East Anglian Rocketry Society - Flying Rockets in Cambridgeshire, UK
Index: Launches: Reports: Big EARS 2005: Saturday

Niall's Big EARS 2005 Report - Saturday

On Friday afternoon I drove home from Bristol, in good weather for a change, to get home and sort out everything for the weekend. My main plan, apart from the usual taking of photographs and general rocketry gassing, was to fly ETV2 in 2-stage full stack configuration with a mid H's worth of BP loaded up and my G-Wiz MC in the upper stage. I was also planning on doing my L2 exam (so I can do L1 on my WCH H motor), but I never actually got round to doing that in the end!

Having loaded the car up on Friday night, I just had to throw in a few last minute things and I was off to the EARS site on Saturday morning. I got there at about half 9, said hello, and set about unloading my stuff. I'd soon sprawled across 2 tables, but this year there were plenty to go round. I think that by the end of the weekend, most of what I brought had been used by someone at some point - between everyone there's usually all the tools/supplies you could ever want! With the car back in the day parking spot, I set about getting all the bits of ETV2 sorted out. My table was next to Chris Eilbeck's, which was handy since he had loads of good quickmatch (I only had 'already gone', which is fun but I'm not sure how good it is for clustering with). Chris was busy pulling the cardboard inner tubes out of some fibreglass tubes he'd made for a bit of a special project - it will be awesome when it goes! He also had his usual fleet of rockets, video gear and the like, mostly prepped and ready to go.

Chris and Richard at work in the marquee

Before long more familiar faces were in evidence - Kev Timmins, Chris Brown, Richard Osborne, Cath and Marcus, Richard Parkin - and of course most of the EARS regulars. As the morning progressed, few rockets were flown, but the marquees became hives of activity - perhaps more building than prepping in some cases! Kev Timmins was busy working on a Cosmodrome Black Brant, Richard Osbourne was building a G-class altitude attempt rocket and Marcus Lauder was busy pouring expanding foam into an inflatable pig - with a 38mm MMT!

Miss Piggy getting foamed and Chris with the thing that never was - rain got it in the night

Time moves in strange ways at rocketry events - an hour can just pass without an awful lot seeming to have happened! There were quite a few flights throughout the morning - smaller stuff mainly, from my photos I know that Colin Rowe flew his Horizon on an H at about half 2 - and that seemed like pretty early! Colin was quite prolific, having set the UKRA E-class altitude with his all-titanium rocket on an AT E28T earlier, with one of the first flights of the day. Colin's rocket reached 1732ft, and by virtue of no record existing, set the record easily! However, beautiful as Colin's rocket was, an Estes E9 in a light, optimal rocket may well be able to double his record, so how long he'll hold it for is anyone's guess!

Small crowd watching an HPR flight - Colin's Horizon on an H220 IIRC

At about the same time as Colin flew his Horizon, there were a few flights on the model range - a very nice scratch-built scale-esque rocket called 'Olly 3' was a particularly good flier - shame I can't remember who flew it! 'Sandman' from TRF was over here from the USA, and had made it to Big EARS - I think he was taken aback by the usual UK rocketry slackness - everyone was eating and talking, not flying rockets! He flew an Estes Fat Boy (with help from Phil Handley, since UKRA membership is required to fly at EARS) and later took it around to be signed by as many people as possible. Paul Birch and his children also flew a few Estes models, and there seemed to be a steady steam of smaller rockets flying. Phil Handley made a 'really cool' flight, with a multi-stage model (Gamma 3 Optimised) which made a tight loop just off the pad before flying horizontally over the field, shedding parts, and then spacking hard in the crops with quite a thud.

Sandman's Fatboy under 'chute - later signed by many people

At about 3PM, after some (worthwhile) faffing with his padcam setup, Ben Jarvis was ready to fly his 'Kone of Koncern' on a Pro38 J285 5-grain classic motor. A tried and tested combination, the Kone performed beautifully on this motor, taking to the skies with a roar, changing to a scream as the motor burned out - very cool. As usual a hefty ejection charge guaranteed ejection, and the Kone floated safely down to land...in a tree! Ben had it down in no time, with a few minor scratches. I am looking forwards to seeing it fly again - I just hope he gets to fly it on a K1100 as I know he's talked of doing.

