Dicromantispa interrupta

Dicromantispa interrupta

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Home Boy Rockets

Saturday (February 9, 2008) Sean invited me to attend a monthly home-made rocket launching event hosted by the North East Florida Assoc of Rocketry (NEFAR). We drove to a sod farm near Bunnell, FL, where the land is flat as a pancake, a little late for maybe the first tranche of launches, but not too late for some incredible feats of human male testosterone. I was totally at home.

Like every 14 year old hellion, I tried to make rockets in my youth. The best I could muster was to stuff a piece of bamboo with match heads, stick a firecracker fuse in the butt, light it and run like hell. Yup, no fins or any other kind of aiming mechanism. And yup, again, it’s a good thing I ran like hell! LOL Those flying eye-pokers went anywhere and everywhere. Good thing my momma hadn’t the foggiest!

But these NEFAR men, and they are all men (to the tune of fists beating on chests), are GOOD at making rockets. These fellows know what they’re doing. They have standard fuels and standard engines and standard physical rocket designs and standard launch “pads,” and there was not a single launch that endangered anyone present. These folks know exactly what they are doing.

There is one man who does all the launches. You set up your rocket and you give him your launch card with your name, rocket name, engine type, and maybe expected apogee (maximum height). After everyone is back behind the safety line, he then calls out all these specs, does the countdown and then presses the launch button. It is all set up for maximum safety, with fuses, anti-stray spark electronics, test apparati, etc. You set up your rocket and back off, and he does the rest. Continuity of launch procedure breeds safety. No fists on chests here.

Did I mention that Sean’s wife, Becky, and her best friend Michelle, were there, too? These launches are so safe that these ladies sat thru all the launches cavalierly doing needlepoint and crochet, respectively (see the pic of Michelle’s tablecloth).

All rockets had time- or altitude-release parachutes. Some rockets had a drogue and a parachute. Most rocketeers had several rockets. A few rockets had video cameras. Some rockets were considered low-powered due to their being fueled by black powder, some were powered by a concoction of table sugar and other ingredients (I didn’t catch the actual), but most seemed to be powered by ammonium perchlorate. The latter were the most impressive in terms of speed and height reached.

All these rockets are home made. The smaller ones have nose cones of plastic, bodies of multi-layered paper and fins of balsa wood. The larger ones might be made entirely of fiberglass. The small ones would weigh less than a pound, while the largest would weigh 85 pounds or less. All went up like bats out of hell. Some had speeds approaching 500 mph. You definitely wouldn’t want to be in front of something going that fast! Remember about tornados pushing straws into telephone poles. We decided that sitting in a car wasn’t safe enuf if one were coming your way, that you’d need to be underneath the car! Better yet, under the car’s engine! LOL

Sean made 2 or 3 launches, all going off perfectly. Zoom! Up, then turn-over at apogee, then the parachute deployed, then the gentle landing. Sean does well everything he does – caving, cave mapping, cave dive gear invention, electronics, photography, rocketry, ... It all excels what he does. Gee, I wish I were Sean. Ok, not really. I like me, actually. Anyway, Becky is probably glad I’m not Sean. LOL Sean is the fellow in the NASA ball cap, kneeling on the ground holding a 2.5-ft tall white, black and blue rocket on launch pad #1.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was a rocket that was commissioned by the US Air Force to commemorate the launch of the first US satellite, and was to be launched at Cape Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first US satellite. Bureaucratic snafus, however, prevented that from happening, so the project manager for the scale model decided to launch it on the day of my random visit. What luck!

I don’t remember the names of the rocket or the satellite, sorry. Anyway, the rocket is a 1:6 ratio model of the original, and was set up on a launch pad brought in by one of the fellows who made it. The rocket was made in pieces by several rocketeers around the country, and assembled by the fellow in the staff group picture wearing the black tee shirt. That guy, BTW, works for NASA. There is another picture of this rocket lying on the ground.

I have posted several other pics of rockets on the ground and taking off. There were a few odd rockets, like the one that looks like a flying saucer, and the glider look alike. The flying saucer went straight up, altho not too high, and then settled straight back down without flipping or tumbling.

I doubt that I’ll ever get into rocketry, but it was a fun day to participate in.

No comments:

Post a Comment