Saturday, January 31, 2009

What is it?

What famous rocket does this describe? Note: AA = 2x Z, AB=2x AA, etc:
3xAC 2,170,000 + 2x AE 13,800,000 cluster RG

Friday, January 30, 2009

Geeky moment

So I'm walking into school today...I look down at the side walk...and it looks like a tree...a dendritic pattern, to be specific. It was simply meltwater from the ice formed on Wednesday, but it formed these very nice fractal patterns. I felt very geeky knowing what they were. Why they form is discussed here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Orbital Transport

My newest project: the Orbital Transport, a semi-scale clone of the famed Orbital Transport kit that's 6" shorter than the original. It has a short glider, larger 'ramjet' tubes, a real balsa nosecone for the glider, and either a real balsa cone for the booster or a snazzy SR-71 nose cone painted white.
More details later.

OV10 rebuilding

Just a short update: the OV10 is rebuilt and ready to fly. The glider was undamaged, but the power pod was badly broken. I took a new 7.5" length on BT-20, put in a new engine block, old engine hook, and old aft retaining ring, and then had to leave it there while school happened. Yesterday, I glued the launch lug into a wing-body fillet for strength, balanced and glued on the forward retaining ring, ground a new BNC-20 (an ogive 2.5" long), balanced it with clay, glued it on, and drilled two 1/4" vent holes 1.5" aft of the nose cone shoulder. It'll fly on a B6-2 the next time I fly rockets.

Wacky Weather

It's the 29th of January already. Unless we get some (typical New England)wacky swing in the weather, we will have gone this entire month without seeing the grass or 45°. That's a harsh winter even for Connecticut. We've had at least 4 snowfalls this month plus the big storm on New Year's Eve.

We've had either 2 or 3 'normal' days off, at least 2 delayed openings, one day where the high and middle schools (which open at 7:45) had school but due to increasing winds and downed power lines the elementary schools (open at 8:45) did not, plus Monday when both the main and backup boilers at our high school failed and we got out at 10:15. Only in Cowtown.

Despite the constant snow cover, I managed to launch 5 times this month - one single MMX plus 4 launches of 2-5 flights each. I can't wait till conditions are such that parachutes will open and my rockets don't get wet on touchdown.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Screaming Yellow Zonker!

My lovely newly reconstructed Screaming Yellow Zonker!:

As you can see, I drained the former red fluid (water plus polyacrylate - synthetic gelatin) from the nose cone as its weight is no longer needed for stability, attached the lower stage minus its engine block, and glued in the 6" of BT-20 from the power pod of Scissor-wing Transport. I had the BT-20 stick out 1/2" in order to use masking tape for motor retention. A clone of SYZ! could be built using one stock Quest Totally Tubular kit, balsa for the fins, and and either the supplied motor tube plus 1" of BT-20 or about 5" total of BT-20. Five of the six 2.75" lengths of T20 (Quest body tube that slides just over standard BT-20) will be left over. The main body tube is also T20.
The business end of the rocket. Note the launch lug next to a fin, the cant on the end of the fin above it, and the protruding motor tube.
Posted by Picasa

Estes Information Overload!

I just discovered a mildly hidden directory on the Estes website: here. It includes instructions for almost every kit they've ever produced, images for most of them, downloads including motor charts, a few old catalogs, old educational stuff, and more. Lots'o useful stuff. It has all their news kits that JimZ doesn't cover. I managed to find instructions for a smaller Patriot kit, in which I found that the kit is made not of one main body tube, but instead 2 main tubes and a smaller tube for the upper section, which bodes well for including a payload section, mid-body separation, and possibly recovering the payload section and motor section on 2 different parachutes.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lots o' pictures

My dad's camera is nice. 5.5 megapixel photos and pretty good focusing.

SpaceShipOne with a yardstick for comparison.
Another shot of it on the floor. This one strikes me as very aesthetically pleasing for some reason.


Standing tall. About 39" or so.

A close-up of the fins.

On the left is the plastic, washable, indestructible Jinx, and on the right the high-flying (has flown on a C6 and B6/B6) SPEV named Frankenstein. Both are 4FNC (like 3FNC, but with an extra fin), reasonably not not incredibly high-flying, tumble-recovery rockets. Good for a first flight to test the wind and your GSE. Jinx is a 13mm bird, Frankenstein has an 18mm mount.


My three principal payload carriers. From L-->R: Cosmic Cobra, ruler, Astrocam, Alexi Leonov.

I have to link to my mom's photo of the day here. An absolutely great picture of a squirrel caught red-pawed.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Launch Report #16

I went out and launched 5 rockets on 5 flights on 6 motors in 28° weather today.
First came my Scissor-Wing Transport on a C6-3. It was my oldest 'virgin' (i.e, made or bought but not launched) rocket. Now my only 3 are MMD (Sept. or Oct. 2008), Comanche-3 (Oct. 2008), and Rokit (Jan. 2008). The nozzle was very small; I had to use a mini-engine plug instead of a standard C6 plug. Because of the odd nozzle and the very long, powerful burn, I almost wonder if I got an old C5-3 that was mislabeled. It boosted high and straight, ejected just past, and separated cleanly. The pod came down slowly, but the streamer didn't upwrap and it crimped a bit on impact with the ice - which was actually important later. The glider came down safely but fast; I will have to rebalance it.

Second was Cohete on an A3-4T. It wasn't quite stable with the shortened stick fin; I'll have to find a new longer one and'or only fly it on A10-3Ts - more altitude and shorter delay equals safer.