Ben's Kone of Koncern on a J285 (5-grain classic Pro38)

Throughout the day people were busy prepping, I'd seen Gary Sinclair loading up a K660 to fly in his latest, beautiful rocket, and Ben was busy sorting out his 'Nemesis 3' - a 6" behemoth of a rocket weighing 10 kg! Ben had also brought along 'Transient Glory', his L3 rocket, which reached 14,006ft on a Kosdon M out in the US a long way back - '98 or so! He's just repainted it, and when he calls it his 'sexy as hell shiny rocket of ultimate joy' he ain't kidding! When I can get a finish that good with Halfords spray cans I will be very happy! Ben decided not to fly TG this weekend, since it would hit almost 5k on the K1100, and while you can (as Ben did) do single-stage recovery from 14kft at Black Rock, doing it from even a mile over here is not the best idea! I hope he gets it sorted out with Dual-deploy, it would look beautiful on a K1100 (the paintjob is blue fading to silver), but even a Pro54 classic motor would be very nice in a 4" rocket (more on that later...)

(L-R) My ETV2, Ben's 'Transient Glory', 'Nemesis 3' and 'Kone of Koncern'

'Transient Glory' - Ben's L3/'sexy as hell shiny rocket of ultimate joy' in the centre

After Ben's Kone flight, the next HPR flight I have photos/memory of was Chris Bishop's L1 attempt. Chris came along to a previous EARS launch (March or April) and had put together an L1 rocket in the classic 'upscaled model rocket' mold - 2.6" or so with a 38mm MMT. Chris spent a lot of time going round, asking questions and taking notes. I'm looking forwards to seeing what he comes up with, as he seemed keen to move on to more advanced rockets. I think between everyone in the marquee he got notes on pretty much every altimeter available, a good idea when there are so many to choose from!

On a Pro38 H153, Chris rocket moved pretty fast - it didn't weigh an awful lot! As the delay burned the rocket could be seen arcing over, and was well past apogee when the chute (complete with tracker) deployed. Unfortunately, the nose cone and chute separated, leaving the main section of the rocket to return in a stable descent, despite the missing nose. As is usual for ballistic recovery, a heads-up was called, and the whistle of the rocket terminated in a dull thud as it impacted somewhere out in the crops. The nosecone and chute was never seen again, a signal was picked up from the tracker but it was likely a vast distance away and too much of a hassle to track down. Chris recovered the booster section, complete with 3" core sample, and undeterred sorted out the bits for an attempt the next day.

Chris Bishop's L1 rocket on an H153 - note ballistic recovery in last frame!

While all this was going on, I had intermittently (interrupted by forays for quickmatch, BP, more motors, taking photos, etc etc) been prepping ETV2 - 6 motors per stage, electronic staging, backup deployment charge in the sustainer. Prep was fairly standard by now - my new timer bay was a lot easier to work with than the old one. I acquired a BP charge and placed it below the chute in the sustainer, wiring it to the G-Wiz by a terminal block and some extra wire nabbed off an e-match. I was hoping that if the sustainer didn't light, this would save the sustainer and its expensive altimeter!

ETV2 booster during prep

ETV2 Staging timer and G-Wiz MC in bag

With ETV2 all prepped, electronics tested and quickmatch installed, I went off to find Ben before I flew it - I wanted his camera pointed at it and I knew he would like to see it go. Fully stacked and painted, ETV2 looked quite impressive, and I found myself facing a small barrage of cameras - I felt like a celebrity (albeit a bit nervous) Off to the pad it was then, I ended up running back to the marquee since I'd forgotten the nuts that hold the altimeter bay together (in fact I still forgot two of them, luckily it didn't make a difference and in the end perhaps was a good thing!).

Me with ETV2 before flight - photo Ben Jarvis

With ETV2 up on the pad (carefully with a live charge inside!), it was time to take a few last photos, and then arm the two sets of electronics. All sounded good, and I was happy that I had got everything covered. Chris set up his padcam and DVR, and I had my little camera pointed at the rocket, taking video.

