Tuesday, April 10, 2018

And Now .... For the Rest of the Story

Thank you Paul Harvey, I was struggling with how to title this.

Altimeter ready to be installed
Where we last left our hero and heroin, they had been tasked with two back to back flights, same day with an hour turn around time. After a scrub in February due to a storm, followed by resuming my driving contract, we made the flights in July 2016 (yes, correct year). The month of driving (previous post) suffice to say was dismal. I'm not going to try and catch everything up but I have to ... finish the story with our black and bright pink rocket named Black Beauty.

The photo album tells the story pretty well, click here or follow along below for more written details.

Princess Leia, today's astronaut
We always have an astronaut, Leia flies.
Davie and I went out to FAR arriving early and launching the first flight in the first hour.  Click here for the video.  Our brave naut, Princess Leia, flew successfully.  The rocket landed within sight on the next property.  We hike out to recover it for the next flight.  I pulled the data from the altimeter, cleared it and prepared it for the next launch.  We had to make new ejection charges for the chutes, repack them and get the rocket on the rail for a second go. Click here for second flight.  The video isn't as good at the first, jump ahead a minute in and you can hear us talking about it, the chute is jumping in an out of the frame on the lower right hand corner.  Two graceful landings. 

The whole thing went so smoothly that it was anticlimactic.  Sort of like this post almost 2 years later.  In fact in the last month we repeated this twice with another Sonic 3100 with an extended nose for guest altimeter. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Plan B, C, D, C, B, X, Q.....?

Tax season is over.  It was good, I liked it better than commercial driving.  I worked with great people and enjoyed the work.  I will do it again next year if it works out that way.  I was especially happy to be able to insert some rocketry in the season despite being in Nevada.  We did make it out for the last proposed launch date in late March.  A storm was blowing in and while the rocket can fly okay in it, and even the parachute still works, it works too well..... i.e. carries the rocket far away.  So we scrubbed for weather.  I may still get that blog post up.

Thursday last week,  April 21'st I finished the last of the packing to return to California and finish my driving contract.  Yes, back to driving the truck.  I spent a weekend with Davey and I am back at the Riverside CRST Yard.  I just signed a 1 month contract and will be free to drive with another company if I decide to after May 28th.  I will try to stay on a few months to rack up some bucks but only if they get me on some shorter runs.  Four weeks on the road with 4 days off is not for me.  So we'll see.  I have some irons in the fire, but nothing lined up for sure following this month.

Rocketry postponed until then, too.

The truck was in the shop all week and it is Sunday, Mother's day and we (co-driver and I) are finally getting on the truck to start running this week. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dual Flights of Black Beauty

As hoped, Davie and I were able to meet up in Mojave, California the first weekend of February, two days after my birthday.  I drove over from Nevada and he drove down from Lake Arrowhead.  Jerry and Erika were delayed getting out of the cities and stayed in Palmdale for the night.  The four of us met at the Mojave Denny's restaurant for breakfast and drove out together to FAR - Friend of Amateur Rocketry site.  We are still flying the Sonic 3100 and the goal for the day was to make two back to back flights the same day.  Succeeding with that we would go from the 38 mm diameter motors to the 54 mm ones.
Flight 3 Landing
Perfect Landing Flight 3
Click here for the Flickr album.

It took us a little while to get the rocket prepped but we got it out to the pad.  There was confusion over the ignition system changes but it worked well.  I took the count and the launch button for the first flight (Flight 3) and gave Davie my new iPhone 6S to take the video.  After a near false start on ignition, it lifts off nicely. The rocket drifted east and into the sun and it was hard to tell what was being recorded.  He did catch a glimpse of the rocket arching over at apogee 1 minute and 15 seconds into the video and then glimpses of it on the final decent including the chute deployment.  Here is the link directly to the video.

We recovered the rocket after a search of the desert shrubs.  As expected from watching the deployment the rocket, the parts were laying out in a line from a perfect parachute landing.  With our second successful liftoff and landing we set about to turn around for the fourth flight.  I was starting to repack the parachute when I noticed some charred spots.  We needed more insulating packing between the charges and the chute.  It took an hour but we were up to launch again.  I resumed doing the filming such as it is.

Not completely Unscathed
Parachute took some minor damage.
Lift off was good but the rocket tail kicks to the side momentarily then straightens up.  I do catch apogee in the camera but can't see it at the time.  Here is a link to the second (Flight 4) video.  Then I loose it both in the video and visually and finally, I do see it coming in for a landing without the parachute but it doesn't show well on the video.  It takes a big screen or the ability to zoom the video to see the two sections coming in without the parachute.

