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

Niall Oswald's EARS June 2005 Report

Cath being interviewed before the launch of 'Hairy Stripe'

I'm writing this a few weeks after the event, so I can't promise a fully detailed description of the day's events. That said I do have photos of most of the flights (the larger ones), so I can report most of the day's happenings. EARS' June monthly launch was a little sparsely attended by usual standards, perhaps partly due to UKRA 2005 being just around the corner. Many of the EARS regulars were present however, and this time we had a distinguished visitor - Andy Holland from BBC Look East, who was filming for a short news item on EARS.

I turned up fairly early, Mike Roberts et al were already busy setting up. I offered a hand setting up the RSO tent, putting up the EARS sign, moving the PA speakers into position - turning up early you appreciate the amount of effort that goes into setting up the range. The EARS container is now in its final position in the woods, and just needs painting (at the moment it's blue, it will be green).

My plan for the day was to fly a few models, in particular a couple of 3x18mm clustered models I'd just got ready to fly. I was excited to discover that Gary Sinclair was planning/hoping to fly his scratch-built 6" V2 on a Pro75 L800 - probably the fourth biggest motor ever flown at EARS (behind Roy's M1939, Steve G's M960 and Chris Key's L625).

Before long Chris Eilbeck and Richard Parkin had turned up, as usual Chris had ADR2 ready to go with live video downlink. His receiver and clamshell DV setup works really nicely, he must be getting on for 10 onboard videos already this year. Chris Bishop was also back for another crack at L1, and had brought along a very nicely finished PML kit, christened 'Blood and Custard' after its yellow and red paint scheme. Cath and Marcus were also along, with Cath planning to fly 'Hairy Stripe' (no idea why it's called that!).

As usual there was activity throughout the day on the model pads, now looking very swanky with EARS decals applied. I didn't catch many of those flights, but there seemed to be some new faces getting into it, which is always good. It's worth remembering that there's a lot of scope with model rockets, single-motor LPR may lack the sheer power of HPR, but some people do really nice things with such small motors. Of course its always more exciting when it's your own rocket :)

The first flight I have photos of is Chris Bishop's modified Horizon on an H153, for his third attempt at L1 certification. This was at about 1pm, as usual despite getting there early nothing much was flown before lunchtime. I may have to make a concerted effort to fly before 12pm, just to show it can be done :)

Chris setting up his L1 rocket, complete with 2ft Gary!

Anyhow, this time Chris' flight went perfectly, the chute was deployed right on time by a piston (a modification since the last flight), at quite a reasonable altitude, and Chris was off to pick up his rocket and then get his L1 cert signed off. I know Chris is planning bigger things, he's currently working on an Avenger 4, the same as the one Gary Sinclair flew at Big EARS. Whether Chris will put a K660 in it for the first flight is yet to be seen!

Successful launch of Chris' modified Horizon

After Chris had flown, I was busy prepping a few models, when Mike Bessant was sent my way by Chris E, for some advice on cluster ignition. I like to think I know a bit about this, having successfully lit almost 100 Estes motors in clusters with just 3 failures. Anyhow, Mike, who my dad knows from his time at Cranfield University, had a scratch-built V2-alike rocket, complete with a wireless video camera in the payload section. Chris's receiver setup would be used to record the video sent back from the rocket, which was to fly on 3 D motors. I sorted out some quickmatch, and in the usual fashion a minute and some masking tape later the rocket was ready to go.

Rod's Vostok and Mike's Video 'V2'

Before Mike flew, Rod Stevenson launched his 'Das Modell' Vostok on a C11-5. His advice was 'don't buy this kit!'. It looked interesting, however, but on the C11-5 the ejection delay was far too long, a C11-3 would be about right. After a very brief boost the Vostok started heading back towards the ground, deploying the 'chute after quite a drop. The recovery system worked fine, but the rocket landed on the concrete road just a few feet from the launch pads. Damage was pretty minimal, but I don't think it was the rocket Rod was hoping for.

Launch of the Vostok

Closest to the pad?