ETV2 before flight

As usual I found someone else to push the button, I wanted to take photos! As usual, the quickmatch ignition created a nice cloud of smoke, and the rocket roared off the pad under the power of 6 D12's.

ETV2 Boost on 6 D12's - click here for a larger image

Ben Jarvis' excellent liftoff shot of ETV2 - photo Ben Jarvis

After burnout of the booster, the rocket coasted upwards, losing speed...no sustainer ignition...give it time....pop! The booster deployed its chute (D12-3/D12-5 in there), ripping the e-match from the sustainer QM bundle. Shortly after that there was a pop and a puff of smoke from the sustainer backup charge, but no separation! I watched in horror as my pride and joy tumbled slowly from the sky, thankfully the 6-motor (unlit) cluster making it neutrally stable, crashing into the crops not far from the path. To add insult to injury, the booster, which had performed perfectly, landed on the concrete path, badly crimping its body tube. It hadn't even gone wrong and it was trashed!

ETV2's sustainer returning without 'chute

I didn't get to the sustainer crash site to get a photo (should have done really!), but ETV2 was brought back to me in a sorry state. A large chunk of 1 fin was missing, the motors were all there but hanging all over the place, there was a 1.5" square hole just above the fins and the top of the sustainer motor/chute section was badly 'zippered' where the electronics bay meets it. The G-Wiz was beeping out 330ft, which I took to be a good sign. The whole upper section (electronics bay and empty tube) was undamaged, which was a very good thing since I couldn't afford to lose my altimeter!

ETV2's booster after a hard landing on the concrete

Upon inspection, I found that my backup charge had all fired in one direction, directly into the side of the rocket! I think I contained it far too much, and should have had it pointed in the direction I wanted it to act! I think both booster/MMT sections are a write-off, I may be able to salvage some of the booster, since its just crimped and may be fixable with a coupler. However, if I do this, it will probably become a rocket of its own, rather than a new ETV2 booster.

ETV2 Shortly after its brief flight

Note the large hole and the crimping of the sustainer

The root cause, I believe, of my problem was that the staging timer didn't arm. It was still beeping for launch detect when I recovered it, and the most likely reason is insufficient G's at liftoff. This is supported by the G-Wiz data, but it doesn't help that I can't remember the rating of the G-switch! Even with 6 D12's, ETV2 only pulled about 2G's after the initial spike, if it was a 5G switch I would be lucky to arm based on what I programmed. It was a lot lighter on the first 2-stage flight and the timer worked a treat. Next time I will modify the timer for pull-pin/breakwire arming, which is far more suitable than the G-switch for this type of rocket. Either that or I'll build a completely insane, massively clustered first stage :) To hell with it, I'll do both :) ETV2 will return, probably for Big EARS 2006 and it will be bigger, badder and better. Time to concentrate on L1/L2 I think...

If you want a cutting charge, ask me how to do this!

The sustainer fin can/chute section has been due a rebuild since its first flight at UKRA 2004 - I recessed the MMT's and torched away the BT! On both 2-stage flights the interstage basically coupled to the fin fillets! At least one of those is gone now (one fin broke) so even if the front end of the fin can wasn't trashed/burnt it wouldn't be feasible to use it as the sustainer of a 2-stage flight. I think it will be retired and kept as a momento - that section has flown 12 times now! I will most likely change the gender of the sustainer to male, with the motors (E-sized tubes this time!) held in a coupler. All it will take is another short length of BT to be added to the interstage to make it work - this should be a much better interstage coupling than the previous version, which was a bad design choice on my part.

ETV2 liftoff on 6 D12's - click here for a larger image - from my PadCam

Shortly after crashing my biggest, best and most reliable rocket, I was cheered by Chris showing me the excellent PadCam shot he got of the ignition - in fact the whole thing caught the sustainer crashing into the field! Just after I'd launched, Ady Waters had a shot at the G-class altitude record, reaching around 2900ft - not a new record, his old one stands at 3800ft as reported by his G-Wiz.

