Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Day on the Range

The range in this case was FAR - Friends of Amateur Rocketry near Mojave, Cantila, and California City.  Since it has been a year and a half since I was here, I will include a link to my previous post for this site, click here (note there are two albums on that page, one for the range and one for that day).

The Second Rocket
The crew consisted of Jerry, Erika, Davey - a good friend of theirs, and myself.  The primary mission was delivering frames made the past month by the same crew, making a batch of solid propellant for them, taking inventory of the storage containers for restock and planning for a liquid motor test fixture.  The latter was my assigned task though we all helped each other and achieved the mission with many breaks to watch the local rocket builders launch their creations into the skies... most of the them.

The main fare for the day were small rockets, 3-4 inches in diameter and a few feet long. Click here for the photo album for the day.

October 4th was a lovely day at the range with mostly clear skies, a light breeze and a comfortable temperature. The first rocket was a smooth firing, the builder tracked the flight to over 20,000 ft and recovered the rocket.  I was able to get a picture of the exhaust right after the rocket left the pad, see album.  The second rocket required three tries, the igniter worked but it didn't set the propellant off until the third try.  The flight was tracked and the rocket successfully recovered.  In between the second and third attempt, the students set up theirs, found a problem and returned to the quonset hut to rebuild it.  Then they were up next, with a nice flight, perhaps not reaching its altitude goal.

Note the 1 foot space, open air, above the mounds. 

The final test was not to go airborne.  It is called a static test, where the rocket is held down with an exhaust deflector, usually to measure the amount of thrust generated by the particular design and propellant mixture.  In this case, they tried made the sugar rocket of a larger diameter than had been know to work.  A test the prior weekend had exploded.  Despite the fact that we would be watching from the bunkers, image left, we were advised that if we heard a boom, to duck. 

Between the top of the mound seen above, and the top of the bunker is about a 1 foot open space for viewing the rocket launches.  I set the camera on the cement wall holding the mound for my shots.  My camera has a long delay between pushing the button and taking the picture and I have a tough decision to time my shots and I usually miss the action.  I was standing on the very far end (left in the photo) angling my shot back to the right for the static test. 

Got the Shot!  Note the debris above the launch rail.
The rocket builder counted down, 3...2...1... and I pushed the trigger and got the first shot of the rocket ready to fire.  Then just as we all thought ignition had failed the igniter went off and I pushed the shutter button.  I had my left arm deliberately across my head to push the button giving me an even smaller window to watch a potentially exploding rocket.  The next thing I knew I had ducked and a vague sense of something bushing past my arm.  I looked and everyones head was down.  I looked out and saw the smoky remains of their rocket test.  In the end, my shutter went off just as the rocket exploded.