Asa - 12/19/04
Finally, a weekend of great weather, no flight restrictions due to President Bush, and best of all, I could make it. The HOTROC gang based in Waco, Texas sponsored a launch at their Asa launch site the weekend before Christmas, December 18-19, 2004. I could only attend on Sunday the 19th. Conditions were perfect; clear skies, winds less than 5 mph all day and temperatures in the 60s. I heard most of the fliers showed up on Saturday; on the Sunday that I was there I would estimate there were about 10 fliers.
I didn't have a great day. I have a pretty good track record with this hobby, but sometimes a chain of events, plus the pressure to get the last flight off before sunset, can lead to a poor result. Here's what happened...
I have been flying the Adept recording altimeter, the RAS2, for almost 10 years. I have had superb luck with this altimeter. A couple of years ago, Tommy Billings at Adept told me that he was not going to produce the RAS2 anymore. He said sales on that particular unit were very low. He said he had 3 left and he offered to sell me all 3 since he knew that was the altimeter I used. I took him up on the offer, and a few weeks later 3 brand new altimeters showed up at the house. Since I didn't need an altimeter at the time, I threw them on the shelf. "Make sure you test them" said Tommy. Words of prophecy. I had never had a problem with an Adept altimeter so I did not test them.
Sunday the 19th dawns bright and clear at Asa, and I arrive around noon with 4 high power rockets to fly before sunset at 5:30. Should be no problem. I have 2 altimeters with me; my trusty RAS2 of many flights and one of the brand new RAS2s, still in the box.
My first flight was with my Hawk Mountain Bad Attitude, an all fiberglass rocket powered by a Kosdon L850. This motor tends to take the rocket to around 7,800 at a speed of around mach 1.05. However, since the motor had been assembled for over a year, I was a little worried about performance. So, I angled the rod about 5 degrees away from the crowd. The boost was fantastic...very fast, straight and loud. The rocket arced over at apogee and deployed it's streamer for the long descent. I could tell already that I had angled the rocket too far upwind since it was not going to make it back. At 750 feet the Adept unit fired the main deployment charge and the main exited the rocket. Unfortunately, for the first time ever, the shock cord tangled with one of the shroud lines and the chute did not fully deploy. It caught a lot of air, but the rocket landed harded than usual in the soft mud. The rocket was recovered undamaged with the altimeter beeping out 6,800 feet.
Now, of course, I'm worried about the altimeter. Though it appeared to be working fine, I'm always nervous when an altimeter hits harder than normal. But, I decide to trust it and load up Spectra with a Kosdon K700. It is a spectacular flight to 5,200 feet. The streamer deploys at apogee, and at 750 feet the main deploys and the rocket lands safely under the power lines, very close to the pad. Looks like the altimeter is working perfectly.
Tom Montemayor with Bad Attitude before launch
Liftoff! Kosdon L850 boost
Tom with Spectra
Liftoff! Kosdon K700 boost
Feeling confident about the altimeter, I next started prepping "Olympic Gold", my 5.5 inch cardboard rocket. For this flight, power would be provided by an Aerotech 98mm K458, a very cool motor. I don't fly Olympic Gold very often; it's a very low tech, cardboard rocket that takes forever to prep. I finally get it ready to fly, and as I'm walking to the range head....what happened????....the altimeter is not beeping anymore. Great. Back to the car, unprep it to get the altimeter out, put in a new battery, prep it again, and back to the range head. Again, the altimeter stops beeping. Very bad. Not to worry, I'll just break out my brand new altimeter. Don't forget what I said was untested. I insert the new altimeter into the electronics compartment and it merrily starts beeping out continuity. Very good. I get to the rod, shake the rocket around a little for a test, place it on the rod, and still the altimeter is putting out 4 beeps, indicating continuity to both main and drogue. Unfortunately, it was lying. The boost was spectacular...almost a 7 second burn easily pushes the rocket to 6,000 feet. The rocket arcs over at apogee, starts to descend and deploys it's drogue. I'm a little worried at this point since I usually hear 2 pops; the altimeter deploying the streamer and the backup pop from the timer. For this flight, the timer saved the rocket as the altimeter did not deploy at apogee and it did not deploy the main at 750 feet. Fortunately, the ground was so soft and the descent under the streamer was so slow that the rocket was recovered undamaged.
Tom with Olympic Gold. The altimeter was beeping at this point.
K458 boost. Don't know if the altimeter was beeping at this point.
Now the sun is about to set and I've got one rocket left to fly, my Bruiser on a Kosdon J500. Problem is, I don't know which altimeter to use. Both have been acting up. So, I chose the veteran altimeter that had worked successfully for the Spectra flight (but stopped beeping inside Olympic Gold). The altimeter was still showing continuity on the pad, but since I didn't trust it I angled the rod away from the crowd toward a few thousand acres of dirt. I never installed a backup system in the Bruiser, my only large rocket without two chances of deploying. As predicted, after a perfect boost the rocket arced over at apogee and did not deploy. The rocket came in ballistic and impacted a few hundred yards uprange, well away from anything or anybody. The good thing about cardboard rockets is that when this happens, you saw off the crumpled part, put in a coupler and another piece of tube and you're back in business. It will fly again!
Tom and Bruiser
Kosdon J500 boost
The aftermath
Prepping next to me was Guy Rogers, a veteran flier from the Dallas club. Guy had a couple of great flights, including a recovery about 10 feet from his prep area! The photo shows Guy's rocket boosting on an Aerotech K695, a beautiful red motor. The rocket boosted to over 7,000 feet and returned safely, though Guy had to cross a very muddy field to retrieve the rocket.
Guy Rogers with his rocket
K695 Redline boost
Jim Parker out of Austin spent a few hours prepping his M to M scratch built two stager. The beautifully built rocket was ready to launch around 1:00, under clear skies, calm winds and a waiver to 20,000 feet. The rocket was simmed at just over 13,000 feet. The first stage M1315 boost was fantastic; the rocket roaring vertically into the clear sky. Unfortunately, second stage ignition did not occur. However, Jim designed his rocket to recover safely in this situation and both stages touched down safely and undamaged.
Jim prepping his rocket
On the pad...a very tall rocket!
M1315 boost