When I unpacked the nose cone, I could see where the gun powder did ignite but it was more like it burned than exploded as intended.  I cut the amount of gun powder back a little and then maybe didn't have enough cotton around it so the nose cone didn't get the explosion that it needed to create separation.  The parachute was loose when we put it in, but it had unfolded a bit and it definitely had some friction against the inside of the rocket body when I pulled it out.  Perhaps as a result of the hard landing, we can't really tell.  There are lots of little details to get right.

So next trip (hopefully the first weekend of March) we can have another perfect flight on the 38 mm motors.  Jerry said we couldn't graduate just yet.  And this is after we fix the broken beauty (see the final pictures in the album).

If you want to catch up to the Black Beauty sequence of blogs, click here for the first one.  Then there is a link at the bottom of each one so you can read them in series.  For a review of the FAR site, click here for those blog entries. Enjoy!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Ending the Year with a Whoosh and a bing-bing-bing.

December 19th, 2015 we made a second launch of Black Beauty.  In the weeks prior, Davie had to cut off the burned portion of the tail section and butt together a new piece to restore the section to its proper length.  A little spray paint and a lot of epoxy on the fins (he even reinforced the ones that were not damaged) and the body section was ready.  I replaced the altimeter and installed  a new astronaut, a storm trooper which was both timely with the release of the new Star Wars movie and expendable (one of the bad guys) in the event of another system failure.  We looked again but still no sign of Al, the Tricera-naut from the previous launch.  Click here for last month's posts.  Be sure and check the link at the bottom to the previous flight.

Primary point of failure last month was most likely the lack of an air compensating hole for the cargo bay.  As you know, driving up a mountain makes your ears pop to equalize the pressure.  The rocket is traveling that distance in a few seconds so the inside of the rocket needs to release the air pressure quickly.  We had a hole for the top and bottom sections but not one in the cargo bay where the altimeter, which is using air pressure as one element of its computations, resides.  So it was a big problem for it without and we have correct that oversight.

Patching the Patched Rocket after the Launch Lugs pulled off.
Click here for the link to the Flickr Album for the picture and video story.

Erika was able to join us on this trip to FAR and brought her own rocket to launch. We were all very dismayed when she had other obligations last month so it was great that she could make it.  She made a successful flight while Davie packed the rocket body with the separation charges and I calibrated the altimeter. Click here for a link to a my first post of the FAR facility.

Once we completed the final assembly, we took the rocket out to the launch rail and slid it on.  The top section does not have launch lugs so I was making a video of Davie demonstrating how the final assembly goes with the rocket on the rail. Sadly, the video has no sound and poor image quality so I didn't include it.  The video ended abruptly anyway with the launch lugs pulling off the side of the rocket and it falling away from the rail.  We brought the rocket back inside and patched it some more.

While waiting for the epoxy to set, Erika took a second launch attempt.  After a minor igniter problem, requiring replacement of the delicate igniter, she had a second successful flight with drogue streamer release and parachute opening. But, it drifted off south of the range and despite all four of us looking for it we couldn't find it.

Jerry had some rocket tubes that we unloaded into his storage unit at the range. So now an hour has gone by for the epoxy to set.  We opened the rocket long enough to start the altimeter and took it out to the launch rail - sans video to avoid another problem.  We haven't used the system enough to know how long the battery supplying power to the altimeter will last which is part of why I wanted to start it on the rail last time.  We expected it to last awhile but also we were concerned that at some point does the altimeter still beep while the battery does not have enough juice to fire the electric matches for chute deployment?  So we felt some pressure and when we realized that we didn't have the igniter for the rocket motor so I *ran* back to get it.  I did the count and handed the phone to Davie to video the flight.  I pushed the button and there was a pop and then no joy and no video.  The igniter fired but did not ignite the propellant.  So with the clock ticking on the battery, we replaced it and I do have a video of that in the Flickr album.  Click here for the video.

Just as we finished replacing the altimeter and were ready to try again, another group took their rocket out.  Ordinarily I wouldn't give it too much concern but the altimeter was beeping away draining battery.  I let them know that we were ready and they said they would just be a few minutes.  They were right but it was another 10 or 15 minutes of taking turns posing with the rocket and checking picture quality.  Again, we wouldn't care too much, its the way the place operates and very few people use the altimeters which is a major focus of the project for us but we felt a time pressure on it.  Davie waited by the rocket to make sure it was still beeping when we could finally make a second take.  I had Davie go ahead and call the count and fire off the rocket so I could get the video again.  The flight was perfect and the video is okay.  I loose site of the rocket but Davie doesn't and I pick it up again so be patient as you watch the video and you may need a big screen (verses a phone) to really enjoy it.  Just after main chute deployment I catch a glimpse of a half moon on the horizon with our rocket descending with chutes deployed.  Click here for the flight video.

