RRS/FAR April 2011

The alarm went off and it was another early morning drive out of LA to the Mojave Desert. The weather forecast was undesirable with gusty winds, but I held on to hope and my freshly brewed Java Man coffee. Both the RTA and MTA were buzzing with activity, and the day would bring all kinds of propulsion including hybrids, bi-props, zinc sulfur, and APCP. My plan was to launch my 4″ minimum diameter rocket ¡Muy Fuerte! on a 4 grain 98mm white load to a projected altitude of 20k feet…not that impressive as the rocket is a bit overweight with its large thick fins and short overall length requiring some ballast in the nose to get a single caliber of stability.

Before too much prepping I took some time to greet and check out all the other projects going on. At the MTA, there were several zinc sulfur rockets being prepped by the great Dave Crisalli for a group of high schoolers. Also in attendance was the ever impressive USC RPL with a nice looking 6″ P motor to launch in one of their bigger birds. Over at the RTA, things were busy as usual with several static tests and a few HPR flights as well as one large 6″ solid built by Stellar Exploration. The first static test was a 500lbf  LOX/alcohol motor built by Robert Matevossian. The motor ran great for what seemed like 15 seconds until things got a little too hot! Next up was Stellar Exploration with a test flight of their project using what looked like a 6′ long by 6″ diameter motor with no recovery (lets use those nice bunkers shall we). The boost was incredible, and sure enough lawn darted a half a mile down range. I was told that the rocket will eventually be used as a target for missiles to blow out of the sky…sweet.

By now the winds were blowing very hard and I was debating on scrubbing my launch. I decided to gamble and go for it, making sure my two transmitters were mounted securely in the nosecone. To make sure I didn’t crush them in the desert floor, I also armed both my Featherweight Raven and blacksky altacc with redundant ejection charges. As I was adding all the electronics I decided to strap on the key chain FOB camera to catch all the action. Once it was all zipped up on the rail beeping and transmitting I began the countdown, soon after the rocket boosted off the rail and tilted into the strong winds and burned for an exciting 7.5 seconds. After burnout I looked to my GPS to re-lock some satellites, but nothing. I used my Yagi to follow the transmitter a 180 degrees over the sky as the winds sailed the rocket to the east until there was no signal. I got in my truck and followed a BLM service road for a couple miles stopping frequently to check for a signal. Finally on one the stops I saw one signal bar on my radio! I drove another half a mile and the signal was stronger, so I crawled under the fence and starting walking to the rocket. After 10 minutes I found it in perfect condition. The altimeters averaged 19,800′, which wasn’t too bad considering the weather cocking and draggy camera/large rail buttons. I also learned something in this flight while using the key fob camera. The vibrating distortion in the video is coming from the tape wrapped around the camera as the wind excites the shorts lengths of tape from the body tube to the camera . The reason it stops in this video is because the tape rips off mid flight. In some of my other flights at similar speeds the video is fine where I do not use the tape, but  rely completely on a #8 screw to secure it.

The rest of the day was zinc sulfur mania, very fun to watch! Jeff Jakob static fired another nice hybrid with a long burn that shared a similar fate as the bi-prop earlier in the day. The USC group was taking their time prepping and I unfortunately had to leave before their launch, but I’m sure it was spectacular. Cant wait to go back.

Thanks to all the guys making this possible. There were a lot of people going back and forth from the MTA to RTA, kinda nice to see some hand shaking from across the fence so to speak.