" for us.
Since we had no more small rockets to launch we brought out the Aerotech Initiator. Using an Estes "F" series motor we prepared for launch, and waited for all the R/C planes to land before hitting the magic button. This launch was also beautiful, as was the recovery. There was a black exhaust plume that was great for helping us track the unit. The sound was much better than the smaller motors and even the R/C guys liked watching this rocket move. We used the Aerotech launch pad and that is one nice unit. I would like a bit more travel in the aiming mechanism, but that is just personal preference.
The rocket came to rest about 1/4 mile behind (north) of us, and Bruce volunteered to hop in his Jeep and go fetch it back for us. When the rocket returned, we found that the launch lugs were torn off, and were still on the launch rod! Yikes! This effectively ended our launches for the day.
Upon closer inspection, I found that all of the fins had broken their glue joints as had the launch lugs. I had used a white glue (Elmers?) for building this rocket. While white glues are great most of the time, I suspect they are not up to the task of an "F" series motor. I have since sanded and re-glued everything using an Epoxy and I believe this should hold up much better.
What did we learn this day?
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Last modified 11 June 1999.