Mike's video rocket was next up, and was filmed by the BBC reporter. One thing he quickly learned was that following model rockets with a camera can be tricky, and only really comes with practise. Still, Mike's rocket made the start of the piece, along with a staged 'button-press' moment! The flight was quite impressive on the 3 D12's especially from close up. I got some decent photos, and from what I saw the video was good all the way up and down. Unfortunately the 3 second delay on two of the motors (the other was a D12-7) was too short, and the 'chute stripped after a rather fast deployment. I later found it (the chute) some distance away, distinctive by the traces of black and flourescent green paint all over it! The rocket was recovered, with minor damage, just over the trees. Hopefully Mike will fly it again soon, it's nice to see interesting things being done with rockets.

Chris' video setup

Mike Bessant's video rocket - click here for a larger image

Next up on the model pads was myself, with 3 rockets, and Marcus Lauder with a scale 'Corporal', a raffle prize I believe. I'd done my usual thing of prepping 5 or 6 model rockets and taking them all down to the range at once, it seems like a better way to me! In the first batch, I had 'Wikinger' on an E9-6, my SA-2 Guideline on a D12-0 to a D12-5 and my Art Applewhite 'Stealth' on an A8-3. Marcus' Corporal was loaded with a D12-7, and was set up in a minimum-diameter configuration. I'm not sure that this is stock however!

Rack full of models

After a mix-up on my part, my 'Stealth' was launched instead of Marcus' Corporal, it really needs a C motor. The drag is so high (and mass so low) that coast is non-existent. The ejection charge fired after landing! C6-3 is far better. They're quite fun, they're pretty cheap and easy to build too, and no painting is required!

Marcus's Corporal, as to be expected, went 'whoosh', very high and fast. Again, as to be expected, it was never seen again! Marcus tried to tell me it was my job to find it, in the end I think I told him I'd seen it out in the field but forgotten where it was ;) It was quite breezy again, and even small rockets were drifting some distance, at various times it darkened and tried to rain.

Next I flew Wikinger, as usual it flew very well on the E motor, the 6-second delay is about perfect. The prep and flight made it through to the final cut on Look East, which was nice. The 3-second burn of the E9 is worth every penny, I'd recommend building any 24mm MMT rocket to take them. If not, hanging the extra length of motor out the back normally works! (That's how it is in Wikinger, which actually has a long enough MMT but built stock only takes a 70mm motor - in fact it is sized for a 25mm german D motor). I had quite a walk down to where the rocket landed, but thankfully the 'chute was resting atop the corn, and it was easy to find.

Wikinger flies again

Chris Eilbeck flew next, after arming the RDAS and switching on the camera aboard ADR2, his 6ft by 54mm rocket. As at Big EARS, where Chris flew ADR2 twice, the 4-grain I285 (classic) Pro38 motor provided propulsion. This time, however, the motor decided it didn't want to play. With the BBC camera, and Chris' DV Camcorder PadCam pointed at it, as well as the onboard video, the motor lit, but promptly went out just after clearing the rail. The rocket reached about 100ft, before the RDAS tried to save the day, firing the ejection charges. Unfortunately the main 'chute didn't have time to come out, and the rocket landed hard, just clear of the hard path. Luckily there was very little damage, and Chris set off to prep for flight again.

The brief flight of ADR2

When recovered, the motor had spat one of the (only two) o-rings halfway out through the nozzle, and when compared to a new I285, the nozzle throat was much larger. The motor was returned to Malcolm for a replacement, I don't know if we'll ever know the full story. I'd like to see the insides of the motor, quite how the o-ring escaped is very interesting!

The motor as recovered (top), comparison with a new I285

Later in the day Chris flew ADR2 again, this time without problems and captured some more great video. You can see all of Chris' videos on his website.

As Chris headed back to re-prep, I launched my scratch-built, sport-scale SA-2 Guideline. I forget how many flights I've made with this rocket, but it's become a trusty favourite. This was probably its best flight, using a long 'maxi' rod, 1st stage boost was straight, staging right on time and then second stage burn continued the vertical ascent. The 5 second delay was just about right (7 seconds and weathercocking on the last flight meant a stripped 'chute), and the new 12" (I think) mylar chute deployed and brought the rocket safely back. Again a bit of a walk was on the cards, but the mylar 'chute was very visible, and I had the rocket back in no time. The heavy nosecone had found its way to the ground and stuck in, after a few flights this rocket is looking like it needs a fresh coat of paint. Then again, the rocket gods love to take a nice shiny rocket and keep it, or return it in pieces, so maybe not! The booster stage suffered a cracked fin, but that was easy to fix with CA.

