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KCAR Launch Report: TARC at Olathe NW High

Launch date and time: April 4, 2006 starting at 9:30AM
Launch location: Olathe, Kansas
Launch wind and weather: Cool temps with light winds

Look! We are on TV!

This is the third year that I’ve been invited by the Olathe NW High School to observe their Team America flights. There were three teams the first year. There were eight teams last year (sorry, no write-up), and ten teams this year. Mr. Keiter has developed and entire curriculum around the Challange.

My co-worker, Kyle, came along this year to assist with the timing.

Last year, confronted with eight teams all trying to get in at least one flight, and sometimes two as time allowed, caused me to be swamped attempting to keep up with filling out the forms, doing the math, taking notes, etc. If it hadn’t been for my friend Richard, and his uncanny ability to wield numbers in his head it might have been bad. As it was, we kept up but barely. So this year, learning from my mistakes, I asked for information about the teams’ entries in advance. This way I could take a look at the thrust to weight ratios, check the motors being used against the approved list, and even run a quick sim to find things such as rod exit speed and who’s getting closest to 800-feet and so on. Having these pages of notes in advance improved the situation immeasurably. There was even time to take photos. The only possible problem, then, would be me writing the score(s) on the wrong sheet, so I tried very hard to remember to ask teams who they were when checking in and verify that their page was “on top!”

This worked pretty well, and there was only one time, when three teams were attempting to check in at once, that we were a little backed up. There was even time to take photos and chat a little with the team members.

When I arrived at the school, I checked in at the office, and went up to the classroom. The first hour class was there, already set to go. One of the teams hadn’t forwarded their information to me so I collected that and spent a few minutes running the numbers using pRasp on my Palm T5. Each team was questioned regarding their rocket’s stability and thrust/weight ratio. We talked a little about stability, and then went out to the field.

First hour class
First hour class.
Photo by Tim Burger
When I arrived at the launch site, there was already a media truck there. (The launch area is just West of the building, but I had to park on the other side and drive back over.) We were on live TV on channel 41 (NBC) for a while! Mr K. had asked me to bring my launcher since the school has worn out their fourth Mantis pad. So we set up my big Hornet Pad from Yellow Jacket systems. Mr K. and I discussed finding one like it, and I suggested he get the metal shop to make one as a project or something. He thought he might be able to put one together.

In the meantime, the news reporter chatted with some of the team members, looked over the rockets on camera, and discussed the Challange a little. He launched the sounding rocket sent up to gauge the wind “on the air.” The first team to make an attempt then loaded their entry on the pad and we held for a few minutes for the TV station to come back to us. They lit the first attempt “on the air” too, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out well — in fact it was one of the worst flights of the day as it happened (I believe it’s number 17 in the table below). The altimeter must have seen it coming and leapt in fear prior to impact since it wasn’t found in the wreckage. Too bad they couldn’t have had a more successful flight for the broadcast! Them’s the breaks, I guess.

One of the local newspapers also sent over a photographer and reporter, and after that first flight was worried about where she had parked her car (it survived).

Launching commenced in earnest at this point, with teams preparing their entries, mounting them on the pad in turn, and lighting the motors. Some flights were a bit dicey, some went quite nicely, and one or two were catastrophies. Kyle and I timed the flights, made notes, and teams were expected to bring their egg-capsule to me when they were unpacked. I would also listen to the altimeter chirping out the altitude it measured on the flight at this time.

There were four teams in the first “hour” and six in the second. The news teams hung around for a little while after the first two flights, then packed up and left. Mr. K flew a rocket or two while we were waiting between classes.

The next six teams came out for the next hour. Each team was required to speak with me prior to flying. As with the previous teams, I wanted to know a couple things: I wanted to verify the weight, and ask about the stability. Most of the teams knew what I meant when asked about the margin, one team even knew the answer straight off and gave it to me in calibers. Most teams were only able to show me the center of pressure and center of gravity (Mr K. had them mark those two points on the rockets this year.) It was explained that the sim program they are using just indicates ‘stable’ or ‘unstable’ without showing the margin leaving it to the modeler to figure out. Most teams had a margin near two, but one or two teams were a bit lower and one a bit higher. One of the teams had a margin of about a half-caliber and their rocket flew as predicted (we suggested some nose weight to no avail).