Third was Screaming Yellow Zonker! on a C6-0 / A8-5 combo; my first A8-5 I have ever used. It left a nice spiral smoke trail and made a thup-thup-thup sound; staging was high at around 300+ feet. The sustainer was completely unstable; it trashed around under thrust, then ejected at around 200 feet with no damage.

I have now, using extra tubing from the Scissor-wing Transport's shortened power pod, made it into a 1-stage rocket. I simply took the 6" length from the power pod, put an engine block in it, slid it up the sustainer tube until it hit the engine block, glued it on, the glued the booster to the bottom. Now I've got a fully stable, 1-stage rocket that still will spiral, make noise, and leave an awesome smoke trail. Pictures are a'comin.

Next was Frankenstein on a C6-5 - high, fast flight, ejection just past at around 800 feet, recovery just on the field even just with tumble recovery. It drifted a long way.
Finally was the Astron Invader:

It did 2 spirals below 50 feet under power, gliding up to around 120 feet after burnout, ejected around 80, and glided decently well - about 10 seconds. I even found the motor casing in 6" of snow. Despite this scary picture, it didn't crash.
I have now flown 67 motors on 56 flights on 30 rockets and distinct boosters, for a total of 311.62 Ns - a 94.8% H. One more C6 or two B6s will put me in I range. 4.65 Ns (86% B) per motor and 5.56 (11.2% C) per flight. I flew 4 Cs and 2 As today for 34.9 Ns - that's very high for me, but less than my 1/18 and 11/16 launches and almost exactly equal to 11/2.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Stayed up till 2 having discussions on Facebook about religion, friends, and other stuff I don't even remember. Got up too early.

We drove up to Massachusetts to see my sister at college. It only took 2 hours, 15 minutes, a record for us but a lot slower than the 5:36 it takes in an F16. We went shopping, mostly for her, but I had a few things as well. At Staples I stuck out completely, but I got a 6V lantern battery, miniature digital camera, and Krazy glue at Target for a total of 30 bucks. More details next post.
We went out to dinner along with a friend of hers at a place called Not Your Average Joes. Pretty good.

I finished 2 books: Arctic Drift by Clive and Dirk Cussler and Fulcrum, an autobiography of Alexander Zuyev, a Soviet pilot who flew his MiG-29 to Turkey in 1989 in an attempt to provide the West with the most advanced Soviet fighter of the time. Turkey returned the fighter and its missiles to the USSR, but his knowledge and pilot manuals gave the US an edge in the Persian Gulf War. Arctic Drift is another great Dirk Pitt adventure novel.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A guide to my Acronyms

Because the non-rocketry geeks about there have been complaining about how hard my blog is to read, here's a guide to all the acronyms I use.

If you're looking for the NAR motor code, it's here.

3FNC: 3 Fins and a Nose Cone; plain-jane, boring rockets.
AGL: Above Ground Level; the altitude a flight achieves above the actual ground level rather than sea level.
ARF: Almost Ready to Fly; kits that require minimal assembly like attaching the parachute and nose cone to the shock cord.
BAFTE: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the gov't organization who have improperly and incorrectly specified rocket motors as explosives.
BNC: Balsa Nose Cone
BT: Body Tube; usually used with a number afterwards to indicate size.
CA: Cyanoacrylate - superglue
CAR: Canadian Assocation of Rocketry; the Canadian version of the NAR.
CATO: any number of similar expressions meaning Catastrophe At Take Off; also the name of the local rocket club to which I belong.
CHAD: CHeap and Dirty staging: having the booster motor attached without a booster stage; usually used to give more altitude for normally-single-staged rockets.
E2X: Easy To Construct; Estes kits that don't require gluing balsa but do require a bit of assembly.
EGE: Me, the Evil Genius Extraordinaire.
EGEEA: The EGE's Esteemed Assistant; my very geeky younger cousin.
EMRR: Essence's Model Rocket Reviews; the premier rocketry review site on teh interwebs.
GBU: Guided Bomb Unit; I have a scale model of the GBU-24.
GSE: Ground Support Equipment. This includes your launch pad, set of launch rod(s), ignition system, and if needed a separate battery. Easy to cheaply make, but a good set is essential.
HPR: High-Power Rocketry; from H to O motors, and beyond.
IT: Intra-Terrestrial; my MMX saucer.
LPR: Low-Power Rocketry; usually means from A to E motors, but can include up to G
METRA: The NY-area TRA club that flies at Pine Island.
MMT: Motor MounT; the thing that holds the motor inside the rocket.
MMX: MicroMaxX; 6mm micro motors made by Quest.
MPR: Mid-Power Rocketry; usually from E to G motors.
NAR: National Association of Rocketry; the major rocketry organization in the US.
NC: Nose Cone
Ns: Newton-second; a unit of thrust equal to 0.225 pounds-seconds.
OV10: My new rocket glider, named after the OV-10 Bronco.
PNC: Plastic Nose Cone
QC: Questionable Content; a webcomic I read.
RTF: Ready To Fly; kits that come preassembled. Most are actually ARF.
SPEV: Spare Parts Elimination Vehicle. Rockets made out of scrap just to use up the scrap. This is stuff like Rokit, Frankenstein, IT, my 18mm and 24mm saucers, and my soon-to-be-made Orbital Transport.
TRA: Tripoli Rocketry Association; the major HPR organization in the US.
WAC Corporal: an old sounding rocket which I plan to make a scale model of. WAC either is in honor of the Women's Air Corps or stands for Without Attitude Control as it had no active stability; merely 3 fins.
XKCD: Another webcomic I read; it's not an acronym but simply 'a treasured and carefully-guarded point in the space of four-character strings.'

