John finished preping his rocket first so we decided to help him launch and then track his rocket. We found a tower to use and an ignition control system that was open and set John’s rocket up for launch.
He had his altimeter set and beeping, his GPS transmitter was broadcasting the rockets position, the igniter was set, and all was ready to go. The LCO made the announcement then “3…2…1…. Launch!” Nothing happened. He tried again. Nothing. So we went back to check the igniter. It was good. Batteries were draining and John was loosing patience. The host club equipment guru brought another launch control, this time a wireless control; he said it has a range of a half mile. Ok then, let’s give it a go. The LCO made the announcement again then “3…2…1…. Launch!” Nothing. Now John was getting pissed. We called the LCO again. And again the same guy came out with yet another control; he said that the batteries were dead. Anyway to make a long and tedious story shorter, John finally launched his rocket. It left the tower like a fiberglass pigeon escaping hell.
We tried to take a photo of the launch. Elvis has a camera that can take three pictures a second. One picture was of the rocket sitting on the pad, the next one (1/3 second later) just showed a smoke trail.
John calmly watched his hand held GPS for data. Soon he got a signal from his rocket saying it was one mile north east. We waited a few moments for the signal from the GPS to update. Then John updated us… “Ok boys; my rocket is on the move. It’s two miles north east now; looks like the main chute came out at apogee”
I asked what he expected that altitude to be. John said “Well, I expect to get at least 25k AGL. Let’s see, at a decent rate of 30 feet per second and with the main out at apogee, I am guessing it will be a while before she comes home.”
I got out my calculator. 833 seconds of decent time, so we have about 14 minutes. We started driving, with John in the lead vehicle guided by his GPS and Elvis and I following close behind. Periodically John would stop his car, get out, and take another reading with his GPS. We were doing about forty mph tailing John’s car when something caught my eye. It was John’s rocket coming in for a landing, right in front of him. John almost ran over his own rocket, it landed about twenty yards from his bumper. He swerved just in time.
Next installment: Part 3 The rocket gods demand a sacrifice.