Ninfinger Productions: Launch Report

Launch Report

Date 7 April 1996
Time 1:30ish pm CDT
Location Mustang Spaceport
Sky clear
Temperature mid 70's
Wind 5mph
but only at ground level

Rockets Engines:
Estes Intruder A10-3T
Rastrocam/Delta II B6-2
Rastrocam/Maniac D12-3

The Sorry Details...

Well... I was really getting desperate to fly rockets again, but the weather in Austin hadn't been very cooperative: too windy. However the forecast for Easter Sunday looked promising. I was going to spend the day waiting for darkness to see Comet Hyakutake at my parents' house out in the middle of nowhere (unbelievable dark sky!), so I brought a few rockets. I'd finished several rockets that hadn't been flown, but I really wanted to try taking some Astrocam photos of their little farmstead. Just for fun, though, I decided to fly my new Estes Intruder first. I set it up on the pad and handed the launch control to my nephew. I moved aside to photograph the inaugural flight (for me) of 1996.

Intruder flight Until I saw the photograph, I could have sworn that the Intruder just fell off the pad... all I heard was a *phfft* and then it was lying at the foot of the pad. What a piece of junk! I don't think I'll be wasting any more engines on this particular "rocket." And I'll certainly never buy another RediRoc... unless I'm feeling really impulsive.

I decided I would try for a different type of Easter family protrait by flying the Rastrocam on a Delta-II with a B6-2. The rocket took off and weathervaned a bit towards the southwest. I thought that the plastic fin unit had melted through and curled up, causing the rocket to veer off Rocket eating tree like that. Silly me. The camera was ejected on its own chute and landed safely, but the rocket was snared by a rocket-eating tree. Ironically, the Rastrocam photographed the rocket's captor. And of course, none of the family can be seen, since we're all somewhere below the bottom of the photograph... such is the fun of a rocket borne camera: you never know what you're gonna get. But I digress... we still had to get the rocket body out of the tree. Fortunately, I had brought Mr. Longarm just for this occurance. Unfortunately, the rocket was lodged out of Mr. Longarm's reach... so my brother climbed up into the tree and managed to reach the rocket with the pole... but he couldn't budge it. I attached my pocketknife to the end of the pole for a last ditch attempt. My brother finally managed to sever the shock cord and the rocket dropped to the ground.

We rested a bit, then I wanted to try the Rastrocam on a Maniac. I shoved a D12-3 [what a moron! (film at eleven)] into the rocket, mounted the Rastrocam on it, and fired it off. It shot up and really took off towards the southwest. Apparently the surrounding hills were shielding us from a rather brisk breeze... Oh, and a 3 second delay isn't enough, folks... the rocket is traveling way too Blurry photo fast as evidenced by the photo. I think we're seeing the cellulose insulation I've begun to use for wadding as it's flying out of the rocket. [Note to self: Maybe it's not such a good idea to use this type of wadding when flying the Rastrocam.] And I'm pretty sure that the horizon is the bright area at the upper right of the photo.

Another clue that the rocket was going too fast at ejection came shortly after ejection: the shock cord between the camera and the parachute broke and the camera fell from several hundred feet onto a pile of rocks. Believe it or not, it survived... I think. At least, it has no noticeable damage, so I guess I'll find out if it's okay the next time I fly it. But I don't really recommend this recovery technique for any optical device... The rocket, meanwhile, got caught in the jet stream and headed off towards the northeast. It also got snared by a rocket-eating tree; after all, it had been over a year since I'd last fed them [see last year's Easter launch report and the fate of my first HL-20]. This one was really stuck: I couldn't reach it with Mr. Longarm even after climbing as high as I could go... so we retired to the house for dessert. The only way to get the rocket down was to sever the shock cord with a shotgun blast. Recovery technique So my brother loaded up my dad's 20 gauge shotgun and we trekked up the side of the hill that held my rocket. He took aim and fired. What a shot! It blasted the snap swivel apart, allowing the newly freed parachute to drift away. The rocket stayed stuck... Five shots were required to keep blasting the shock cord free until the body fell low enough to retrieve it with Mr. Longarm. I decided that the gods were telling me that the day was not meant for flying rockets. Good decision. I was running out of parachutes anyway.

Oh yeah, and the comet was fantastic!

Sven Knudson, NAR#63297