Thursday, January 22, 2009


It appears that there's basically no way I'm going to do my Level 1 certification right now. There's no way I can fly an H motor at Durham at all because the field is of questionable size - too close to buildings, the Fire Marshall doesn't really want them doing high power stuff in Durham, and according to the CATO message board, they've got an 'Ornery neighbor.'

The closest HPR (high-power rocketry) field, then, is Pine Island, NY, home of METRA. My parents are pretty supportive of my rocketry endeavors, but trying to get one or both to drive 31/2hours one way, thru New York traffic no less, stay around all day if not overnight, watch a ton of rockets be launched, then drive 3+ hours back... Not gonna happen.

This means that until either CATO can launch at Frinks Farm again - questionable at best, since Frinks switched to being a sod farm - or I can get my license and be comfortable driving to New York, at least a year away, there's no way I'm gonna do high power for a while. Sigh.

However, that does free up some money for some fun stuff like getting a big 29mm kit. *Grins evilly*

Long Road out of Eden

The full lyrics to the new Eagles song. I heard them in concert last summer and they were amazing.

Moon shining down through the palms
Shadows moving on the sand
Somebody whispering the 23rd Psalm
Dusty rifle in his trembling hands
Somebody trying just to stay alive
He got promises to keep
Over the ocean in America
Far away and fast asleep

Silent stars blinking in the blackness of an endless sky
Cold silver satellites, ghostly caravans passing by
Galaxies unfolding; new worlds being born
Pilgrims and prodigals creeping toward the dawn
But it's a long road out of Eden

Music blasting from an SUV
On a bright and sunny day
Rolling down the interstate
In the good old USA
Having lunch at the Petroleum Club
Smoking fine cigars and swapping lies
They say, "Give me 'nother slice of that barbecued brisket
Give me 'nother piece of that pecan pie"

Freeways flickering; cell phones chiming a tune
We're riding to Utopia; road map says we'll be arriving soon
Captains of the old order clinging to the reins
Assuring us these aches inside are only growing pains
But it's a long road out of Eden

Back home, I was so certain; the path was very clear
But now I have to wonder - what are we doing here?
And I'm not counting on tomorrow and I can't tell wrong from right
But I'd give anything to be there in your arms tonight

Weaving down the American highway
Through the litter and the wreckage, and the cultural junk
Bloated with entitlement, loaded on propaganda
And now we're driving dazed and drunk

Went down the road to Damascus, the road to Mandalay
Met the ghost of Caesar on the Appian Way
He said, "It's hard to stop this bingeing once you get a taste
But the road to empire is a bloody, stupid waste"

Behold the bitten apple, the power of the tools
But all the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

OV10, smoke, and QC

I'm starting to rebuild the power pod of my OV10. The balsa nose cone I bought online is fairly beat up already; I suspect it was made out of fairly soft balsa. After glide testing and 1 more flight, it'll need replacing with one of my homemade cones, which use fairly hard balsa. The hard balsa makes it a pain in the ass (figuratively) and in the wrist (literally) to sand, but I suspect they'll hold up to the stresses of flight well.
When I went to put a ring of CA on the rim of it for stiffening, a bit of smoke came up. I know that CA will produce an exothermic (read: heat-producing, smoke-making, clothes-burning) reaction with cotton, but unless it reacted with the marker used to color the balsa it should have been fine.
I need to cut an engine block, glue that in, glue on the aft centering/slide-restaining ring and engine hook, balance, glue on the forward ring, cut 2 vent holes, glide-test, and fly. The construction should be done tomorrow, I'll fly it the next time I fly.
I finished reading though the Questionable Content archives today - all 1322. It's now on my daily link list.

Rama fixing

I'm currently fixing Rama, which needs a new shock cord and replaced fins after several, um, failed drop tests. The parachute worked fine, but the shock cord broke, leaving the rocket finless on the ground and the parachute 12' up in the crabapple tree. I had to get a ladder to get it down.
I just polished the plastic fins so they're almost perfectly clear. You-all have no idea how hard it is to find *clear* plastic fins in a basement of mess.

Update later on: Rama is fixed and ready for action. All three fins are CAed and plastic-cemented on, and I've got about 24" of good, solid, new 1/4" elastic shock cord tied to the screw eye I previously put into the nose cone shoulder and a 2" long screw screwed into the forward bulkhead and wold-glue-soaked cotton batting.

Because it's so heavy and the fins are so hard to attach well, I'll be using the biggest chute I've got that fits - currently an 18" homemade chute, but maybe the 32" plastic chute that comes with my Apogee order, which I hope to make tonight or tomorrow. It'll fly on a C6-3; if it survives that maybe I'll fly it on a D21-4 at CATO. That'll give it a good kick in the pants.

(D21-4 eventually worked well; C6-3 not so much).


