Friday, March 2, 2012

Falcon 9 is ready to Launch

George captured this marvelous dawn photo of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft sitting atop its Falcon 9 booster.  Way better than this one from Florida.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Flight of the Blue Ninja

For his birthday, I gave George a fully-assembled Estes Blue Ninja.  This big rocket (31 inches tall) flies on D12-3s.  These things provide four times the total impulse of the B's we used last time on the Rascal.

We decided to start the launches by using C6-7 motors in our smaller rockets.  That Rascal raced almost completely out of sight!  Unfortunately, the higher apogee combined with the light but consistent wind carried our beloved Rascal into the backyard of a nearby home.

Appropriately humbled, we turned to the Ninja.  After choosing a launch site further upwind, the Ninja flew!  What a sight.  This is no lightweight toy that disappears with a "Phhht!" and a puff of white smoke... the Blue Ninja's big D belched orange flames and roared into the heavens.  Well, sorta!

It was a joy to watch each time we launched it.  Recovery was a snap too-- it always landed within 100 feet of the pad.  It didn't fly as high as Rascal and Hi Jinks did riding those "C" motors, but it was a lot more dramatic to watch.

Here's the video of the first launch (I stopped the video when I lost sight of the rocket in my "viewfinder").

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Book Review: Handbook of Model Rocketry

I just finished reading Handbook of Model Rocketry (6th Edition) by G. Harry Stine.

I was delighted by how easy it is to read!   It is an excellent source for beginning rocketeers, and has a lot of more detailed information for those wishing to delve further into the hobby.  I learned several new things just in the opening chapters.

There are chapters on the basics: Getting Started, Rocket Construction, Rocket Motors, Ignition System, Launchers and Launching.  More advanced topics follow in later chapters: Equations for determining maximum altitude of a particular rocket, Aerodynamics, Stability, and Multi-stage Rockets.

The book also includes the source code for BASIC-language computer programs such as a simulation of rocket flight given certain characteristics.

There is a wealth of information in this very readable book, and I believe the first six chapters should be required reading for anyone intending to launch model rockets.

This edition was published in 1994, but there is a newer 7th Edition published in 2004 available at Amazon.  While much of the technology of rocket building and flying has remained unchanged, this new edition does include information on a lot of the developments in the ten years that passed (microelectronics, new engine types, sources on the internet).  It also includes a new chapter on High-Power Rocketry!  I think I'll pick this version up, too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It's time again for NASA's University Student Launch Initiative

NASA has a competition every year to encourage college student groups to build and launch their own re-usable rockets carrying scientific payloads and compete for the top spot.

From the NASA website:
"Students propose to participate in USLI during the fall. Once selected, teams design their rocket and payload throughout the academic year. USLI requires a NASA review of the teams' preliminary and critical designs. The project also requires flight readiness and safety reviews before the rockets and payloads are approved for launch. Teams complete a Post-Launch Assessment Review to include conclusions from their science or engineering experiment and the overall flight performance."
Over 50 teams are competing this year, including the Frozen Fury Rocket Team from the University of North Dakota.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

First Launch!

George and I met at Grover's Park on Saturday afternoon to launch our new rockets.

We started with lower-thrust engines, to make sure we could retrieve our rockets-- I'd hate to lose them on the first try. We had a pretty good day! Aside from one misfire launching the Hi Jinks (we never determined the cause of a lack of ignition), all six launches consisted of successful ignition, vertical flight, deployment, and recovery close to the launch site.

Our first launch of each rocket was powered by an ESTES A8-3 engine, which is one of the lowest-power model rocket engines.  After all went well, we then launched with ESTES B4-4 engines.  Generally speaking, each letter grade of these rocket engines produces twice the total thrust of the previous letter, so we should expect the B4-4s to produce roughly twice the thrust of the A8-3s.  I was impressed to see the rockets fly quite a bit higher on the B engines, and when I timed the total flight of each rocket later on video, the B-powered flights took twice sa long to reach the ground again.

1RascalA8-3Successful flight and recovery
2Hi JinksA8-3Misfire
3Hi JinksA8-3Successful flight and recovery
4RascalB4-4Successful flight and recovery
5Hi JinksB4-4Successful flight and recovery
6RascalB4-4Successful flight and recovery
7Hi JinksA8-3Successful flight and recovery

This video shows George's first launch using the lower-powered engine:

Here's an unedited video of a flight powered by the higher-thrust B4-4 engine (sorry I lot track of the rocket for a bit).  I recommend blowing this up to full screen to see the tiny rocket up so high!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some Inspiration

Here is a link to a Wired article about the launch of QU8K, an amateur rocket that reached an altitude of 121,000 feet in an attempt to claim the Carmack 100kft Micro Challenge prize.

Amateur Rocket QU8K Reaches 100,000

Here's a short video of the launch:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Jones Boys

I came across a wonderful rocketry site about a man and his son, and their passion for rocketry.  Their site is full of great stories and photographs chronicling their journey.  They started small, and now the Dad is up to Level 2 certification in High Powered Rocketry.

Check out Jones Boys' Rocketry, where they "poke holes in the sky one rocket at a time."

Follow them on Twitter at @JonesBoysRoktry