I had no information on a couple of the rockets for this hour too, the Big Salad team being one of them. It turned out that their rocket was severely underpowered. We suggested that they redo the booster to handle two or even three motors in a cluster, or to switch to a larger motor in the sustainer and go single stage. Both of these suggestions would require redesign and rework of the model. We were reluctant to tell them they couldn’t fly, but strongly suggested they fix it before they did. Mr Keiter suggested they mull it over for a while. In the mean time another team was ready to fly.

By this time, there were a lot fewer altimeters than before and Mr K. was picking teams who were likely to be successful to fly first, then the more dodgy entries were allowed to fly. And finally, teams still able and willing to make a second attempt were allowed to go again.

Eventually, it was Big Salad’s turn and they opted to fly, despite the warnings about a too low thrust/weight ratio. As expected, the rocket lumbered up the rod, hung above it for a half a second, then headed down range in cruise missile mode. It staged perfectly just before nosing in amid the groans of the team members and Mr K. who had realized he’d just lost another altimeter.

The challange was really two problems this year. The first problem was to fly a raw large hen’s egg to an altitude of exactly 800-feet and recover it uncracked. Points were added to the score for every foot over or short. The second problem was to be in the air for exactly 45-seconds, measured from first motion to last (or until out of sight.) As with altitude, a point was added to the score for every second short or over. A score of zero is best. A cracked or scrambled egg results in a disqualified flight.

A couple of the teams were getting good altitudes; enough to get a good score, but for one reason or another the scores were disappointing — problems such as ’chutes that didn’t open or that were too large, or failure to lite all the motors, or in one case a separation.

The Penguin Team gets ready
The Penquin Team gets ready.
Photo by Tim Burger
The Scrambled Eggs team had the top score of the day with a score of about 70. They were a little short on altitude and a bit oversized on recovery system. Both flights were consistant, save that the ’chute didn’t open on one of the flights (it came out but tangled) causing a short time. The Blitzkreig team was also a hot contender, over shooting the altitude on an F50 by almost 120-feet which was a big improvement over the F42 which only attained a little more than half the requisite altitude. These two teams, and the Penguin team have (or had) high potential to get very good scores with a little more tuning and practice.

The Penguin team would have done better, except their first attempt separated, causing the part with the egg to float for a lot longer than it would have, and their second attempt resulted in no ’chute for a DQ.

Team V2 also has high potential; their main problem being too much motor! Perhaps a D12 or even C11 upper stage motor would have brought them closer to 800-feet.

Another team worth mentioning is the Silver Bullet team. Their first flight was over 3-minutes long! Their altitude was a tad low on both flights, and coupled with an over-large ’chute resulted in disappointing scores. A touch more motor, and little more tuning on the recovery system would get them in the ball-park at least. They did have two of the prettiest flights we witnessed during the day though. The rocket flew true, and staged beautifully.

Standard Dress might be more of a threat with F50 motors; the F20 is about 50% ‘F’ while the F50 is a bit more powerful at 72%. The increase in altitude would get a little longer time as well.

The clinker of the day had to be the Big Salad flight (term flight used loosely). As already mentioned, the slow majestic lift off followed by the apparent hovering above the rod until a breath of air tipped it downwind and the grinding furrow it plowed was painful to watch.

Even so, overall, it was a pretty good day of launching. Most of the teams made a pretty good showing. Two or three teams are on track and could have a good score with a bit of tuning. Four more seem to know what they are doing and would be major threats with some minor changes to motors and recovery. And the remaining teams, well one at least, needs to return to the design stage and try again. I noticed that most of the teams staged but that the three top scores were accomplished with single stage rockets. There’s really no reason to stage this year; you can, but it isn’t really necessary. Better to use a good solid cluster, or figure out a way to make ‘F’ impulse Econojets work for the purpose. None of the rockets transitioned to different size tubing which would improve overall performance due to lower static drag and if done well lower dynamic drag too.

The time was well spent; Kyle and I enjoyed meeting the teams and witnessing the flights. I’m already looking forward to next year!