For various videos from Big EARS 2005, including my launch of ETV2, have a look at Chris' website

After Ady's flight, Chris Bohin (he of the 38 Special with Day-Glo nosecone) brought out his Binder Design Samurai (I spell that differently each time!) for a crack at L2 on a J400SS. Looking a lot like a Thor, but a bit sleeker, his rocket roared upwards on a thick column of black smoke, which seemed to change colour as the sun caught it. It was a really nice flight, and got Chris his L2 certification. I got a pretty decent padcam video of his flight, the camera is quickly obscured by the thick smoke from the J400!

Chris Bohin's L2 on a J400SS - click here for a larger image

Chris Bohin's L2 on a J400SS - click here for a larger image - from my PadCam

Shortly after Chris flew, Colin Rowe brought out his BSD Horizon, of which I think he has 2 - one with a 29mm MMT and the other with a 38mm and 3x24mm MMTs. One of Colin's flights carried a side-looking video camera, I think it was one of the 38mm flights he flew it on. Over the weekend Colin flew his Horizon twice on a Pro38 J285, airstarting 3 E9's with quick and slow match for a couple of very cool flights. I got good photos of one, and saw the other from back at the marquee, where the airstarts were very visible. The flight I photographed was just as good, the I285 seemed a popular motor this weekend, with good performance in several rockets.

Colin Rowe's BSD Horizon on an I285 and 3 E9's - click here for a larger image

By this time it was 6PM, there hadn't been that many big flights, and it still felt like much earlier! However, a queue was starting to form, fliers were coming out of the tents and their cars bearing gifts to the rocket gods. By 6 the sky was clear, the evening sun was shining, and the wind was dropping. A veritable flurry of HPR (and model) flights came in the next 3/4 of an hour, started off by Andrew Stevenson with his L1 attempt. He had Rebel Rocketry 'Max Impulse 2.5', modified for 38mm motors and named 'Persephone' (thanks to Rod for the info, I think I'll start using a notebook in future!). As so often with L1 cert flights, Andrew had a Pro38 H153 loaded in the rocket - 2.5" is just about large enough to keep it going to silly altitudes for a cert flight. After a false start with the pad box being turned off, Andrew was ready to launch. His rocket came straight off the rail, but a hundred feet or so up took a sharp right turn before heading off into the sun, regaining stable flight. No good explanation could be found for this, but Andrew failed his cert, which was a shame since he and dad Rod were planning father and son L1/L2 certs on the same day. The good news was that the rocket was undamaged and could be flown the next day with more nose weight.

Andrew Stevenson's Rebel Max Impulse 2.5 on an H153 - click here for a larger image

The next high power flight, on another H153, was Chris Eilbeck's 'GSF 38' - a trusty and battered rocket I've seen fly on this motor several times. I managed to miss the launch with my camera - not sure what I did but I've got the rocket on the pad and then the smoke trails. Needless to say it was another successful flight, and Chris recovered the rocket without a hitch.

By this time it was about 20 to 7, and the real big guns were coming out. Ben Jarvis had his 'Nemesis 3', a 10-year old veteran of the old days, ready to go on a Pro38 J330. Ben and Richard had flown Nem3 on this motor earlier in the week at Pete's, and Ben assured me it would be a very cool motor in this rocket. I was excited to see that James McFarlane was bringing out his legendary Gyroc - a gyroscopically stabilised rocket which has flown successfully quite a few times before. I've seen video of successful Gyroc flights, and they are very impressive. I was hoping that today's would be a repeat of those, and not the less successful ones where the rocket has crashed under power! Finally, Gary Sinclair brought out his beautiful 'Avenger 4', a Performance Rocketry all-composite kit weighing just 4kg empty! Gary said it took no time to build (it comes with a carbon fibre fin can) but the paint job, which was very nice, took a lot longer! For its first flight, Gary went straight in at the deep end with a K660 - the largest (>2400Ns) Pro54 K motor.