Maturity is knowing you were an idiot in the past.
Wisdom is knowing you'll be an idiot in the future.
And common sense is knowing that you should try not to be an idiot NOW.
--Dora, Marten and Faye from Questionable Content

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Glider Pod and Hummingbird

This is my MMX glider, the Hummingbird. It's a fairly typical pod-pod boost glider, with 2 fins for stability.
The glider: 1/16" and 1/32" balsa, a wooden skewer, clay, and 1/32" plastic for the pod hook. It glides decently, but its successor will glider better and be made all of 1/32" or 1/64" basswood of plywood. The hook is really too far back on the glider, which puts it too far forward on the too-short boost pod, making the whole thing unstable. 
That's why I put on the stick with two fins. Little weight penalty, but much more stability. Soon to be tested as soon as I get more MMX motors. 
The pop pod for my two main gliders. It's 5" of BT-50 from the Mongoose, a PNC-50 from [deity] knows where, and a motor mount tube from the Quest Totally Tubular kit that provided my Screaming Yellow Zonker!. Launch lug from the wizard found in the woods, hook from plywood from an airplane kit. clay for reinforcement. Masking tape and plastic scrap for centering rings. A spare piece of elastic and a streamer from something. Yay.
Posted by Picasa

Wizard photos

In my never-ending quest to post photos of all my rockets.....
The awesome paint job, as done by my dad 5 years ago. Red, yellow, blue, and gold. Note the chipped fin at top.

The business end. Note the missing fin, replaced with plain balsa (That's my style - keep the war wounds as a matter of pride), and the slightly forward fins for using tape for motor retention.
Posted by Picasa

Balsa Nose Cones!

I've been working on turning balsa nose cones with a hand drill and sandpaper. I cut chunks of hard 1/4" balsa (given to me by the EGEEA (Evil Genius Extraordinaire's Esteemed Assistant)), glue them together with CA, then drill a hole, stick in a dowel or metal rod, spin on the drill, and sand. I've turned a 13mm cone, an 18mm ogive, and a 24mm parabola. The 18mm and 24mm nose cones will be used on my semi-clone of the Astron Orbital Transport, while the 13mm cone is for a scale model of the WAC Corporal / Tiny Tim as featured in the latest NAR guidebook.

The shoulders showing the holes in the larger cones for a 3/8" metal rod I used and the 1/4" dowel in the 13mm cone.


A top view of the cones. Note how the 24mm cone is not quite symmetrical. Oh well...


See! The 18mm and 24mm cones actually fit in their tubes. I don't have a 13mm tube right now.
Posted by Picasa


I think I've decided on what kit I want to get for my Level 1 certification: A Madcow Rocketry4" Patriot kit.

I plan to buy it from Apogee Components because Apogee has other stuff I need and legendary customer service, plus I get a free 32" plastic parachute with my order. I'd like to be able to fly it on the 29mm single-use G motors like these, so I need 29mm body tube and a 29mm engine block. While I'm at it, I might as well get enough building materials to last a while, so I'll go for a Tubes o' Plenty and Rings o' Plenty. Along with a G78-4, I'll be pushing 150+ bucks, but that's still only a couple weeks worth of pay for me, for a rocket that'll take me a month of afternoons to build, paint, ogle, and prep for launch.

The kit is fairly basic: Body tube, payload section, bulkhead, plastic nose cone. 4 fins, MMT, 2 centering rings. 2 screw eyes, shock cords, 36" parachute, 9"x9" chute protector. Rail buttons and 1 large "US ARMY" decal. It's a bit expensive at around 95 bucks plus shipping, but these Madcow kits are apparently very high quality and well-worth the money. It'll hit around 1200 feet on a 38mm H motor and about 400 on a G77/78-4, but I don't know if the 4-second delay is short enough. I'll probably order a G78-4 loadable for the first flight in case I can't fly even an H at CATO.

Speaking of Apogee's legendary customer service: I've heard it's good and all, but I got it well-proven to me yesterday. I sent them an email on their website yesterday - on Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday no less, and I got a very detailed response from Tin Van Milligan, Apogee's owner, less than 4 hours later. He even ran a few simulations on Rocksim for me. I also get a free 32" plastic parachute for it being my first order from them and a free 3-pack of 24mm nose cones for being an NAR member. Cool stuff!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Launch Report #15

As always, click to embiggen. These are all from my dad's new high-res digital camera, so you can zoom in all the way.
Here's me putting the Lego rocket on the pad with my new 4' long 3/16" rod. I got that rod and a 3' 1/8" at a local hardware store for around $3 each under 'welding supplies.' Because it was so heavy and the booster stage fit on too loosely, it was a pain to put on and get hooked up. I wasted an igniter, the second try got the motor off.


Here's the Lego rocket / Vampire combo lfting off. It cleared a circle of snow 12" in diameter and 2" thick, down to the ice underneath.
The flight went awry. It went about 30 feet up, started to lose stability - it was too heavy - reached its peak around 60 feet up, staged, and impacted right around burnout. It fortunately turned onto its side just before impact, which allowed me to recover all the pieces except three. Three pieces broke; two slightly, but one 2x4 brick was literally cut in half by the ice.

My advice: don't fly a Lego rocket without large fins and a long body for stability, a large field with no one nearby, and a high-thrust composite motor. It was an interesting idea idea, though, and Legos *can* hold up to the stress of liftoff, if not of a crash.
This was fun. My 24mm saucer on a D12-0 staging to my Mongoose on an A8-3. It worked fairly well; the flame of the D12 reflected off the saucer's underside and made it look orange, but the saucer was a little to slow to stage safely and the Mongoose was slightly unstable, going off at a 45° angle, but it recovered safely.

A perfect flight from my Jinx on a A10-3T. It landed less than 15 feet from the pad. Note the very high peak thrust of the A10; it's putting out as much flame as a D12. This picture is slightly darkened by Picasa's processing, but it looks really cool.

I also flew my glider #2 on a B6-2. It flew great with less arcing over than the original glider, but it separated around burnout with no damage. Even with only half the normal altitude, the glider still glided for around 30 seconds, making nice sweeping circles. A flew onlooking sledders were suitably impressed; one cried out, "An airplane!"