And now some statistics: there were 10 teams making a total of 17 flights, of those 5 were disqualified for one reason or another. Total impulse was 1056.21 or mid-‘J’ in 49-total motors. There were 11 staged flight(s) (4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17), and 10 that were both clustered & staged (4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17). There were no single stage clusters.

Flight Log
In order of score
Team Rocket Motor(s) Times Altitude Score Comments
1 Scrambled Eggs Black with White Twist F42-4 57.11
742 70.03 Good flight!
2 Scrambled Eggs Black with White Twist F42-4 19.63
733 92.33 Good flight except ’chute didn’t open. Egg survived!
3 Blitzkrieg Blue Fading to Silver F50-6 57.20
918 130.27 Good flight.
4 Silver Bullet All Silver Rocket 2 x D12-0 to D12-7 62.57
659 158.61 Good flight! Return to top
5 Penguin Red Rocket with Sickle & Hammer Logo 3 x D12-0 to E9-4 103.38
937 194.33 Staged OK though one booster motor didn’t lite. Separated. Return to top
6 Silver Bullet All Silver Rocket 2 x D12-0 to D12-7 201.66
719 237.66 Good flight! Floating . . floating . . Return to top
7 Standard Dress Red with White Cone F20-4 32.80
570 242.32 Good flight — late deployment.
8 Standard Dress Red with White Cone F20-4 32.05
566 247.87 Squirrelly — late deployment.
9 Blitzkrieg Blue Fading to Silver F42-6 29.14
468 347.88 Good flight.
10 V2 Black with Silver Specks Cone & Fins 3 x C11-0 to E9-4 73.87
1264 493.48 Beauty of a flight, over achievers! Return to top
11 Top Fliers White With Black Bands & Fins 3 x D12-0 to 3 x C6-5 18.60
320 498.58 Staged OK; long arching flight with late (just in time) ejection. One booster motor & two sustainer motors didn't lite. Egg OK. Return to top
12 Top Fliers White With Black Bands & Fins 3 x D12-0 to 3 x C6-5 5.14
94 745.86 Classic unstable flight! Eggs survived! Return to top
13 Penguin Red Rocket with Sickle & Hammer Logo 3 x D12-0 to E9-4 35.69
- DQ No ’chute Return to top
14 Cash Money Black & Silver Rocket 3 x D12-0 to C11-5 12.01
- DQ Didn’t lite upper stage Return to top
15 Big Salad Pink Nose & Fins D12-0 to E9-6 6.10
- DQ SERIOUSLY underpowered. Return to top
16 Cash Money Black & Silver Rocket 3 x D12-0 to D12-5 5.34
- DQ Bound on the rod just enough to clear it — only one motor of three lit and it hung up on the clips Return to top
17 Wildfire Yellow Top, Orange Bottom 2 x D12-0 to E9-6 -
- DQ Staged OK; long arching flight into the dirt! Rocket trashed; altimeter lost. Return to top

Scrambled Eggs gets ready
The Scrambled Eggs Team makes a last check before flying
Photo by J. Kyle Sallee
Flights by Teams
Flights Team
Silver Bullet
Standard Dress
Scrambled Eggs
Top Fliers
Cash Money
Big Salad
Blitzkrieg places their entry on the pad
Photo by J. Kyle Sallee
Rockets Making Multiple Flights:
Flights Rocket Team
2 Blue Fading to Silver Blitzkrieg
All Silver Rocket Silver Bullet
Red with White Cone Standard Dress
Black with White Twist Scrambled Eggs
White With Black Bands & Fins Top Fliers
Black & Silver Rocket Cash Money
Red Rocket with Sickle & Hammer Logo Penguin
Top Fliers install the altimeter
Top Fliers install the altimeter
Photo by J. Kyle Sallee
Totals by motor:
Motor Number
C11 4 35.20
C6 6 52.92
Total C’s: 10 88.12
D12 28 471.52
Total D’s: 28 471.52
E9 5 139.35
Total E’s: 5 139.35
F20 2 120.90
F42 3 167.61
F50 1 68.71
Total F’s: 6 357.22
Total: 49 1056.21 (J)

Submitted by Tim Burger, NAR 78486 L1.

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Page created on April 10, 2006.
Last updated on April 12, 2006.