Nemesis 3, Avenger 4 and Gyroc

Ben was up first with Nemesis 3, just before he launched I ran out and set my little padcam running. We had to wait for a runner to make her way through the HPR range (!) After this brief delay, the countdown was called, and with a puff from the igniter grain, the J330 roared into life. Ben was right about this motor! In such a big, heavy rocket it was really impressive, pushing Nemesis 3 slowly into the sky on a bright flame. I've seen a fair few 6-grains, but this was probably the best flight I've seen on one. In a small rocket they're just a big whoosh, like an Estes motor but much more expensive, in something like this its a whole other matter. The T:W ratio can't have been much more than 3:1 on average, but Nem3 made a perfect ascent, before floating gently down under a huge, pulsating SkyAngle chute to land in the field adjacent to the marquees. No problem getting that one back, all round one of the best rocket flights I've seen. The legendary Jarvis ejection charge was clearly in evidence too!

Ben Jarvis' Nemesis 3 on a J330 - click here for a larger image

Ben Jarvis' excellent photo of Nemesis 3 on a J330 - count the mach diamonds! - photo Ben Jarvis

Next was Gyroc. Loaded with an AeroTech G12-RCT, Jim set Gyroc's electronics running, giving them a little time to warm up. Unfortunately it seems that either the electronics weren't fully up and running or the motor didn't have enough thrust, but whichever way Gyroc took off slowly before making some interesting manoeuvres all over the place, landing in the field under power and smoking away for a while. Jim seemed undisturbed by this - Gyroc has made a mixture of successful and otherwise flights.

Gyroc executing some aerial acrobatics

With Gyroc safely recovered, it was time for Gary Sinclair to burn yet another Pro54 K motor. I think I've seen Gary fly more of these than anyone else, but usually the 4-grain K445. This time it was the 6-grain K660 (it could have been the L730 if Damian hadn't left his at home!), in his 4" Avenger 4, finished in a very nice turquoise and black scheme. I was expecting the rocket to rise fairly slowly into the sky - Damian Hall's Uncle Bob didn't exactly hang around on the K660, but it wasn't neck-snapping. I was forgetting that Gary's rocket weighed something insane like 4kg empty, and that the K660 has a peak thrust of around 1000N at ignition. Again I set up my Padcam, but it ran out of memory just as the flight was being announced - remote start would be much better.

Gary's Avenger 4 in the evening sun

The countdown was given, and with a puff of smoke the K660 burst into life. With an incredible roar it blasted the Avenger off the pad and into the sky, the rocket rapidly becoming a tiny dot atop a smoke trail streaking upwards. In no way was I expecting it to do that! I have never seen such a big rocket move so fast, it was off the pad and up there so quickly. Despite taking a slight turn off the pad, it reached over 9000ft, and was recognised by many people (this was before Ben's K1100 flight) as the best flight of the event, as well as earning Gary certificates for 'King of AP' and highest flight of the weekend. The rocket was eventually recovered some distance downrange - apparently it had a lucky escape and managed to land in a very small spot between power lines and trees, allowing Gary to recover it undamaged. I would love to see this rocket on the L730 - it would surely break 10kft.

Gary's Avenger 4 on a K660 - click here for a larger image

Ben Jarvis' excellent photo of Avenger 4 on a K660 - note the flying igniter cap - photo Ben Jarvis

After the excitement of the big flights, a few smaller rockets were flown. I watched Karl Stockley fly his Semroc 'Recruiter' on a Quest/German B motor - they really are smokier than the Estes motors! After a perfect flight, it landed a few feet from the pad - can't really ask for much more than a perfect flight in such nice weather. While the models were flying, more HPR fliers were setting up their rockets. Richard Parkin had his L2 rocket ready to go on an I205 for a test of his dual-deployment system, Chris Eilbeck was flying ADR2 on an I285 and Rob (please someone give me his surname!) had an interesting, long skinny rocket with an H153 loaded. Ady Waters also had an altitude shot loaded on a G69 in his tower launcher - Hell Fire I think.

Karl's Recruiter makes a perfect flight - nicely finished too

Richard flew his L2 rocket first with a very nice boost and perfect dual deployment, reaching just over 2000ft according to his ALTACC. Everyone thought it was in the trees beyond the HPR range, but somehow his rocket missed them, and he returned a little later with the rocket in perfect shape.

Richard's L2 rocket makes a test flight on an I205

Richard and his smoke hanging over the field

Ady went next, and as usual with Ady it was a case of small rocket going very high and fast. However, he only reached 2900ft or so, with his previous record of 3800ft still untouched. I believe Ady is questioning the reliability of his previous altimeter, which was unfortunately lost so cannot be tested.