I updated my motor impulses with data from Thrustcurve that reflects the actual rather than ideal total impulses of the motors. This knocked my total impulse flown and average impulse columns down about 10%. I flew 4 rockets plus 2 boosters on 4 flights yesterday for 51 Ns (27% F), making my totals 29 distinct rockets plus boosters on 61 motors on 51 flights for 271.92 Ns (70% H), an average of 4.45 Ns (78% B) per motor and 5.33 Ns (7% C) per flight.

The percentage of a motor class is the percentage of the way it is on the scale from the minimum of the motor class (160 Ns for H) to the maximum (320 Ns), so 271 Ns is a 70% H.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reading through webcomics

There are thousands of webcomics out there. However, there are very few that are geeky, smart and truly, side-splittingly funny. I've read through the entire archives of 6 different webcomics and am working on a seventh.
The first one I read through was Mother Goose and Grimm. It is a mainstream newpaper comic, but until 2006 it did not run in my local paper and so I read through 11 years, about 4017 comics, plus around another 1000 in the editorial archives. It is a bit more intellectual and highbrow than, say, Family Circus, and many of its references are mildly geeky.
I think the next comic I read all the way through was Irregular Webcomic!. Despite the name, David Morgan-Mar has made 2183 strips since the end of 2002. It's very geeky humor in a variety of themes. Many of the strips make very highbrow jokes that are then explained in the educational annotations, which I learn a lot from.
Next came Casey and Andy. It's ended now after 666 strips, but I am proud to say that I was around to notice when it ended. It's full of geeky humor, unexplained resurrections, and of course the author's avatar dating a hilarious female Satan.
The best geek webcomic of all time is XKCD. Although a relative newcomer at 531 strips, it's absurd, entertaining, and full of incredibly obscure geek references. Which I get, sadly.
One I just discovered a few days ago is Men in Hats. It's the story of six guys in hats (plus, once, the sandwich vendor) who walk around the desert being philosophical and Aram (the predecessor of the black hat guy from XKCD) being evil. It's discontinued now after around 120 strips.
Currently, I am reading my way through about 1800 strips of Questionable Content. It's a comic about a indie rock guy, his girlfriend, his anthropomorphic robots, and a cast of other interesting characters. I'm only 100 strips in, but I have a feeling I'll read through the entire thing by monday.
Update: I'm at 181 strips now, and QC is a bit NSFW. Not that bad, but a bit off-the-wall sometimes. Just a warning.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rocket Building and News

I've taken the ripped power pod from the OV10, cut it to 5.5", and it's now the body tube for part of my newest project. I've been working on carving a BNC-20 using a drill. Some success...

I've fully repaired Rama. New motor mount, reinforced bulkheads, reglued fin. I stuffed the space between the outer tube and the motor/stuffer tubewith tightly packed quilt batting. It's cheap, easily compressed, flame-resistant (it's sealed in anyway) and it holds the stuffer tube and centering rings perfectly. It'll fly on a C6-3 or CHAD (CHeap And Dirty) staged C6-0/C6-5. I'll use my 18" homemade chute, maybe even the 24" one, for a nice slow descent.

While I was doing my review of Cohete for EMRR last night, I accidentally broke the plastic stick fin in two. I tossed the 6" broken part, plastic cemented a 6" length of thinner plastic rod (styrene from an old airplane kit) in, and it's good. Looks a bit cooler too. It was originally intended to be marginally stable without a stick-fin, so it'll be fine.

Assembly stuff for the Lego rocket and the OV10 will be up soon. Patience, young grasshopper.

EMRR reviews for Cohete, IT, and Mongoose are all submitted. They'll be up around the 24th or so.

I'm planning to make an order from Apogee components soon. Some 13mm, 18mm, 24mm, and maybe 29mm tubes, possibly 2 29mm nose cones, some centering / adapter rings, and a 32" parachute and 3 24mm nose cones, the parachute free for it being my first order from them and the 3 NCs from my NAR membership.

Update: I just finished a 31/2-caliber 18mm ogive. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good for a second try. The first was another 18mm cone, about 11/2 caliber. However, it was using old stock that wasn't perfect. This one is almost perfect. It's hard balsa and one painted will hold up pretty well. I just gotta put in a screw eye for the shock cord.

Humanity FAIL

[angry blasphemous rant}
According to Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, the Catholic Church has released a new list of sins. Read about it on the BABlog here.
Apparently, to the Pope, desecrating the Eucharist (Communion) wafer, even by simply spitting it out, is a more sin than murder, even genocide. That means that just by doing anything to that meaningless wafer, one can become worse than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, the Armenians, etc. That's messed up.
Even more so, according to many of the comments of that post, most Catholics disagree with the Vatican's rule that the wafers are literally the body of Christ. Thus, not only is the Vatican abandoning any semblance of reality, they are actually alienating the more sensible members of their church. I respect the Catholic church's right to free speech, but they are officially fucked up.
[/angry blasphemous rant]

This makes no sense

So we had no school yesterday, which was nice, although at both 7:00 (time to go in) and 2:30 (go home), the roads were well cleared. It only snowed about 2 inches during the entire storm, which lasted from 8:00 to noon.
Today, it's 1° F out. It's too cold for kids to be safely at bus stops and many cars, particularly the older models which high school students drive, won't start. I'm lucky that a neighbor who works at the high school gives me a ride, because other wise I would get dangerously cold waiting for a bus that is sometimes up to 15 minutes late, and about once a month never comes at all.
WTF, mate?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Launch Report #14

Even in 19° F weather, I still managed to fly 2 rockets. Since I flew my Cosmic Cobra without a chute, neither rocket had any parachute to open in the cold weather. I burned 2 motors for 15 Ns (mid D) total.

