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

Niall Oswald's EARS March 2005 Report

My 'ETV2' and Ben Jarvis' 'Kone of Koncern' with the sun shining through the clouds behind

The morning of Sunday March 6 dawned bright, still and clear. With the exception of being, for want of a better term, bloody freezing, perfect weather for flying rockets. It certainly looked to be a more promising day for launching than the last launch I'd been to, where no rockets were flown. Having dragged myself out of bed, brought my parents tea in bed, and packed up all my stuff into the car, I burned myself a CD of The Stones and The Kinks, and set of to burn some BP!

Sunny morning at home

The 30-mile trip to the EARS site was easy as ever, and I pulled up to the site at about 9:40. At this time Mike Roberts, Michael Clarke and Geraint Roberts were busy setting up the range, hut and facilities. The ever-present Mupp(tm) was there too, and despite her degree in rocket science, managed to whack me round the head with the PA system poles not once but twice (I guess I can accept some blame for the second time!)

Some of the EARS usual suspects

More people started arriving soon after - EARS regulars obviously not put of by predictions of meteorological doom, or the threat of muddy shoes. Most of the usual suspects were here, or arrived later in the day - Chris Eilbeck, Roy T-H, Richard Parkin, Steve Woolhead, Ben Jarvis, Richard Osborne, Helen Green, Gary Sinclair, Dave Warman, Cath and Marcus, young Rebecca Proctor (and Dad) and quite a few others I can't remember now.

There were also large crowds from Leicester Uni, and (I think) Oxford Uni. The Leicester bunch were here to launch a rocket on a HyperTek J motor - more on that later...

First up on the high power pads was Tom Hicks, I missed his flight with the camera but I'm fairly sure it was his AeroTech Warthog on an AT F motor, looked like WL propellant. Ignition was as slow as can be expected from old AT AP, but the boost was good, and surprisingly loud. Unfortunately there was no deployment at apogee and the rocket tumbled back to the ground. At a similar time, Ady Waters children, Hope and Troy launched a couple of models with their dad - a small V2 on a C6-3 and Troy's 'Eliminator' on a D12-7. The new EARS launch controller seemed to cause some confusion, but any teething troubles should be ironed out in time for Big EARS, making the model range more efficient. 6 or so rockets can be racked up and fired in time from one controller, which should keep waiting and faffing to a minimum.

After watching these flights, and standing around talking for a bit (its easy to get drawn in, and then half the day's gone...), I set off to prep my trusty 'ETV2' for its 9th flight. The configuration for this flight was the one I tested at December's EARS launch - 4 E9's and 2 D12's. The D12s and two of the E9's are lit on the pad, with the second set of E9's CHAD staged from the D's. This gives a 154Ns total impulse with a 4.8 second burn. The main purpose of this flight (aside from burning large quantities of BP obviously) was to test out my new G-Wiz MC altimeter, simply as a recording device this time.

My new altimeter ready to fly

Having done it a few times, cutting up and putting together the QuickMatch ignition bundle was pretty straightforward, I've got it down to a fine art now. Slightly more fiddly was setting up the altimeter - RTFM was the lesson! I'd sorted out mounting and a battery holder (blue duct tape!), but when I powered it up, the GWiz warbled at me - not a good sign. I eventually realised, after plugging it into my computer, that it was unhappy since there was nothing connected to the pyro battery terminals. A short piece of wire jumpering the main and pyro batteries together soon solved that problem and the rocket was good to go.

