Level 3 Flight - Brothers - August 2001


In August of 2001, at a private pick-up launch in the Oregon high desert just outside of Brothers, I finally got my level 3.

My brother and I arrived at the launch site the day before. I wanted to be all ready for the flight early in the morning when the conditions are perfect, so I began to prep the bird. The batteries were in, ejection charges set, chutes packed, shear pins in, motor built. All I had to do in the morning was put it on the pad, insert igniter, and go. Or so I thought.

The next morning I woke up at about 6, and it was COLD. Forcasts said it was supposed to get down around 40 at night. More like 30. There was a layer of ice (not frost, ICE) on everything, including my rocket. I was worried about the batteries in the cold, so I powered up both altimeters and listened for the OK beeps. Everything came online, so I decided we were good to go, and headed out to the away pad.

The waiver was a little weird. We had a flight window from 8-9am, then had to shut down until 11:30. I had to get the flight off in the morning and get home as fast as possible, which is another reason I had prepped the rocket the night before. We got it on the pad, igniter in, altimeters armed and beeping, and it was ready to go.

Kent Newman helps me get 'Hold the Mayo' on the rail Getting ready to arm the altimeters

Up to this point the rocket didnt have a name. Its a 6" diameter airframe, 9 feet tall, all fiberglass. For its maiden flight at the NSL it was only half painted, the top half red, bottom half the raw fiberglass. For this flight paint was done, the bottom half yellow. Once it was all set up I realized it was ketchup red and mustard yellow, and the name 'Hold the Mayo' came out. And stuck.

Once at a safe distance the launch system was plugged in, the call over the radio was made, countdown, hit the button.

Any minute now...


ARgh, must be bad ignitor. A quick check revealed I had cut through one wire when I stripped the igniter leads. I restripped the wire, hooked it up, got continuity. The altimeters were still beeping away.

Back at the other end of the launch controller wire, we again did the countdown and hit the button.

Again, nothing.


As i headed back out to the pad, my brother (with the camera, closer to the pad) told me one of the altimeters had stopped beeping. Great. All right, enough of this. I decided to pull the rocket and break it down, replace the frozen batteries with some fresh ones. Only problem was I had about 40 minutes to do it before the waiver closed. Even better, because of how I designed the rocket, I had to completely break it down. nose cone off, upper airframe off, chutes out, just to get the altimeter bay out. I do it this way because I dont like access doors in airframes. At 8:59:59.99 AM, just before the waiver closed, the we hit the button again, and HTM roared off the pad.

The Kosdon M1845 punches HTM off the pad. Upward and skyward.

Click here for a video (5meg Mpeg) of the flight, thanks to David Montgomery

The flight was perfect, both altimeters reported 11,900 feet +/- 100 feet. I'll post the full data from the olsen M2 soon.

After it was all done I realized my rocket was actualy SAVED by a bad ignitor. If that first ignitor had not failed and the rocket had flown, its very possible the altimeters may have malfunctioned with the batteries as cold as they were. Who knows... Kind ironic though, dont ya think?

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