Later that evening we pulled out our secret weapon. Elvis built a small cannon from a five inch fireworks mortar tube and some scrap wood. It was just the right size for a soft ball. After measuring a goodly amount of black powder and staking the cannon to the ground we loaded it and set the fuse. “Fire in the Hole!” Ssssssssssss shump POW! The soft ball was bright orange and we wrapped it in nomex cloth to protect it from black powder burn. It was nearing dusk and we didn’t actually see the softball leave the barrel. So we walked down range until we found it then paced the distance back to see how far it went. Only 80 yards, bummer. Well it was getting quite dark so we waited until the next morning.
We also brought out a pumpkin. It was far too large to fit into the cannon so we carved it into a Jack-o-lantern. Since Balls is predominantly a launch for people who experiment with their own rocket creations, which includes propellant formulations, there is ample solid rocket propellant to be burnt. That said, I don’t think anyone had any issues starting camp fires. This leads us back to the Jack-o-lantern. Candles are so wimpy; however using rocket propellant to light a Jack-o-lantern does have its draw backs. The candle that burns twice as fast burns half as long…
By the next morning poor old Jack seemed a bit worse for ware. He could wait for a bit, we still had to find how far we could get a soft ball to fly. So after a quick breakfast it was time to wake up the sleepyheads in the campers near our camp site. We loaded up the cannon again and boosted the amount of BP to a more manly charge. No announcement this time, Kapow! Off it went. Being that I am not much of a sports fan and frankly quite ignorant of how softballs fly, I was quite surprised on how much it curved. We found the ball about 30 degrees off center from the line of fire. After pacing the distance back to the cannon we found that the softball traveled approximately 187 yards. Not bad, not bad at all.
Then it was Jack’s turn at bat. After being scorched the night before Jack lost quite a bit of mass and was easily rolled into a football shaped projectile that would just fit into the cannon. How far would Jack fly? Let’s find out. Fly he did, but in a pumpkin colored mist roughly cone shaped which covered about twenty yards. A pumpkin hose is more like it.
I don’t think I have ever had more fun with a single purchase than that one pumpkin.
Ashes to ashes dust to dust.
Final installment: Part 6 the voyage home.