The trip up to the range coincided with Ben Jarvis being ready to fly his 'Kone of Koncern'. Its first flight was a year ago, at March EARS 2004, and for this flight Ben used the 5-grain Pro38 Smoky Sam reload - a 601I350. The Kone launched on a pillar of black smoke, gently arcing over the spectators, into the wind. Deployment was good, and the Kone floated back under a 48" chute for a gentle landing in the soft field. I got some good photos of the flight, which are in the gallery

Kone of Koncern Flight 1 - I350SS

At about the same time as I'd prepped ETV2, Chris Eilbeck had prepped his well-worn (well-flown?) GSF (General Sport Flyer) for another flight on the Pro38 2-grain (244H153) motor. The rocket contained an RDAS altimeter, but used motor ejection for deployment. Chris flew just before me, and his flight, to around 1700 ft was nominal apart from the loss of the nosecone at apogee. (It was recovered without damage as far as I know).

Chris' GSF Flies again

It was my turn now - as before I found a willing helper to push the button, so I could take photos. As usual, the quickmatch ignition was instant, and the rocket slowly climbed off the pad with all 4 motors burning. About 2 seconds in, the 2 E9-8's kicked in with a pop as the CHAD-staged motors dropped away. The burn continued on and up as the rocket arced overhead and gained horizontal velocity. I realised at this point that the 8 second delays would probably be too long, and I was proved correct shortly afterwards. Ejection was well after apogee, and the rocket could be seen to separate into two parts. The fin can and motor mount section came down without a parachute, circling around the payload section, which was brought down slowly under a 24" chute. The lower section landed flat, out in the field, followed shortly by the payload section. I walked out, gathering half the field on my boots in the process, and recovered the payload section, complete with 'screamer' (personal alarm) and quietly bleeping G-Wiz...1565 feet. Closer back to the pad I picked up the lower section, which had survived without damage. Its pretty sturdy, and the flat spin and soft ground helped prevent any damage. It wasn't even that muddy!

ETV2 on 4 E9s and 2 D12s

I returned to my car to download the data and grab some food - I always forget to eat when I'm actually flying anything! The GWiz works well with a USB-serial adaptor, allowing me to download the data to my laptop and fly again without losing the data. The acceleration graph showed the ignition of the second set of E9's very clearly, as well as the burnout of the first set at 3 seconds. The altitude graph also confirmed that ejection was after apogee. Download the GWiz Data file here. You'll need to install the GWiz software from www.gwiz-partners.com

There was some action on the model pads - a couple of new guys (I think they also fly with the Black Knights) made some good flights. Very impressive, though I saw it from a distance, was the D-class altitude attempt - its amazing just how fast it moved on an Estes D12 - over 2300ft altitude! Another one of their flights was less successful and skywrote above the RSO tent, landing a short way down the HPR range. Damage looked minimal - more nose weight next time!

Next up on the HPR pads was Chris Bohin, with his BSD '38 Special' - watch out for the Day-Glo nosecone, it's retina-scorchingly bright! Chris flew on the 2-grain Pro38 Smoky Sam reload - 247H143. As before, the lightweight 38 Special ripped off the pad on a streak of black smoke, and deployed its parachute at a fair altitude. Not quite such a long walk as its last flight on an I205 though, and no damage as far as I know.

Chris Bohin's 38 Special on an H143SS

After spending a while at the range-head waiting to see if the Leicester team would launch their rocket (it was on the pad a long long time...) I'd given up to go back and download my altimeter data, and then to prep ETV2 again. About half an hour after Chris' flight, the Leicester team flew. After a short fill, the launch came on about '4', catching me unready, so the photos weren't great. The HyperTek 440CC J (J295?) made a great, loud, raspy sound, and the rocket boosted well. However, at apogee, it kept on going without deployment, and the irresistible force of gravity took over. It was scary how fast it was moving, it made an eerie whistle as it steamed in, impacting with a loud 'spack'. I was on the wrong side of the trees to see the impact, but I am told that most of the (fairly long) rocket was underground and in pieces. They were certainly there a while digging it out! What came back didn't look very happy, if they're lucky the motor will be OK but everything else looked pretty much trashed.

