Wednesday, July 19, 2017

MPC Lunar Patrol, Part 7 - A Minor Setback

It has been quite some time since I have had a chance to resume work on the Lunar Patrol.  Lot of life stuff happening since the beginning of the year.
So, last night I grabbed the booster rocket off the bench and headed for the 'BlastFromThePast Vehicle Finishing Facility'  (a large cardboard box in the corner of the back yard), to apply the first coat of primer.
When I tried to insert the engine casing on the end of the painting wand into the main tube, I found it to be exceedingly difficult.
Here's why:

In this photo, it can readily be seen that the main tube is a distinct oval shape, and one of the fin units is somewhat warped.
How did this happen?
Here's the answer:
After assembling the three tubes, I had applied a very liberal set of fillets using Elmer's white glue to hide the big gaps and bubbles that invariably plague parallel-glued tubing.

This attempt to make things pretty led directly to the dreaded 'Elmer's Effect' - severe glue shrinkage that warped the body tubes completely out of round.  Things are so bad that one of the gliders will no longer fit between the fin projections.  To make it fit in the present condition would require inner surface of the fins to be sanded down to 1/32" thickness.
No good.
I have a couple of options here.  The first is to use the 'Forced Air Thermal Alignment Apparatus'   (my wife's hair drier). 
The idea is to insert engine casings into all three tubes for support, then heat up the joints with the hair drier to soften the glue and allow re-alignment.  It is hoped that, when things cool down, the components will retain the proper position.
If this doesn't work, I am afraid the only other course is to scrap this booster, buy another BT-20 tube, and start it all over.
Live and learn.
In the meantime, the filling and sanding of all those balsa glider parts is still progressing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back In The Day, Part 6 - "When I Grow Up, I Want To Be...A STARLORD !!"

This was never a childhood dream of mine,  but that very thing happened in 1976 when I was contacted by a Mr. Dennis Bishop to join the Starlords International Association of Rocketry.
Mr. Bishop ran this club out of Hawaii, and, at its height, it boasted many members across the U.S. and all over the world.  The group operated under their own sporting code - the 'Gold Book', independent of that used by the NAR.
After joining, I happened to mention to Mr. Bishop that I had mechanical drafting experience.  I was readily appointed as the 'plans editor' for the Starlords new letter, The Stellar Winds.  I soon received from Mr. Bishop a large envelope full of rocket plans submitted by various Starlords members for publication.  It was my job to make pretty drawings of them to send back and be printed in the news letter.
Perhaps the best part of being a Starlord was in the opportunity to correspond with model rocketeers from around the globe.  One of the best acquaintances I made through the group was with Mr. Herb Desind - 'Mr. Cineroc' himself! The ensuing friendship will be the subject of a future blog post.
This is a 'fuzzy' picture of my old Estes Spaceman model rocket, painted in the likeness of the Starlord mascot.  The inscription around the model's base reads 'Starlords International Association of Rocketry'.

And a real, honest-to-goodness Starlords membership ID card!

Fun times!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Launch Date: 4 July, 2017

A few weeks ago, I made a happy discovery in the town of Castle Rock, Colorado, where I live:  There is a moderate sized grassy field about half mile from my home which is perfectly suitable for LPR flying up to B engine range.  This area is the football practice field adjacent to Douglas County High School.  I walked it and found it to be roughly 700’ by 1000’ total.  The area includes a soccer field and baseball field on the east end.  The school buildings occupy the west end, and residential areas border the north and south sides.   Another nice feature is in the form of a couple sets of bleachers located atop a grassy slope about mid-field.  These are each on a cement pad, so it is a perfect place to set up and launch. The bleachers make for a handy ‘prep’ bench, and there is plenty of room on the cement pad for launchers.   A couple of small trees are close by to provide shade on a hot day.  I hadn’t discovered this location until recently because it is not easily visible from any adjacent streets.
Having had some free time on Independence Day morning, I took advantage of the prevailing calm weather conditions to go out and give this field a try.  My wife and I arrived around 8:30 a.m.  This was the first rocket launch to which she has accompanied me in my BAR activities.  I believe the last time she watched me launch rockets was back in August, 1983 at the HOTROC-4 Regional contest in Colorado Springs!
Anyway, I quickly got things set up at what I will now call DCHS Proving Ground.  The first bird off the pad was the Estes Mini-Brute Hornet on an A3-4T engine.

Perfect straight up boost, chute deployment, and recovery!  The model drifted down and landed within forty feet of the launch pad.  The flight was a perfect christening of the new launch field.
Mrs. BlastFromThePast was duly impressed, as well!
Next up was the Mini Maggot 3 boost/glider, which had turned in a less-than-perfect maiden flight about a month ago.
This time I used a 1/2A3-2T engine, hoping for better results.

