Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Thunderhawk Flies!

Today was my first rocket launch in at least 10 years, and probably longer. When I was a kid, I never even tried to get a photo of a rocket at the moment of liftoff. Using the digital camera today, I actually got to be pretty good at it. But tragically I have zero pictures of the 'Hawk in the air. I cut it a little too fine here. You can see a teensy puff of gray smoke right at the bottom of the rocket (you may have to zoom the crap out of the image, but believe me, it's there). A tenth of a second later she was sitting on a pillar of smoke and fire as long as she is, and another tenth of a second after that she was well out of the frame. So I'm not going to be too hard on myself. Still, I wonder now why it didn't occur to me to point the camera skyward and get a picture of the boost. Something to remember for next time.

Thanks to Alan (left) for launching the rocket while I snapped the pic.

I had Joel take a few photos before the first flight. Just in case, you know?

Fierce, baby!

My fears were unfounded, though. Thursday night I used the Rocket Simulator at EMRR to predict the flight characteristics. The sim predicted a max altitude of 250 feet on a D12, and a three-second coast to apogee after the end of thrust. So I got some D12-3s, and sure enough, the Thunderhawk ROARED off the pad, flew up to about 250 feet, and popped her chute right at the top. There was a light breeze on the first flight, maybe 5 mph, and a bit stiffer breeze on the second. She weathercocked a little, basically just enough so that she landed near the pad after floating down on the chute. On the first flight I could have caught her in the air, but I chickened out at the last minute. That's a lot of rocket coming out of the sky at you! The weeds she landed in were probably more gentle than I would have been anyway.

In the above photo she's set up for a third flight, but it never happened. I tried launching twice, but she didn't fire either time. Mysterious launch system nonfunction plagued us throughout the day, and progressively as the day drew on. I swapped out the motor and igniter (I'm sure it wasn't a motor problem, but why take chances?), but by that time the wind had picked up too much. I used that motor and igniter in my flying saucer, and they worked great. More on that in the next post.

For now, the saga of the Thunderhawk ends on this brave note: looking to the sky, and to the future.


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