Saturday, August 19, 2006

Art Applewhite's Gift To Mankind

I had an attack of rocket fever early this spring. It lasted long enough for me to blow all my Christmas money on rockets, but not long enough for the rainy season to end, or for me to get any of them built. That turned out to be just fine, because when I got the announcement about this launch, I had plenty of parts and gear on hand.

The other thing I accomplished (?) in my post-Christmas rocket mania was to find a zillion cool rocketry sites on the web. One that stuck in my mind was Art Applewhite's page on making flying saucers from Hefty Serve'n'Store plastic plates. I definitely wanted to make one, but finding the plates was not easy. Most stores around here just don't carry them. I finally tracked them down at the Wal-Mart (hiss!) on Hegenberger in Oakland--the same place that has all 13mm and 18mm motors for $4.97 a pack.

They had small and large plates, and I picked up the big ones just because, hey, bigger rocket. Then I did some checking on Art's page and found that he was flying these things on much larger engines than I wanted to mess with. So I cut the holes in the top and bottom to hopefully decrease the drag. I have no idea if cutting the holes was effective, but the rocket flew and flew well. I also cut four flaps into the edges of the holes on the bottom of the saucer, and bent them down to lend the thing some rotation.

The saucer had three great flights on D12-3s. The flights were all pretty similar. This rocket has the slowest, noisiest, smokiest liftoffs I've ever seen. I'm a big fan of all three of those things, so I was happy, and it was a definite crowd pleaser. It also made it easy to take good launch photos. In all three cases, she zoomed up to about 100 or 150 feet, spinning, roaring, and smoking all the way.

The only potential problem is that this rocket fell out of the sky fast. She had a tendency to turn on her edge and come in fast and hot like a frisbee. Even with the delay of only three seconds, the ejection charges all blew when she was within 20 feet of the ground, and on the last flight, shown here, she actually landed and then popped. So this is definitely a "heads up" rocket on D engines. But that's not much of a problem, since every head in a wide radius will be turned skyward when one of these babies takes off.

Oh, the package of a dozen Serve'n'Store plates cost less than two dollars, which puts the total cost of the rocket at just under 17 cents. I started construction, such as it is, at 24 minutes after the hour and I was done by hour's end. Best $0.17 cents and 36 minutes I ever invested in a rocket.

Still more launch stuff to come, but I think that's all for this evening.


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