First came the Cosmic Cobra on a C6-5. This was the first C6-5 I've ever burned in about 50 flights on Estes motors, except possibly the Cobra's second flight which was probably on a C6-3. It boosted straight and fast and uprange a bit; ejection was just after apogee. The body glided nicely. It came down in the parking lot after about 10 seconds. The nose cone spun nicely, sometimes right side up, sometimes upside down, and sometimes not spinning at all. It landed 15 feet from the booster about 25 seconds after ejection. It looked like I was going to lose both on the roof, but the rocket gods were kind. I gotta try this on a D21-4.

Second came my new OV10. It looked like a good boost, although it arced over my head a bit, but in fact the launch lug had stuck and fallen off halfway up the rod! (This is why I plan to buy a more solid, one-piece, 48" steel rod to replace my current 2-piece, 32" rod.)
Ejection on the B6-2 was just after apogee. Because the ejection gasses had nowhere to go, they kicked off the nose cone, ripped the motor, hook, and aft centering ring right out of the model, and fortunately kicked the glider into a flat position. It half-glided, half-floated down to a safe landing. I found the motor, etc about 20 feet away and the nose cone almost 100 feet away.
I will use the remaining 5.5" of the pod tubing to make my new secret project and the 7.5" of BT-20 left from the tubing to make a new pod. I will put vent holes in this time.

So far, I've flown 25 distinct rockets on 48 flights on 55 motors for a total of 252.64 Ns (mid H). That's 4.59 (high B) per motor and 5.26 (low C) per flight.
Sorry, no pictures. I was alone except for a few kids playing football that noticed the Cosmic Cobra and wre suitably impressed by the glider.

More Pictures!

I plan to submit EMRR reviews of my Mongoose, IT, and Cohete today. Here are the static pictures of each I took today:


Here's my Mongoose and its booster. Note the charring on the booster from when it fell off the bottom of the Lego rocket and the yellow launch lug, formerly of my destroyed Space Bus.

A view into the booster. Note the lack the an engine tube; I removed it after it crumpled and the motor is simply held in place by the centering rings.
The front of Cohete with a 13mm casing for scale.
The entire rocket. The stickfin is 3 times the body's length but 1/20th the weight.

An oblique view.
The top of IT. Note the grass implaed on the motor tube.
The bottom of IT. Note the drilled hole for the rod.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rocketry Geek Code

So there's this thing called the Geek Code created by Robert A Hayden. It's a neat and funny way for geeks like me to classify themselves. In a fit of boredom, I have created a rocketry geek code. It works much the same way as the original:

The rocketry Geek Code Version 1.0

MM Size of motors you typically fly:
MM++++ >98mm. Aerotech is for wimps.
MM+++ 75mm-98mm. I fly rockets bigger than me.
MM++ 38mm-54mm. HPR is nice, but I'm not crazy.
MM+ 29mm. MPR is all I need.
MM 24mm. Composite motors kick Estes's butt any day.
MM- 18mm. Estes motors are fine for me.
MM-- 13mm. I only have a small flying field.
MM--- 6mm. What's the point of rockets if you can't fly them in your backyard?

S+++++ I build and fly L5 kits with ease. I've either built a Saturn V or plan to. I can build anything from my parts box. I am the grandmaster of epoxy.
S++++ I build and fly L4 kits. I have a sizable parts bin. I can build safely with epoxy.
S+++ I build and fly L3 kits pretty well. I can use CA without gluing myself to the rocket. I have enough spare parts to build a rocket or two.
S++ I build and fly L2 kits pretty well. I can use wood glue and plastic cement and only glue myself with CA once. I have a few spare parts tucked away.
S+ I build and fly L1 kits with reasonable success. Wood glue is fine for me. I can use recovery devices other than 'plastic wad'.
S I build and fly E2X kits with decent success. I can use Elmer's glue and maybe wood glue. Balsa is a bit above me.
S- I built a rocket once. With a little time, I could build an E2X kit. I spill glue sometimes.
S-- I cannot build a good rocket of any level. I refuse to sand balsa. I glue my fingers together with every adhesive.
S--- I cannot use basic tools or glue. I cut balsa with scissors. I tape my fins on and glue the nose cone on. I currently have several fingers stuck together.
!S I only fly RTF kits. BUilding is for weenies.

C++++ I fly amateur or Professional rockets.
C+++ I am certified Level 3.
C++ I am certified Level 2.
C+ I am certified and fly Level 1.
C I am certified L1, but I mostly fly LPR / MPR.
C- I am uncertified, but I can safely fly MPR rockets.
C-- I fly only LPR.
C--- I can only fly MMX.
C--- I work for BAFTE.

M++++ I own a hobby shop or rocketry business.
M+++ I have become bankrupt due to rocketry.
M++ I have taken out a loan to buy rocketry items.
M+ I spend over $1000/yr on rocketry.
M I spend over $100/yr on rocketry.
M- I spend at least $25/yr on rocketry.
M-- I buy one pack of motors or one rocket per year.
M--- I never spend any money on rocketry.

Number of Rockets
N++++ I own every Estes kit ever made.
N+++ I have over 100 rockets. I have at least half the rockets in one manufacturer's catalog.
N++ I have at least 30 rockets. I add several per month and I can usually find them all.
N+ I have at least a dozen rockets. I get a few new ones every year.
N I have more than one rocket. I'm planning to buy another one soon.
N- I have one rocket that has flown and will fly again.
N-- I have one rocket in the basement somewhere.
N--- I had one rocket which has since been eaten by a tree.