Ady's rocket going some!

Chris then took his turn with ADR2 (Avionics Development Rocket), a 54mm design with a 38mm MMT, dual deployment and an RDAS aboard. ADR2 is painted in a distinctive tiger-striped scheme, which stands out very well in the crops! No video on this flight, on the I285 - nice motor with plenty of noise and flame - it reached over 4000 ft, with a very straight boost. Noticeable was the 'chuff' at the end of the burn which seems common on Pro38 motors - I've heard that its due to bits of the liner being ejected through the nozzle. On Chris' flight a black puff was clearly visible at the time this sound was heard.

Chris Eilbeck's ADR2 makes a beautiful flight in the evening sun on an I285 - click here for a larger image

I then went down the HPR range to see how Chris Brown, Damian Hall and Colin Rowe were doing setting up the GSE for Chris' L2 flight with his 4" Thor on a HyperTek K240. I took a good look at the GSE and fittings since I will need to use them when it comes to my L1 flight. While this was going on there were a few flights on the model range. Of note was Karl Stockley's USR 'Weightlofter' on a cluster of 7D's with dual-deployment thanks to Richard Parkin's PerfectFlite MAWD. He lit the motors with fast PIC, which was novel, but they all lit OK and the rocket took off with the typical smoke and flame of a BP cluster. At burnout of the D12-0's he had in the (open) outboard tubes, all sorts of smoke and flame came from the rocket (plugged motors are your friend!), which continued undisturbed. At apogee, the MAWD separated the rocket, and after a brief drop, deployed the main parachute a few hundred feet up. Very nicely done Karl, I'm annoyed I didn't get any photos!

After Karl's photo, Tom Hicks and Rick Newlands racked up their BP clusters - Tom with a Semroc Hydra7 on 3 C6's and Rick with a strange contraption based around a ring-shaped cluster of Estes D12's. I wasn't aware that Rick's rocket was on the pad, I was watching from halfway down the HPR range for some reason! Tom's Hydra took off, and then there was a big whoosh and something flew off, trailing smoke. I thought the Hydra7 had shed a motor, but whatever it was bounced off the RSO tent and plunged into the crops, blasting a plume of smoke upwards for a second, drowning the LPR area in a thick fog. It turns out that Tom's rocket accidentally ignited Rick's, but asymmetrically, resulting in a wildly unstable flight, ending up with the rocket upside down in the crops with all motors burning. Very cool flight Rick!

The aftermath of Rick's 'flight'

After this malarkey, Rob (again can't recall the surname!) launched his rocket on an H153 for a very straight flight and successful recovery. A lot of 2-grain Pro38's were flown over the weekend, mainly H153 classics. I think at least one of each Pro38 motor, perhaps with the exception of the G79SS (but you never know...I didn't see every flight!) was flown this weekend, along with a few Pro54's. Perhaps not as many Pro54's as I would like, but I'm not sure I can ever see enough big motors!

Rob's rocket on an H153

After these flights, it was time for Chris Brown to make his L2 attempt. He'd had to take his rocket apart once after bringing it to the pad, and he was more than a little nervous, but his THOR was successfully set up on the pad and all the HyperTek GSE rigged. I placed my little camera right up close to capture the fill and launch, it can be seen in the launch photos. I retired to the HyperTek GSE controller, where Chris, Colin and Damian were stood. For HyperTek flights, getting to stand at the GSE box means good photos and getting to really appreciate the noise of the motor up close - I like them a lot.

Chris started the fill, and we waited as the nitrous gas hissed out of the vent tube. As soon as a thick stream of liquid nitrous was visible, a signal was given to the RSO and a short 3,2,1 count was given. A bright flame appeared at the base of the rocket as the GOx/spark ignition set the fuel grain burning, heating up the hold-down tie-wraps. A split second later the tie-wraps melted and the motor burst to life with the typical loud, farty roar these motors are known for. The THOR climbed fast on the 5-second burn baby K motor, with the bright HyperTek flame very visible in the evening light (Chris launched at 5 to 8!) and the roar echoing down from above. After burnout, the THOR disappeared until, at 3000ft, the altimeter (FC-877) split the airframe, deploying the main 'chute at a lower altitude. Chris gained his L2 certification in style, it was a very nice flight!