Flight of my SA-2

Heavy nosecone+soft ground=...

The next flight I have photos of is Richard Parkin's 3" THOR on an H143SS, with 2-stage recovery via his ALTACC. In keeping with his love of shiny things, Richard has replaced the standard LED with a blue one, since it 'looks more techy'. Can't think why they call him 'the magpie' ;) The flight was good, with 2-stage recovery just as the doctor ordered. Despite this, it still landed some distance away. In the end I spotted it (in fact I heard it first, sonic locators/panic alarms are worth their weight in gold sometimes!) as I was picking up one of my rockets, the distance it had travelled was quite appreciable for a 1500ft flight. It's got a 54mm MMT, clearly some Pro54 action is needed in that rocket!

Richard Parkin's THOR

After Richard's THOR, I flew my Physics of Flight 'Adder', a 3x18mm model based on the 3x24mm LOC Viper 3. I won this kit at Big EARS, and had put it together in the week before June's launch. As such it flew with just a single coat of primer, the finish needs some work. For its first flight, I loaded it up with 3 B6-6's, for a fast-burn D18 equivalent. I'd never used quickmatch with 18mm motors before, but found that the green stuff (of which I currently have 5 metres!) fits nicely into the nozzle of a B or C motor. As is usual with QM, ignition was very quick, and the rocket lifted off very fast. I was very impressed with the performance, 3x18mm is a nice little cluster. The 6-second delay was about right, deploying the 18" nylon chute (a nice feature of this kit) right at apogee, which resulted in me chasing the rocket to see where it landed.

PoF Adder QM'd and ready to go

Ignition and launch

Unfortunately that part made it through to the final cut! Luckily the rocket landed just by the concrete road, I couldn't have asked for an easier recovery - if only it had been a bit closer! Having established where my rocket was, I ran back up to the rangehead to see Rod's Vostok fly on an E9, and I'm glad I did since I got some nice photos of it melting the blast deflector plate! This time the Vostok was somewhat squirrely, and separated at apogee. Rod never found the lower section, but I went and picked up the top section, which had drifted almost back to the last left-hand turn before the section of road up the launch site.

Rod's Vostok melting the blast deflector

Rod's Vostok makes an unsteady flight on an E9 - click here for a larger image

By this time it was about 3pm, we'd had a good couple of hours of flying. I'm not sure where the next hour went, probably talking! Rob Springham had a problem with his PML Excalibur when a rail guide fell off, but he soon had it fixed, and was ready to launch on an H153, carrying an altimeter as payload - no deployment. The boost was good, though the sound of the panic alarm was very strange, it sounded as if it was coming from a different place to the rocket, and then it stopped. It turned out it had separated from the rocket and free-fell to the ground! I believe the rocket was recovered OK.

Rob's PML Excalibur

Shortly after this I flew my Semroc 'Goliath', 3x18mm cluster, again a raffle prize winning from some time ago! Like the Adder, I loaded it up with 3 B6-6's, and if anything it's a bit lighter so I was expecting good performance. However, only two of the motors lit, and the performance was a rather low, with deployment somewhat late. However, the rocket recovered fine, and with no damage. I think with 18mm motors I need to make sure the QM strand is all the way into the nozzle. A little Pyrodex may help too. I'll perhaps try again with 3 B6's, both the Goliath and the Adder really need 3 C6's and a good day to really perform.

Semroc 'Goliath' on 2 of 3 B6's

With a spare B6-6, I decided to fly my in-primer ASP WAC Corporal for its first flight. In a light, simple rocket like the WAC Corporal, the B6-6 is a nice little motor, they always seem to have very visible tracking smoke before apogee. I'll have to paint it up properly, without that it's not got a lot to make it stand out. The performance is good though, unsurprising since it weighs very little empty.