Perfect Landing configuration, too.
The rocket soared straight up and drifted north over our heads and dropped about about a 100 yards the other side of the back fence.  We scooted under the fence, and found it.  I have a recovery video too.  It is the last thing in the album.  The altimeter was beeping away.  My phone ran out of space on the SD card and cut odd the video just as I was about to check for the altimeter beep.  Sorry for the abrupt end.  Even with the time for rocket recovery and bringing it back to the barn the battery kept right on going. I was even able to extract the data without changing it.  So it is good to know that the battery can indeed last a good half hour before launch and probably quite a while after.  The rocket peaked out a just under 2600 feet so it flew about half a mile.  The rocket can take two different sized motors and we are using the smaller option.  The next goal is to make two back-to-back successful flights and then try the larger motor.  Again you can get your own Sonic 3100 from US Rockets - click here.

I spent New Years in Henderson, NV where I will work the next 4 months.  The next flight is still hoping to be in February as the Mojave Desert is between here and Lake Arrowhead, CA where I had been staying.  For New Years Eve, I stayed up until midnight and watched the uber fireworks on the Vegas Strip via the local broadcast on the TV.  Next year I am hoping to get down closer to see it live.  My folks and I did spend an hour at Joker's Wild Casino and I hit two 5-of-a-kind (one paying 4 times bonus) and two 4-of-a-kind (no wilds) one of which was 4 queens with a face kicker on Aces and Faces paying 160 times my bet.  Betting with nickles and quarters at a time, I peaked out at maybe $15 or less but primarily these are all hard to hit hands so it was a great way to end the year with the video poker machine going bing-bing-bing-bing-bing-bing-bing....

Update:  Next blog post, Flights 3 and 4 is ready.  Click here.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

First Flight of Black Beauty

Readying the rocket.

November 21th, 2015 we headed to the FAR launch site - Friends of Amateur Rocketry - to make our first flight.  The rocket is a Sonic 3100 from US Rockets you can see the performance specs at their homepage.  We used the 29mm mount for our first flight and there will be more where evenutally we will try the 54mm motors too.

We had a little more work to do and you can see that as part of the previous post - click here if you missed it.  It was a very busy day at the Range with multiple rockets by several groups.

Finally we were ready and everyone headed to the bunkers.  See video below or Click here for the photo album to see the story in pictures and videos.

Spoiler alert in the next paragraph if you haven't watched the video:

The flight itself was good but with a less than graceful landing.  The first separation either occurred early or with too much force and the tail section fell separate from the main body and nose of the rocket and we had to go pick up the two separate sections.  You can see the recovery and the autopsy videos in the Flickr album.  The real casualty was Al, the triceranaut and the videos kept cutting off just as we would get to that part.  So we have to rebuild parts and then try again.  Current launch date, Dec. 19th.   Click here for the second flight.

Preparing for Launch

This summer it was time to stop watching the flights and get in on the action.  This was facilitated by US Rockets providing the components in exchange for our help on a larger project.  The goal is several flights with the Featheweight brand altimeter to deploy two chutes, record the flight and to record the performance of John Newman's rocket motors.

The bright pink fins, squares and nose are to improve visibility and to see when it is rotating around the long axis.  Davie took the lead on construction of the rocket and I took the lead on the altimeter.

Rocket Parts
I put the altimeter on a breadboard and used the Featherweight altimeter simulation program to be sure that we understood how to program the altimeter and that it would be firing the squibs on the simulations.  We had some trouble with the Raven 2 units so we swapped them out for the Raven 3's.  Between other obligations we finally assembled the Sonic 3100 rocket in November and set up for our first flight at the FAR rocket range, November 21st.

Click here for the photo albums and videos.

And Click here for the next post, the launch.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Another Day at FAR.

Rain from the Mountains

Another day on the amateur range.  We watched a couple static tests and a couple flights.  A static test means that the rocket is stationary, i.e. static - not static electricity. It is for testing engine performance before flight.

The static tests were from one of the FAR founders.  It was actually two tests of the same hybrid dedicated since the first test failed.  Click here for the videos, first test and the second test.
Student Rocket

A group of students from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, were there with three rockets. Two for testing and a large one, maybe 12 ft. long. The day was getting long so they only flew one of the test rockets.  The purpose of the flight was to test parachute deployment and only one of the parachutes opened.  They proceeded to fly the larger rocket anyway. It flew beautifully, click here for a short video of it, but neither chute opened and it experienced a hard landing.  We did not stay long enough to be the remains but while driving away we could see the students out in the desert brush.  They had the main chute opened in the wind and it looked fully intact so hopefully they have some salvageable pieces.

Earlier in the day one of the local rocketeers demonstrated how the different propellants burned with different colors depending on the ingredients.  I have a short video of one of the propellant scraps burning.  Click here for the complete photo album. 

The next step is to build our own.... already in progress.