Chris Brown's BSD Thor on a HyperTek K240 for a successful L2 flight - click here for a larger image

The last HPR flight I photographed for the day was one of the most spectuacular - Rod Stevenson's L2 attempt with a PML AMRAAM on a J380 Smoky Sam (Pro54). Rod launched 10 minutes after Chris' L2 flight, but was using motor deployment and a honking big 'stink motor' unlike Chris' hybrid. The AMRAAM looked rather mean sat on the pad, waiting to go, its white paint standing out in the fading light. At 5 past 8, Rod pressed the button, and the big smoky motor burst into life with (unusually for an SS) quite a lot of flame. I don't think the rocket weighed an awful lot, because it really shifted! The AMRAAM took to the sky atop a huge column of thick, black smoke, accompanied by the characteristic hiss of the Smoky Sam motors. Its hard to imagine just how much smoke these things make until you witness one up close, especially when it all drifts back towards the rangehead. Richard Parkin seemed to be enjoying the smell of someone else's burnt AP rather too much...

Rod Stevenson's AMRAAM on a J380SS for a successful L2 flight - click here for a larger image

I don't remember the recovery of the AMRAAM, but Rod was successful in certifying L2, so I will look forwards to seeing it fly again. I've decided that big Smoky Sams are cool, still not sure about the smaller ones. Whichever way, they don't half make a mess of the launch rail!

Rod watching his rocket, Mr Parkin inhaling Smoky Sam fumes!

Rod's smoke drifts away over the fields

With the range closed, barbeques were set up, and master chef Colin Rowe did a good job making sure there was enough food to go round. Thanks to Cath for sorting out the food, the barbeque was nice and the MARS 'Picnic Club' kept hunger at bay throughout the day as usual :)

Some time after the barbeque there were fireworks, which I didn't pay too much attention to - I was too busy talking with Chris, Richard, Damian B et al IIRC. After the fireworks was the night launch, which is something I've never seen before. I'm not entirely convinced by the idea, but it was quite fun and the night fliers had put quite a bit of effort into their rockets. Chris Bohin was flying his BSD 38 Special (the one with The Nosecone That Shall Not Be Looked Upon), complete with glowing, LED-illuminated nosecone. Quite what Malcolm Jennings was flying I shall never know - it was vaguely rocket-like, but seemed to have become entangled in some particularly tasteless christmas lights! Loaded with 10 or so Estes E9's, it was a great tower of blinking and flashing LEDs - absolutely brilliant Malc! The flame from the BP cluster was quite impressive, but unfortunately it all broke up and various flashing bits and pieces could be seen falling into the field like some kind of alien spaceship - I wonder how many UFO sightings it caused.

Preparing for a night launch

After an initial misfire, Chris got his 38 Special off the pad, the Pro38 H153 was quite impressive in the dark. I don't know if he got it back, the last I saw was the glowing nosecone off in the distance, falling gently. Also flying was Rob, with a 4xE9 cluster, complete with electro-luminescent strips, flashing LEDs and the like. However, shortly after ignition one of the E9's CATO'd, sending burning debris and lit motors everywhere, making for quite a display! All parts (by virtue of either being on fire or glowing!) were soon recovered, and the damage seemed minimal.

Some time after all of this finished, I left the site for my warm, cosy bed, leaving those in tents to sleep through what turned out to be one of the most impressive thunderstorms I've seen in a long while. I downloaded my photos and G-Wiz data, ready for another day's rocketry.

From what I have photos of, at least: were flown, along with lots of Estes motors (especially Ds and Es) and the odd AT E/F/G motor. There were actually quite a lot more HPR flights made than I have listed - I spent quite a lot of time busy inside the marquee and missed a fair few HPR flights. Going through the flight cards is the only definitive way of keeping track of what was flown, I think some of this data was collected on the day by Sally Davis.

Be sure to check out the gallery for all the best photos from this launch

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