FAR February 2011

With all the horrible weather going on in the country it felt kind of wrong leaving the sunny beach to head inland. Somehow I was able to force myself out of bed around 5am after a few hours of sleep and pack up my truck. I had spent the day before prepping my newly completed rocket ¡Muy Fuerte! as well as my other trusty 4″ rocket called Unoriginal. I arrived at the RTA with friendly greetings and great flying conditions. With just a few minutes of motor assembly I was ready to fly. The maiden flight of ¡Muy Fuerte! was loaded with a 3,213N-sec L550 (3 grain 76mm motor) using a slow propellant formulation I call BFE. After a five count the motor slowly came up to pressure (I haven’t been sanding the cores like a good racketeer should) and majestically lifted the rocket over 10K feet. As soon as the motor burnt out it disappeared into the slightly hazy sky with no sign of recovery. A few minutes later I received a data packet from the GPS transmitter, however, that was it. I scanned the sky for several minutes looking for the bright green parachute. Nothing. I feared the worst and thought that it had come in ballistic down range, but fortunately one more packet came through at an altitude of 900’. I punched in the coordinates to my hand held GPS which directed me to the south a mile away. I double checked the numbers I entered as it seemed to be way off from where my gut was telling me to go. I shrugged my shoulders and went for a walk trusting my GPS, and after 20 minutes or so I saw a green chute laying over a large bush. The rocket was in perfect shape, and thanks to my Big Red Bee, back in my possession.

I brought the rocket back and started prepping Unoriginal with a 7,255N-sec M2020 (76-7600 load), and since the rocket was designed for the 76-6000 case there was about 7 inches of motor sticking out the back. During prep the UCLA team static fired their hybrid which ran for roughly 20-25 seconds, with the first part of the burn being a bit rough. It started out sounding like an old Chevy idling too high, but then got dialed in for a nice powerful finish. Earlier in the day I noticed some quiet activity over at the MTA, which soon became extremely loud activity. As I was about to take my rocket out to the pad, a siren from the MTA rang signaling something was about to happen. I was looking for several minutes when all the sudden there was a huge horizontal flame shooting from the test stand. The silence was abruptly broken with an absolutely astonishing roar that literally shook the ground for a short burn of roughly 5 seconds. I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly powerful this motor was, even after several P’s and Q’s at Balls this motor made everything prior look like an Estes toy. What I later heard was that they were testing a commercial motor that was a 50klb thrust biprop using Dinitrogen Tetroxide. Once I gathered my composure, or at least stopped yelling with excitement, I took Unoriginal out to the pad and armed the electronics and switched on the key fob camera. Once back to the bunker, a UCLA student offered to help push the button while I took pictures. The motor came to pressure and blasted the rocket off the pad with a loud and violent boost over 1500fps that was difficult to capture with my camera. The motor shut down and rocket instantly disappeared into the sky. I held up the GPS receiver and after a few moments I began receiving a steady stream of data. It quickly became apparent that the main had come out at apogee, and that I was about to have a long hike. Sure enough, the last signal I received was over 3 miles away. Since the area is not completely accessible by car, I took a big swig of water and began to walk…and boy did I walk! The signal took me to the top of a mountain range where I acquired new coordinates on the other side of the mountain range. The rocket had drifted far behind the mountains, and beeped out an altitude just under 16,000ft. I was already exhausted from the hike and now I had to carry the rocket all the way back, alternating shoulders every ten minutes. An hour later I was back and anxious to watch the onboard video, but unfortunately the 1000mph+ flight was too much for the externally mounted camera configuration and the video shuts off near the end of the burn. Bummer.

Despite the long walks and failed video I was very happy that the motors worked perfectly and that I had both rockets back safe and sound.

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