SpringFest 2001 - El Dorado Dry Lake - Day 1

The Los Angeles (Lucerne Test Range) and Las Vegas Tripoli prefects hosted their annual launch at the El Dorado Dry Lake just south of Boulder City. I would estimate that there were over 200 people present, and at least a hundred rockets flew in the two days I was there. I was pleased to take part in the event by achieving my level 1 certifcation with my new rocket, SkyDream.

I drove up there on Friday night, checked into the Hacienda, and went to the range on Saturday and Sunday. Most of my attention Saturday was on my cert flight. I had cram-built SkyDream in the days before the meet, and was still unsure how I was going to mount the motor (as well as exactly what motor to use) when I arrived at the range. It was really windy ... maybe 20-25 knots, and cool (low 50's). The lakebed was still wet from some rain a week before, and during the night the wind had pushed the water too close to the flight line (in fact, it engulfed some campers while they were sleeping, leaving their trailer and truck embedded in mud about 200 feet from dryness).

After re-organizing the flight line, operations began about 9:30 am. In the meantime, I finally got my hands on the much needed 54x38 and 38x29 mm motor adaptors. After seeing (and constructing) them, I realized I would be unable to use the Aeropac retention I had purchased ahead of time, so kind of frantically, I drilled some holes the aft closures of my 29 and 38mm motors, and implemented the Andy-Woerner-Fly-By-Wire retention system (which worked quite well, thank you). Then I promptly tried, and failed my first certification attempt.

I was bummed and the rocket was broken. Dejectedly I joined in for the group shot. I flew the Arreaux a few times for the heck of it. I hardly noticed when such great rockets as VidRoc (with the live downlink to the internet) flew. Thus there are few pictures or movies from Saturday. I bought a replacement tube, some 5 minute epoxy, and went to back to the hotel (stopping at an auto parts store to get some paint), so I could fix the rocket in the hotel room. Not how I hoped it would turn out.

Flight #1 - SkyDream #1 (H220-M)
Level One Certification Attempt

I had planned on flying an H180-S (6 second delay), but, on Andy's advice I flew an H220-M (10 second delay). I guess the theory was that the those extra 40 ns of average thrust would somehow make the rocket stay up an extra 4 seconds. We talked about "shaving" the delay, but forgot to while we were building the motor, and then I didn't want to take the time to take the engine apart after I had wired it into the rocket. After all of the frustrations with getting the rocket done on time, and dealing with the motor retention when I should have been dealing with motor selection, I just wanted to fly it. So, even though Andy offered to open up the motor and fix it before the flight, I let it go with the H220-M.

Understandably, the flight was a disaster. Above is a picture of the boost. The motor burned for what seemed like a split second, spitting the heavy 5 lb rocket about 500 feet up into the air. I knew something was wrong very quickly! So did the whole crowd. As rocket topped over and started barelling toward the ground everyone started making that "ooooooohhhhhh" noise. After what seemed like a couple of eternities, about 75ft from the ground, the ejection charge went off, and everyone made happy noises as the parachute deployed.

Unfortunately, as the rocket was streaking towards the ground when it ejected, the parachute yanked violently upward on the shock cord and the attached metal cable, causing the cable to cut thru the body tube like butter. It's too bad I didn't get a picture of it. When the prefect came over to check the results of my flight, all I had to do was show him the rocket. Not many words were exchanged. I had failed my level one attempt. :-(

Flight #2 - Arreaux #13 (G40-10)

After SkyDream-1 zippered, I decided to put the Arreaux up just to have something to do. I armed the camera to film at ejection, but when it got down it there were no images on the camera. It must not have been armed correctly. It was a nice flight tho. I had rebuilt the body after the crash in Ocotillo (with Devin) and was curious how it would fly. Thus I was a little bit pleased that it went up and came down as planned, even if the camera didn't work.

Flight #3 - Arreaux #14 (G80-10)

I had just lost the mood. The only thing I could think of was to put a G80 in the Arreaux and send it up empty. I'd never flown a G80 before, but after the H220, it was just another G engine as it lifted the Arreaux. I think it spun quite a bit, as I remember someone mentioning it to me. Mostly though, I was already thinking of how I would rebuild SkyDream.

On to Day Two ...