The next morning we woke up around 6am. The hangover I received was much milder that I expected. Maybe it was the relative altitude compared to Colorado, maybe it was the fact that I didn’t drink as I expected too. Elvis cooked a wonderful campsite concoction that consisted of a bag of Jimmy Dean’s sac-o-breakfast and a half-dozen eggs. I think the playa dust adds just the right touch.
My brother and his son were due to meet me at Bruno’s sharply at 9am, I left the camp site at 8:30. Six miles to the 12 mile road exit off of the playa. And then, obviously, a 12 mile drive to Bruno’s. My brother and his son were eating breakfast, I already ate but settled in for a cup of coffee, I also couldn’t resist buying a Bruno’s coffee mug. The last Bruno’s coffee mug I bought was in 2005 and has since seen no less than three repairs. Broken handle, chipped rim, and the last time simply shattered. Each time I repaired the mug with JB weld. It looks like a Franken-cup.
After breakfast and about four coups of coffee we headed out to the playa. There is only one point of etiquette to driving on the Blackrock desert, never attempt to follow a car from behind. I neglected to inform my brother. I hit the playa at about 70mph and looked to my right, expecting to see him beside me. Oops, he is someplace in my dust trail. I could stop and let him catch up with me, but it may turn out disastrous as he couldn’t see where I stopped due to all the dust. So I ran straight for about a mile and turned at right angles so he could see me then waited. He showed up a moment later. We then headed side by side to the launch site, I was following my GPS, and he was following me sideways.
Balls didn’t disappoint. As soon as we arrived and headed off to the registration desk the first rocket was called over the PA system.
The largest rocket that my brother ever saw launched was a G class motor. Each letter of the alpha bet represents an impulse range. Each letter is double the total impulse of the last. Estes models that you may have launched as a kid stopped at the mighty D motor. Here at Balls no one even looks up at a rocket that launches anything less than an M, and that was the first off the pad.
A few moments another rocket went up, this time powered with a home made N motor. By the time we returned from the registration desk a O motor powered rocket launched from the 1500 foot pad and a N-M two stage took to the skies. Duly impressed, my brother and his son watched some more rockets launch, some explode and some simply shred into pieces as they exceeded the structural integrity of their air frames.
All the while I was busy prepping my rocket.
Like many launches I miscalculated and forgot something. The thing I forgot was to check to make sure my parachute would fit into the air frame before leaving home. Now was a great time to find out it was simply too tight a fight. So I walked down to a local rocketry vender and checked out what it would cost me to buy a parachute that would fit. $80.00. Ouch. But my brother insisted on chipping in and paying for half. What a guy.
Finally the time came for me to fill out my flight card and take my rocket out to the pad.
Only one problem remained. I haven’t thought up a suitable name for my rocket. Rookie move. I thought about it and then looked at my wrist.
A few months ago when my wife and I went to Texas to visit my son in the hospital (horrible accident) I happened upon, in a Bass Pro Shop in San Antonio, a bracelet that simply said P0SI+IVI+Y. I bought a group of three and was determined to wear the bracelet until my son left the hospital to come home. He is still there doing well and we are hoping for his return in November.
It seemed like a good name to me.
It turned out that John and I were ready at the same time. He was going to launch his rocket for the third time in two days (show-off) so we decided to share launch pads. He would go first then I would load my rocket. His launch was picture perfect, again. My brother got to experience what it is like to be on the range out at the 1500 foot pads. Being in the mix is a lot different than back at the range head. It is a more of a three dimensional experience, behind the flight line everything happens in front of you, out on the pads the rockets roar into the sky in front, beside or behind you, sometimes with out warning. You can get rather shell shocked if you stay out too long.
P0SI+IVI+Y was all ready to launch. After a call to the LCO and after a short countdown it took off to the clear blue skies over the playa. After about a second into the flight something went terribly wrong. It seemed to disassemble itself. Violently but with only a little fire.
After we walked around and picked up the pieces we went back to the campsite to perform an autopsy.
From what we could tell a hole formed in the side of the motor case shortly after lift off. This allowed hot high pressure (650psi+) gasses to escape. The air frame was not designed to withstand this kind of pressure from within, not to mention the heat and flame. So the fins separated and the body tube shattered like a popped balloon. Oh and it was traveling at about 400 miles per hour at the time of the incident.
We are not sure of what caused the motor case to fail but we are P0SI+IVE of the results.
We decided to drink beer.
Next: Part 5 the softball cannon.