A strange thing happened at the launch of this bird.  With my finger hovering over the controller button, I was fumbling with my cel phone to get my usual launch video started.  I began the countdown, and just as I said “5….” My finger twitched and the model launched!  I missed seeing the boost!  Luckily my wife was there and tracked the flight to apogee.
“I don’t see it!” I exclaimed.  She pointed me in the right direction, and there it was…the Mini Maggot glider wheeling gracefully in a somewhat tight right-hand circle.  It had worked!  Perfect pod separation.  No Red Baron!  “WooHooo!!!"
I followed the glider during its descent.  By the time of this launch, the wind had picked up to around 5 mph in the direction of the short side of the field.  The glider was heading dangerously close to the residential area to the south.  I saw it touch down just this side of the fence. 
I didn’t time this flight, but I estimated the duration to have been well over a minute.  Luckily there was no thermal activity to speak of or I would have been kissing this one goodbye.
It still took about a 10 minute search before I found the glider in some tall grass just outside the park perimeter.  Both it and the pop-pod were recovered with no damage whatsoever.  I was elated at my first successful boost/glider launch in the new BAR era.
The only negative aspect of the flight was the discovery that the engine casing had ejected from the pod.  Had this been a competition flight, it would have been a DQ.  But since this was a sport flight:  Meh!
I had intended to fly the Delta-II as well, but since the wind was starting to become increasingly present, I opted out and packed up the gear, satisfied with two excellent flight missions.
My wife and I headed home to enjoy the remainder of the Independence Day festivities…..

Monday, June 19, 2017

An Interesting Find….

This weekend I was going through some boxes of old files and papers, and found this…
A pristine Estes 1973 Catalog!
1973 was, of course, the year that I got started in model rocketry.  I must have obtained two copies of this catalog at the time, because I recall that I had a ‘working copy’ that was all dog-eared from use and filled with marks and notations.
This was the ‘good’ copy that was stashed away, thus missing being included in my big model rocketry sale of 1985.
This one is definitely going into an archival storage bag and saved in its present condition.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Home Depot Launcher

"You Know You’re A Rocket Geek If…."

This is a common type of thread subject that appears from time to time on the popular rocket forums, that usually garners a lot of responses.

For me, the answer to this one is easy….

Whenever I am shopping at a store – any store - I keep an eagle-eye out for any item that could have a possible use for model rocketry.

This applies in particular to the big box home centers.  Here is my latest find.

While looking in the yard and garden aisle at Home Depot for some weed killer, I happened upon this intriguing item:

This is a tripod mounted lawn sprinkler.  I instantly recognized it as a launcher.  The extendable legs on this one are quite sturdy, even more so than the usual camera tripods commonly converted into launchers.  The footprint is quite large, which would make this a perfect launch tripod for MPR birds.

It doesn’t look like rocket science (!) to remove the sprinkler components and make the necessary conversions that would turn this item into a dandy launch pad base.

The unit is a little bit pricey, at least for my budget, but do-able.
Here's the info:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

More Little Joe II Stuff

For those of you who might like to try your hand at scratch building a Little Joe II model rocket in whatever scale, there was a good set of scale drawings published in the September, 1969 issue of Model Rocketry Magazine.
The plans can be found starting on page 44 in the Model Rocketeer section.

This issue of MRm can be found on Ninfinger.  Here's the link:

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Back In The Day, Part 5 - The Centuri Little Joe II

Over on the ‘Rocket Building Blog’, master builder Chris Michielssen is embarking on a new build of the Estes Little Joe II kit.  I am in great anticipation of this blog series, as the LJII kit is high up on my own project list for the near future.  Chris also posted a little bit of historical info on the older Centuri and Estes Little Joe kits.

This kindled some memories of the Centuri Little Joe II which I built and flew back in 1980-1.

This is a photo of the model prior to its maiden flight in 1980.  The date is unknown, but judging from the snow in the picture it would have taken place between January and March of that year.

The model was flown on a (3) C6-3 engine cluster.   I recall that it was a very impressive flight.

The model’s second and final flight took place in April of either 1981 or 1982.  My flight documentation was quite poor back at that time.  This flight was made at a public demonstration launch at the Rustic Hills North shopping center, an annual event conducted by ROMAR, and sponsored by a hobby store located in the strip mall.

This flight of the LJII did not go so well – in fact it pranged on the asphalt and was damaged beyond repair.

The model can be seen in this photo lying on the table next to the PA box.  Close scrutiny reveals the 3 engine cluster tube assembly sitting next to the rocket, and it is obvious that most of the fins are missing.

Yep, that gangly-looking young man doing the running commentary on the PA system is me. That was in my 'hippie' days!

I never attempted to repair the LJII, and the remnant pieces were part of my general model rocket sale in 1985.

I’m definitely stoked about building another one….