Norbert’s fate

Sunday morning I woke up just after dawn.  The Velcro shirt was on the floor of my HPM next to my shoes, a torch, some fuse, and a few empty bottles of Henry Weinhard’s blue boar.  I own arguably the greatest invention to camping that has ever been devised since the invention of bug spray.  The Colman camp drip coffee maker.  This device is not for the backpacker, it’s bulky and heavy, but it makes coffee that is just as good as what I make at home.  Nothing beats home brewed coffee after sleeping in the maw of a carnivorous sleeping bag, being regurgitated multiple times during the night, and then waking to a sunrise with no curtains to block the view.  It only took three bottles of water to fill the coffee maker and it was indeed fortunate that the torch and fuse were near by to help light the propane stove.


If you need to ask why I need fuse and a torch to light propane stove…. you don’t know me well at all, go back and re-read the previous 199 posts.


My friend Mark from work showed up about 8am.  He is an excellent photographer and wanted to see some (Research) rockets launch.  I finished prepping the rocket I launched yesterday, by half of yin/yang to be launched on a 38mm 4 grain Dragons Breath I 256.  We went out to the pad, loaded the rocket on the launch rail, armed the altimeter, installed an igniter, and went back to the LCO to await a go for launch.  It was a picture perfect flight, laser strait, separation at apogee, and deployed its parachute when it descended to 1000′ above the ground.  It hit hard on landing but that’s ok, the rocket is built tough and I didn’t have room for a larger parachute, hardly a scratch on her.  Mark was impressed.  Then I showed him Norbert.


Norbert is the rocket I flew at Balls last year on a 3″ Dragons breath motor that was designed, tested, formulated, mixed, and assembled by me and Elvis.  The rocket and motor have a history, a dubious history, like the phoenix this rocket is an example of raising from the ashes of pervious misadventures.  Norbert was constructed from the remains of my L2 attempt.  The fins, nosecone, electronics, shock cord, and drogue parachute were recovered, intact, from the crash of my Talon 4.  The motor casing for Norbert was originally ten inches longer and was a M class motor that Elvis detonated over the Blackrock at Balls 16.  We cut the motor casing down and re-machined the end to the proper length for a 4 grain L motor.  The point is that this rocket was entirely made up from parts that have been salvaged in one way or another from a previous failure.  You would think this would bring an amount of luck.  And you would be right; this same configuration flew perfectly at Balls 17 last year.  Attempting a repeat performance apparently was asking too much.


I assembled the rocket exactly as I did at Balls 16.  Everything was looking great, the wind was dying, there was only one cloud in the sky, and it was T shirt weather. 


Mark helped with the launch rail and waited, with camera ready for the launch.  The launch was picture perfect, the rocket flew straight and true, it didn’t even spin.  At about 9000 feet it disappeared into the only cloud in the sky.  My fingers were crossed; I was waiting for the sound of the ejection charge. 


As the rocket plummeted to the ground with the same grace and vigor as it launched, my imagination pictured the following scene.


The rocket gods pulled back their sleeves and said, “Once was enough, I smite thee rocket and curse its recovery!”  And it was so. 




The seven foot tall, thirty pound rocket had only its tail section showing above ground.  Every thing above the motor case was pounded into the ground with such force that the best I could do was to fill in the crater behind the wreckage.  Mark said that it was the coolest thing he has ever seen.  I would have to disagree…


I drove home with the fin-can and motor next to the bucket that held the parts of Norbert that were not covered up and left for future archeologists to examine. 


Capt Danger bowed out of the launch this weekend.  If Capt Danger was available, I would have sent him into the earth at a terrible speed.  Maybe I should consult my monkey next time.  Ah… hindsight is indeed 20/20.


I pulled the motor casing from the rocket and managed to saw off the damaged section.  It looks like the motor can be used again with some machining.  And the fins look to be all right; just a little sanding and I can use them on another rocket!  This time I will name it, “Phrankenrocket the Prairie Punisher”


Take that rocket gods.






2 thoughts on “Norbert’s fate

  1. caveblogem says:

    Wouldn’t have happened at all if Captain Danger was on-board. He would have found a way to avert the crisis, unpacked the parachute himself, maybe.

  2. jimsmuse says:

    I’m so in awe of the posts about rockets I never know what to say. Like now. Just wanted you to know that it amps the coolness factor of the PF clan to have the family involved in doing something so cool.

    I also second your worship of the Coleman coffee maker. I go camping just to have an excuse to use mine.

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