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KCAR Launch Report: 2003 Team America Launch

Launch date and time: March 15 & 16, 2003, 11:00 AM.
Launch location: Tickwood Ranch, near Drexel, MO
Launch conditions: Saturday: Cool (70F) and windy (10-20) and Sunday: Cool (68F) and still windy (10-20)

Some of the club members turned out with this weekend with some of the club equipment to make a launch window available for any Team America Challenge teams that might wish to make a stab at the qualifying. Two teams made test flights last weekend, and we have heard some reports of other teams in the area making flights. This is a special launch since time is running out.

Three teams came out to brave the winds on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The first team to try was the Raytown team with a BT-50 based rocket and a standard egg type capsule. The rocket had three fins on each stage, and used a D12-0 motor staging to a D12-5 using the tape-together method of ignition of the upper stage.It weighed in at about 12 ounces, ready to fly. They made their attempt at about 12:30. The rocket flew pretty well — obviously some test flights were made and the design is about right on as stability goes. Very little weather vaning and good recovery. Alas, one of the eggs was cracked. The altimeter was beeping out an altitude of 895; score of 605. (Zero is the best score.)

The Baldwin team gave it a try next. This team was accompanied by their science teacher and were all actively involved—they were all pretty enthusiastic and actually hung around afterward to see how one of the other teams fared. The design was pretty well advanced. This is a BT-80 based rocket. The booster had no fins — they indicated that they had started out with fins but kept breaking them off and couldn’t figure out a method to fix that problem. We discussed through the wall construction and basswood or ply rather than balsa. The upper stage had long tapered fins, a-la the Phoenix. They were also using a timer for the second stage ignition. Booster stage is a G80-7 staging to a D12-3. Weight is 24-ounces. If anything, this rocket might have a bit too much motor. It was suggested that a seven second delay booster motor might not be such a good idea. They assured us that the timer would kick the second stage motor into action and a ’chute would bring down the pretty heavy booster. The ignition power source is a nine volt battery (new) and an Estes Solar igniter. They made their attempt at about 1:00PM. Unfortunately, the thing tipped hard over into the wind and flew straight down wind in cruise-missile-mode. Then it staged! They went tearing off after it with an FRS radio lent to them by one of the club members. They found it pretty quickly even though it had landed near the road about a mile away. They called for the teacher and requested that come pick them up with the vehicle. He did, and the altimeter was beeping out 555 they returned to the range. Both the eggs and the rocket were trashed.

The Creighton team made the next attempt. They had a fairly heavy, BT-80 based rocket. All up it weighed in at about 20-ounces. The design had four large fins on both stages; a cluster of three C6-0s in the booster, gap staging a single D12-3 in the upper stage. They made their attempt at 1:45. The rocket did fly OK after some work, but only made an altitude of about 265. The eggs survived so it’s qualified! This team had only three persons on site, with one of them doing the bulk of the work. The entire rocket was BT-80 size (no transitions, etc). Overall, it was a good design that flew stably, if wobbly due to being underpowered. I signed off on the flight since it was a qualifying flight. This team returned on the following day to try again with an E9 in the upper stage, and achieved a little more altitude but was still not any where near 1500-feet.

The Raytown team decided to give it another whirl with the same rocket except using an E9-6 in the upper stage. It went a little better, but one egg was broken. The altimeter was beeping out 1,220-feet. That makes the score 380.

The Creighton team returned to try again, also with an E9 in the upper stage. This flight was more or less a repeat of the previous one — picture perfect as launches go, except the altitude was disappointing. It made 440-feet, but the eggs survived! Another qualified flight with a score of 1,060.

The Warrensburg team arrived on Sunday to try their hand at TARC. They were pretty well prepared. They fully understood what they were doing, knew about aerodynamics, and drag, etc. They got some first hand lessons on stability from this experience. Their rocket was a BT-50 based rocket with a BT-80 based payload section. The fins were pretty large with four on the sustainer, and four more (and larger) on the booster. It weighed in at about 16-ounces. The first attempt wasn’t so hot; they insisted on aiming the rocket into the wind thinking that the wind would blow it back to the field under ’chute despite our best efforts to convince them not to do that. The rocket left the rail, and headed straight into the wind as over-stable rockets do. The result was a stripped ’chute, broken eggs, and a trashed payload compartment. The rest of the sustainer and the altimeter survived with some slight damage. The good news is that it did stage! The team had neglected (apparently) to put eggs in their simulation! A long rocket with a heavy forward section is already nearly stable without fins. With great big fins it is now a weather vane. (Another team had already found this out earlier in the month—that team eventually overcame their issues and put in a very nice qualifying flight.) The rocket actually survived this first launch, and the team, fully prepared, set about fixing the damage. I lent them my “emergency kit” (a box with tape, glue, shroud line, a sharp knife, some wood, etc.). They came up with a paper cone to replace the trashed nose, and were able to repair and cut down on the fins some. The second flight went a little better (this time they paid attention to the pad manager—me—and tipped the rod downwind this time.) The rocket left the pad, headed downwind, arced back into the wind and was actually pretty close to directly over the pad when the ejection happened. It had staged perfectly, too. Unfortunately the wind played havoc with them again, but in another way. It drifted into the trees and was found in the heavily wooded area adjacent to the field. It was recovered with the use of a cherry picker owned by one of the locals. Unfortunately, it was necessary for me to leave the field before it was recovered, but George was able to stay and sign them off. Another team qualified!

Assisting the teams at the launch was quite an experience. Some of the teams really seemed to have it together and were all actively involved in the preparation. Chatting with them and assisting with the launching was challenging and rewarding and a lot of fun. Wish we had thought to take some photos!

The club would like to thank the field owners, Dave and Carol Alburty, for putting up with us—we were on their field three or four weekends in a row to allow teams a chance to test fly and qualify!

Team Motor(s) Score
Raytown D12-0 to D12-5 605
Baldwin City G80-7 to D12-3 DQ
Creighton 3 X C6-0 to D12-3 1245
Raytown D12-0 to E9-6 380
Creighton 3 X C6-0 to E9-6 1060
Warrensburg D12-0 to E9-6 DQ
Warrensburg D12-0 to E9-6 Sorry, didn’t record

Motors Burned
Motor Number Impulse
C6 6 52.92
D12 7 117.88
E9 4 111.48
G80 1 116.25
Totals: 18 398.53 (I)

Submitted by Tim Burger, NAR 78486.

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