June 2006 - Mansfield, WA


The Mansfield Research Launch site is miles and miles of rolling wheat fields.

Believe it or not, I didnt only go to a launch and fly some rockets, I'm actually writing it up! Woo hoo!

I made the trek to Mansfield this year for the June research launch. After making the final leg of the trip from my parents place in Leavenworth, I managed to forget which of the dirt roads off the main highway was the correct one for the launch site. I decided "N" street sounded good, but when I reached its end I decided it must have been "O" street. A quick jaunt east on the crossroad brought me to the far side of "O" street and I followed it back to the launch site. A little confusing for those already there to see a vehicle coming from the wrong direction, but better than not getting there at all!

I rolled in about 12:30 Saturday afternoon to a small group of fliers, less than 15 people in all. Perfect for a casual launch among friends! Jim Wilkerson and some others were downrange looking for a wayward rocket, and the rest were setup with a small camp and cleared area for prepping rockets.

Once parked, I pulled out Hold The Mayo, which I had prepped for FITS 2006 last month. I missed that launch, so it was still ready to go. I powered up the GPSFlight telemetry unit, verified it got GPS lock, and loaded it in the rocket. I verified the recovery system was connected to all the bits it needed to be, buttoned it up and installed the shear pins. A final check on the motor retention, and it was ready to go. With some help from Ray Stoner, we carried HTM out to the pad and got it loaded on his rail.

After the normal pre flight pictures we returned to the flight line and I checked the telemetry. Battery voltage good, data coming in, 10 sattelite GPS lock, Baro data pressent, all good! I grabbed my camera while someone else pushed the button.

At liftoff, the 98mm 4 Grain Viper M-2371 kicked the rocket skyward with authority. I can tell it had been a while since I'd flown anything, as the roar from the motor was louder than I remembered! The rocket angled off somewhat to the East, which we later discovered was due to the blast of the motor knocking the pad a foot to the right before it cleared the rail! After burnout, HTM continued skyward and I quickly lost site of it. At that point I went to the laptop to watch the telemetry data. Unfortunately, the GPS had lost lock, and it didnt reacquire. From what I can tell, the liftoff accleration was enough to cause the GPS engine to just shut down. Better padding and more attention to how I load it next time!

On the pad and ready to go!. Hold the Mayo heads for the skies.
I didnt have GPS data, but the telemetry stream was still coming, and the Baro data was there. I called out the altitude as it descended, and those watching for it in the sky caught it on the horizon under its main chute. Thanks to them, I was able to get a good line on it with my Etrex Vista handheld GPS (The sight N go feature on the garmins is perfect for this sort of thing).

Once it was on the ground, I hopped in the truck and headed down the road in the direction of the rocket with Earl to help out. We drove for a bit to where we thought was the closest spot we could get to the rocket from the road and set out across the wheat. After about 100 yards I managed to spot something to the east and Earl confirmed it was the rocket. Lucky sighting! We got back in the truck and drove another quarter mile or so to get as close to the rocket as possible, then walked out to recover it.

The baro data from the telemetry feed showed 11,767 feet. The ARTS altimeter indicated 12,067 feet barometric, 12,109 accelerometer. All in all a nominal flight and pretty quick recovery!

Earl surveys the recovery scene.
ARTS data from the flight.
Once we returned to camp I took a breather, then started prepping Stratosphreak for its flight on a 75mm 3 grain Viper motor. The only required prep was to move the gpsflight transmitter from HTM to this bird, but I ran into some trouble getting the unit to maintain a gps lock. Some investigation revealed a damaged GPS antenna. Once replaced, everything worked great and I got it all buttoned up and on the pad.

Upon liftoff, Stratosphreak took to the sky in a hurry and was quickly out of sight. Again, I went to the laptop to watch the telemetry data, and was very happy to see the transmitter lost lock only for a moment while under boost, then reacquired. Nobody was able to find the rocket in the sky, so I continued to track the rocket via the telemetry data. There was something strange, though. The position was jumping all over the place in large increments. The reason for this became clear later.

The altitude was counted off while we tried to locate the rocket in the sky, but no luck. Eventually it was on the ground, so I plugged the coordinates into the handheld GPS and started off into the field. According to the GPS Data, the rocket was only 1600 feet to the east. I couldnt figure out why nobody had seen it land. After about 10 minutes of walking the handheld told me I was close, and I watched the last 20 feet count down as I went. Once I got to zero I glanced around, and there was the rocket on the ground to my right. The strange thing was it was laying completely intact, no parachutes deployed, with the altimeter beeping the 3 tone 'ready for launch'! When I picked it up I noticed one fin had been broken off by the impact, imbedded in the ground. The rocket had failed to deploy any parachutes, but fortunately it came in on a flat spin, rather than nose in ballistic. This explains why nobody saw it, and also the jumpy GPS data during the descent. With the rocket spinning and tumbling, its surprising the GPS was able to maintain lock at all.

GPS Location data plot from the telemetry data
Baro and GPS data from the telemetry data
Stratosphreak awaits the button push. Heading up.

After returning to camp, I loaded up the truck and got ready to head back. Jim Wilkerson flew Hell Bent for Leather III on a Cesaroni N2500 for a great flight. I also flew my 38mm saucer on a 3 grain 38mm motor made by Ray Stoner for a fun flight. I love saucers, nothing like being able to burn a motor and not having to worry about prepping much besides motor retention.

Here's a few other flights that went that day.

Jim Wilkerson's 'Hell Bent For Leather III'
lifts off on a Cesaroni N2500.
Going up And up!

Marty Weiser's
2 stage lifting off.
Going up And up!

After a good day of flying, I made the drive back to Leavenworth. I'm looking forward to getting out and flying again, hopefully it wont be another year in coming!

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