The flight and aftermath of the Leicester rocket

Next up to make his contribution to placating the rocket gods was Gary Sinclair. Its always good when Gary flies something, since it invariably has a K in it! This time it was 'Dot Comet', which I remember flying very nicely on a J295 at a past event. This time it was going up on a K445 (4-grain classic), and after waiting for a break in the weather, Gary was ready to go. Richard Osborne and I gradually worked our way closer to the range - after all when there's a big motor going you want to feel it, don't you! The big motor lit immediately, as usual with the Pro38/54 motors, and the rocket roared off the pad pretty quickly, with a nice big flame from the motor. About 2 seconds in, the rocket shredded, and proceeded to chase its tail around the sky as the motor burned out. The rest of the flight was compressed into a very small space, but amazingly it all held together, and recovered fairly normally. It turned out that the sections of airframe that were 'Quantum Tube' (a.k.a. PML drainpipe) had given way (its for good reason that PML say to keep QT-based rockets below M0.85) and the rocket had folded. There were no fins lost, the rest of the rocket seemed perfectly fine, so not too much of a disaster in the end. It was a shame though - the rocket would have gone a long way if it hadn't shredded.

Launch and boost of Gary's Dot Comet

Gary's Dot Comet shreds and skywrites - click here for a false-colour image

After Gary's flight, I finished prepping ETV2 and Ben prepped the Kone again, same motor as before (I350SS). When we got to the pads, Ben loaded the Kone on the rail before realising that he hadn't set the delay on the Pro38 motor. The Kone doesn't reach a huge altitude on the I motor, and the default delay would be far too long, so I switched on the G-Wiz MC and loaded up ETV2 again. After some confusion on Mike Roberts part as to exactly what motors I was flying on (I don't blame him, there were 4 different types in the rocket!), which was resolved with 'lots of BP', ETV2 was off again. The rocket, despite climbing from the pad slowly, doesn't seem to be affected by wind until the D12-0 booster motor drop away, at which point on both flights it started arcing over.

With the D12's and 4 E9's in the rear, the margin of stability is low, which would explain the tendency not to weathercock. When the second set of E9's lit, the 'pop' as the CHAD-staged motors lit was quite noticeable, as was the gain in speed. All in all, the ~5 second burn is very nice, the motors sound quite impressive when 800ft directly overhead. This time I used an E9-6 and E9-8 for ejection, which came at just about the right point by the looks of things. If anything it was very slightly early, but that is preferable to the previous flight where it was rather late. I borrowed a length of tubular nylon from Gary Sinclair, and I will have to get myself some for this rocket - its far better than elastic! Recovery was nominal and not too far out. The only thing that didn't work was the screamer. This time the altitude was almost 100ft more, and I think that with a more vertical flight I could get even more out of the rocket. Download the GWiz Data file here.

ETV2's second flight of the day and 10th flight - click here for a larger version

After I'd flown, Ben sorted out the ejection delay for the Kone, put it back together and set it up on the pad. I took a few photos, and it was time for the evil-looking black cone to blast into the cloudy sky again. As before, the cone lifted off on a pillar of black smoke which, combined with the darkening sky and unusual profile of the rocket, was rather impressive. After a brief coast, the parachute deployed with perfect timing and the Kone came back safely to fly again. Bigger motor next time Ben :-)

Kone of Koncern's second flight of the day and 5th flight - click here for a larger version

This pretty much concluded the day's flying, and it was time to pack up, clear up and defrost. A few people had a bit of trouble getting out, but with people around to help no-one got stuck. I had to head home to travel back to Bristol, so I missed out on the usual post-launch curry with the EARS/MARS regulars. Next month I'll be on holiday, so I won't be rushing back - I'll be there from early til late.

So, in summary - there were: flown, but that's only based on what I remember, its probably a bit more. I'm fairly sure that's all of the HPR stuff though. A good day all round, a bit quiet, but after 4 months without launching anything it was great to get out there and burn some BP.

My personal totals for the day were:

Be sure to check out the gallery for all the best photos (~90) from this launch

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