Field: How big is your area?
F++++ I have a flying field the size of Colorado. I need a Jeep to find my rockets.
F+++ I own at least a square mile of land. I use an ATV for recovery.
F++ I can fly often at a field suitable for HPR. Recovery walks are nice and long.
F+ I can fly up to Gs at my field. Recovery walks aren't too long.
F I fly at a decent open area; I can fly up to Ds and maybe Es.
F- I have a football / soccer / baseball field to fly in. I can fly C motors if I'm careful.
F-- I have a large backyard suitable for mini motors.
F--- I have a medium backyard that I can fly MMX stuff in.
F---- I fly monocopters in my living room.

O+++ All my rockets do crazy stuff. I have saucers, cones, mailing tubes, everything. I haven't bought a *normal* rocket in years.
O++ Most of my fleet is pretty crazy, but I do have some normal stuff.
O+ I have a few saucers and some other funny stuff, but 3FNCS are fine too.
O I've tried a few oddrocs in my time. I have a saucer around for flying big motors in smaller fields.
O- I tried a saucer once, but I didn't like it.
O-- I've got nothing stranger than a boost-glider. Most of my fleet is 3FNC.
O-- 3FNC forevah! Oddrocs and dangerous and stupid. My oddest rocket has *four* fins.

G--- Gliders are for the boring RC weenies. *Real* rockets have 3 fins and a parachute.
G-- Does a balsa chuck glider count?
G- I tried a glider once, but it crashed cause I didn't trim it.
G I've successfully flown a boost-glider.
G+ I've got a couple boost-gliders and I've flown one in competition...
G++ They found it in the next town...
G+++ The next state...
G++++ The next country.

Ground Support Equipment:
GS+++ I have a permanent launch site with pads and ignition system.
GS++ I have a 5-rod rack plus several HPR rods and rails. I have a well-designed, testable ignition system powered by a car battery.
GS+ I have a nice Aerotech pad plus the standard Estes one. I have a rechargeable battery that can easily fire blackpowder clusters.
GS I have the standard Estes launch system. It works for most blackpowder motors.
GS- I have an old rusty rod stuck is a chunk of concrete and a lantern battery and a switch.
GS-- I have an old, decrepit pad that is no longer very safe.
GS--- I light the fuse, hope the rocket doesn't tip over, and run.

Safety Code
SC+++ I follow the code to a T. Every one of my rockets has *exactly* 1-caliber stability. I notify the FAA and get a waiver for every time I launch anything.
SC++ I'm very safe. I build good, safe models and follow the rules.
SC+ I do everything mostly right, but once in a while something goes funky.
SC I know the code, but I'll still climb a tree to get a rocket back.
SC- Following *all* the picky rules is too much for me. So what if I'm not a full 15 feet away from the launcher?
Sc-- I barely follow the rules. I'm not above lighting a motor with a match and fuse.
SC--- I've caused a wildfire, plane crash, or lightning strike with a rocket.

People and Obscurity
P+++ I wrote the Rocketry Geek Code
P++ I know who wrote it.
P+ I who EMRR is.
P I know who Trip Barber is.
P- I know who Orville Carslisle was.
P-- I know who G. Harry Stine was.
P--- Who were all those people?

H+++ My entire house / apartment is devoted to rocketry. I sleep on the roof. I have an entire room full of adhesives. No one else but me can physically enter the door.
H++ Most of my house is devoted to rocketry. At least 2 rooms hold nothing but rockets. Other people can enter the kitchen, dining room, and bathroom.
H+ I have at least an entire room devoted to rocketry. Other people can live in the rest of the house. I may have a significant other living in the house.
H I have a desk and closet for rocketry. I have several rockets hanging from the ceiling to save space. I may have a significant other and/or children.
H- I have a desk. I store rockets wherever I can. There are definitely others living in the house.
H-- I have no area for rocketry; I borrow the kitchen table sometimes. All my rocketry stuff is in one movable storage unit.
H--- I am forbidden to do rocketry in the house, but I keep a few around secretly anyway.
!H I have a shed / garage / club porject space for all my rocketry needs.

A+++ I am older than Vern Estes.
A++ I am older than the NAR.
A+ I was alive during Apollo 11.
A I am older than Aerotech.
A- I am old enough to go for L2 certification.
A-- I am old enough to go for a Junior certification.
A--- I am a rocketeer in training.
!A I am immortal; years do not matter to me.

X Male
Y Female
Z Other
!X Male android
!Y Female android
!Z Other android

@ signfies variance, i.e, you might use N++@ if your collection is around 30 rockets but varies based on purchases and losses.
( ) for crossovers and ranges. For example, M(---) means you fly from 6mm to 24mm motors about equally.
> for wannabe. For example, F->++ means you have only a small field but are looking for a good HPR field.
$ means you earn money for doing it. Mostly for M++++$ and C---$.
? means you've never heard of this category. For example, O? means you've never heard of odd-rocs, you poor unworthy soul.
! means either you stubbornly refuse to answer this question, or for a few like !S means something else entirely.

My personal code is MM- S+++ C--> M N++>+++ F@ O++ G GS SC+ P+++ H A-->!A X.

Unfortunately, there aren't any decoders for this; I'll do one once I get around to learning Python. The decoder for the standard geek code is here.

This is merely Version 1.0. If you have suggestions/comments/flames/etc, please email me using the link at the bottom or comment.