ASP 'WAC Corporal' on a B6-6

About an hour later, Chris Bishop and Cath Bashford brought out a rocket each, both powered by G79SS motors, for 'not a drag race'. Chris had his 'blood and custard', a PML Callisto (IIRC), and Cath her 'Hairy Stripe', a 38mm min-dia rocket with a PerfectFlite altimeter aboard. The plan was to launch both rockets at more or less the same time, but as they kept saying, 'its not a race'! Chris' rocket was somewhat larger and heavier than Cath's, so it wouldn't really have been a contest. When it came to it, Chris launched about half a second before Cath, but Cath's rocket quickly overtook Chris'. However, while Chris' chute came out right on time, Cath had a recovery failure, and no-one saw her rocket land. Eventually the payload section, complete with broken nose cone and altimeter, was found, but the booster section is lost. It's a shame, since Cath lost her PML Bull Puppy a couple of launches ago, hopefully she'll have better luck next time.

Cath and Chris discussing tactics

'Blood and Custard'

B+C gets off first, but is soon overtaken by 'Hairy Stripe' - click here for a larger image

Following this, I decided to fly my Estes 'Mongoose' 2-stage kit. As I was prepping, Richard Parkin saw what I was doing and contributed a D12-0 to the cause, with a C6-0 booster the rocket was a bit underpowered off the pad. I didn't really like this rocket, in its favour it is very easy to put together. So, I decided I might as well load it up and try and lose it :)

Mongoose on its final flight

As it was, it didn't land that far away, after quite a nice boost and staging. However there was no sign of a streamer, I think the motor may have kicked, and I couldn't find the rocket...oh well, I'd had some fun with it.

Gary wiring up charges

I started packing up my stuff, since we were planning to go for a curry afterwards and I didn't want to be the one packing in a rush at the last minute! I kept checking back on how Gary was getting on with the V2 - he had quite a crowd watching, he didn't seem too bothered by it though. I think people were keen to see the Pro75 motor go together. Gary's V2 is a thing of beauty, crafted from composite materials, almost completely from scratch, over a 6 month period. In typical 'King of AP' style, Gary had chosen to make the first flight on the largest motor that would fit - the Pro75 3-grain L800. The rocket was equipped with an RDAS and a backup altimeter, a PerfectFlite IIRC. I didn't gather the complete details of how the rocket worked, but I believe a pyro release mechanism was involved, not something you see often.

Motor components

Having ogled the fist-sized AP grains, the motor went together, and Gary was ready to fly. His pad was set up at the maximum extent of the launch controller cables, which happened to be about right for an L motor! A few photos, and everything was armed and ready to go. Its worth saying that Andy Holland (the guy from Look East) took a lot of footage at the event, most of which never made it to the air - as to be expected Gary's V2 was the finale (Chris' onboard video was the centrepiece!).

Putting it all together

V2 on the rail, igniter in the foreground

I'd noticed that the igniter on the L800 was different to the one on the L1115 SPASE flew earlier in the year - theirs had a BP pellet and a thermalite-enhanced e-match. This one had what looked like a small slug of AP, with what looked like a dipped e-match in the centre. With everyone in place with cameras, a clear sky, far less wind than earlier, it was time to launch. At ignition, the motor took a while to come up to pressure, creating a growing cloud of smoke around the base of the rocket. Shortly afterwards, the motor came to life, blasting the 25lb (!) rocket fast off the pad (T:R was about 10:1 at launch) on a tail of bright flame as long as the rocket. As it climbed, the rocket started to spiral, before burnout almost 5 seconds after ignition. After that, we didn't see a lot more of the rocket until it was spotted, very high, under main 'chute. Gary and Marcus set off in Marcus' car (Marcus and Cath's car perhaps...), returning some time later with rocket in hand. It was some distance away too!

Gary's V2 on an L800 (Pro75) - click here for a larger image

L800 keeps going

After that it was off to the Papworth for a curry, which was just what I needed after a day of rocketry.

So, in summary - there were: flown, but that's only based on what I have photos of, there may have been a bit more. I personally burned 124 Ns worth of BP over 7 flights, not a bad day's flying. Not the busiest of launches, but a good one nonetheless, well run as ever.

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

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