I plan to add simulation software, RASP, and book categories to the code soon. That'll be either v1.1 or v2.0.

If you want to use this on your blag/wobsite/etc, that's fine. Just give me credit, include a link back here, and comment to say what your RGC is.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The best refuge from dreary homework:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

A great poem for tonight as the ice slowly falls outside.

Frost on freeform poetry: "I would as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down."

Monday, January 12, 2009

OV10 Finished!

I've finally got my OV10 finished! That is, glued together, balanced, glide-tested, repaired, fingers glued together, and re-repaired. It's currently ready for launch on a B6-2, which should take it to about 300 feet with ejection just before.
The pod slides about 2", which is probably not enough for 1-caliber boost stability, so the first flight or two will be heads-up experimental; i.e, I will be the only person there except for a parent taking pictures from 50 feet away.
Since it's a rocket glider and therefore has to carry the empty motor casing and boost pod, it's rather larger than my other gliders with a 13" wingspan versus 9" for the other glider pictured below. My heavy Scissor-wing Transport and Transwing both have larger wingspans although both drop their pods. The wing has 27 in2 of area; the stabilizer has 12.
Perhaps the best part of the OV10 - I still need name suggestions, by the way - is its reflight capability. It has no parachute or streamer than needs wadding, needs repacking, or gets burned. All I do is unwrap the masking tape holding the motor to the hook, remove it, stick in a new one, wrap it, and slide the pod forward. Since it has no parachute or streamer that sticks in the cold, it can be flown in temperatures down to about 10 degrees F, at which point I have to wear gloves so big I can't hook up the igniter and flying is impossible.
Note the wrapper of tape around the nose cone. I need to keep the nose securely on so the ejection charge doesn't push it off, but I need to be able to remove it after flight to keep the clay weight on securely. The balsa nose is beat up after glide testing; use a plastic nose if you build your own.
I'll post a parts list and assembly guidelines soon.
This is 'Glider 2', the second glider designed for my 18mm boost pod. It didn't deserve a post of its own. Note the cedar body (yay leftover house shingles) and bit of clay on the left wingtip so it'll circle.
Boost position.
Glide position.
The glider from the front. A few things of note:
The launch lug is off-center to make room for the hook. The launch rod will actually run under the tail so the wires, tail, and rod don't tangle.
There is a small flap on the right wing for stability. I accidentally put that wing on a bit crooked.
The copious amounts of wood glue for strength.
Any comments?

Posted by Picasa

Vampire Pictures

A few nice hi-res pics of my new 24mm Vampire booster. As always, click to embiggen.
The booster attached to the Lego rocket.

A cool nose-on view of the booster and motor stack, which consists of the D12-0 booster, C6-3 sustainer, D12 casing as adapter, and a 1/2" 18mm spacer. The little paper clip to hold it up took a bit of fiddling to work.
The bottom of the booster, showing the colored thrust ring.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 11, 2009

XKCD makes real life

Once again.....
Via Dark Roasted Blend
The End is Not for a While

OV10 Update

What is currently code-named the OV10 is a rocket glider, 18mm, that uses no radio control, burn strings, sliding wings, or elevators. Instead, it uses a boost pod that telescopes inside the glider body to make a CG shift. It'll make more sense when I have pictures.

I cut a few of the tube parts during the week, but nothing else. I cut the 2 wing halves, 2 tail booms, 2 fins, and 1 stabilizer today. Tonight I've started on the gluing. The glider section - the above balsa parts (3/32") plus 3" of BT-50 is currently CAed together. I unfortunately bought very thin CA, so it took a few tries to get the wing together.

Currently, I have wood glue fillets drying in the stabilizer-fin and body-wing joints. In about 9 hours when I wake up, I'll flip it over, add fillets on the other wing-body and wing-boom joints, add the launch lug and maybe a landing skid, and I'm done with the glider. Then I'll assemble the BT-20, BNC-20, 4 centering rings, and engine hook of the pod and be done with assembly. Then I've got to balance the glider, glide-test, trim, repair, etc.

I don't plan to paint it because paint interferes with the glide characteristics and the sliding pod motion. With any luck, it'll fly next weekend or at CATO on the 24th.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Report From the Lair

Although I didn't get to fly today due to the snowstorm enveloping the Northeast, I'm been busy building. I've finished a 24mm booster, initially for flying my Lego rocket on D12-0 / C6-3 (~E10-3) so that it will fly and not crash.

It's a 2.75" length of BT-50 left over from my last order with three large symmetrical fins of 3/32" balsa. They're 2.75" long at the root and 1.5" at the tip and 1.75" wide. They're reinforced with CA and wood glue as even with the huge fins it falls fast and hard with a 24mm casing inside. They are colored black with Sharpie as is the end of the 24mm engine block; the tube and inside of the block are Sharpied red. I didn't paint it because painting is hard and sloppy and time-consuming and adds too much weight to be worthwhile for a basic booster like this.

I'm calling it the Vampire.

Here's my feeble attempt at drawing it in Paint:

I've been working on my new rocket glider, codenamed OV10. (If you figure out the reference you'll get an idea as to its looks.) I'll take lots of construction photos and post an article on EMRR.

I'm currently rebuilding my main glider. Right now I have the struts and fins rebuilt, I'll work on the hook, wing, and stab tonight.

I repaired a bit of damage - detached shock cord mount - to Frankenstein. Although I'll still try to loose it on a C6-0 / C6-7, I'm also going to use it for a research vehicle, perhaps to loft parasite gliders or payloads.

Posted by Picasa