Yesterday I went to Girl Scout Camp...

… to train about 30 girl scout leaders in rocketry; part of a NASA/scout thing to get young ladies more involved in science and such. I wasn’t alone – my club’s VP, Ray Cole, was there (he gave me a ride), along with another club member, Shannon Rollins, and a non-affiliated NAR member from Huntsville. Tom and Thelma Rackers from SEARS (south Alabama, north Florida) also made a very long trek to the workshop – they have had a significant role in devising the girl scout rocketry patch program.

The workshop flow was very similar to that we had back in February – brief introduction, some talk about NAR and TARC, followed by rocketry principles. The leaders built straw rockets and each made several launches, trying to optimize the design so that they could achieve the greatest distance with the launcher set at a 45 degree angle. In the process they discovered that 1) there was an optimum weight for the rocket, and 2) fins added unnecessary drag (no motor, so the things are just projectiles). The 4 top placers got a free pass to Huntsville’s SciQuest – a donation from Ray Cole.

After the straw rockets, we moved on to my favorite part – lunch. I pigged out on BBQ

Post lunch saw the construction of the Quest Starhawks; while the glue on them was drying, the participants moved on to building and launching water rockets. I enjoy water rockets less than the straw ones, but most everyone else seems to have a great deal of fun watching their modified 2 liter bottle blast 50-100′ into the air. There certainly is a nice pop when the release on the pressure launcher is pulled.

Unfortunately, there was a mishap at the water rocket launch; a leader pulled the release cord, only to have the metal hook come flying back to hit her in the face. Her nose was bleeding profusely, and she had to be taken off the camp ground for medical attention. This was a brutal reminder that we need to pay attention even during launches involving non-combustibles. Just because it’s water doesn’t mean you can’t get hurt.

Ray and I got the HARA LPR pad and 4 channel controller set up in plenty of time for the 3:45 Starhawk launch. Our designated field was waaay on the small side – about 50′ by 50′. Even though there was no wind, it did not look good for rocket recovery, even given the fact that the Starhawk was a streamer bird. The many rocket eating trees in the woods surrounding the small cleared area were drooling in anticipation of the upcoming feast; they would not be disappointed. Of the 30+ models launched, only 5 were recovered (16%), a pitifully small number. The leaders took the losses well, even laughing as their models descended into tree after tree. We made various adjustments to the pad, angling it this way and that, but the position (near the bottom of the model) and loose fit of the rockets’ launch lugs enabled them to head most any direction after exiting the rod.

Tom and Ray closed the launch with 3 flight demos of various saucer types. 1st up was Tom’s Art Applewhite paper Qubit on an A10-P. This was followed by a scratch built saucer made from interlocking paper plates, the E9 motor held by friction fit though a 24 mm hole cut in the center of each plate. Ray and I were pleasantly surprised by how well it flew, and both of us made mental notes to pick up a couple of those plates on a future trip to the grocery. The last launch was Ray’s Art Applewhite saucer on a F24 White Lightning motor – the roar and the bright exhaust left quite an impression on the leaders.

The day being almost at an end, Ray and I packed up the launch gear and said our goodbyes. A fun day, made better by the knowledge that quite a few of the leaders were going to start rocketry projects with their girls. These workshops are proving to be quite worthwhile!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but my digital camera’s battery was dead – like a dope, I forgot to charge it. Ray did manage to get some pics, which I will post if he makes them available.

I'm back...

It’s been a while since my last post; vacation, illness, and an ISP problem have all contributed to keeping me offline. Truth to be told, there was also a bit of burnout – work has been extremely busy of late, and I have had zero motivation to work on rocket stuff.

However, things have settled down, and I have managed to complete 2 of the birds I was building – the Semroc SLS Aero Dart and a clone of the Estes Wolverine. Here’s a couple of pics:


I’m especially proud of the Aero Dart; can’t wait to fly it, especially given that it has interchangable motor mounts – 24 and 29 mm. It’ll book on an F40!

The Taurus is coming along – it has just moved past the primer phase. I’m finishing the pods separatedly to facilitate the Admiralty color scheme. Stay tuned…

Slow Going...

Been a while since I last posted – high humidity, rain, and a fair amount of work-related stuff have conspired to slow down my rocket activities…

Thursday went as planned – 2nd coat of primer applied to the Aero-Dart, and the Taurus fins and sensor array pieces sanded and glued into place. Friday saw the filleting of the fins on the Taurus, attachment of the launch lug, and a coat of white primer applied to the Aero-Dart. The first coat of gray primer was applied to the Taurus lower half on Saturday morning.

And then the humidity and rain set in – big time. Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday were dismal, dreary, and drippy. The weather improved on Monday, dry enough for me to apply another coat of white primer to the Aero-Dart fins, and gray primer to the outboard pods of the Taurus. Not much else could be done.

Good weather this evening – I applied the 1st coat of black to the Aero-Dart nose and payload section and a coat of glossy white to the body. I am not happy with the spirals that are showing through the white – I knew I should have filled them with Fill N’ Finish! Oh well – she’ll look fine from 3 feet away.

I also sanded the Wolverine and repainted, this time using Krylon silver. It turned out OK, and this clone is now ready for the decals. Here’s a couple of pics of the newly painted model:Woverine_paint001

Stupid is as stupid does...

Even when progressing carefully, one can be stupid – as I found out this evening. Being out of primer, I have devoted the bulk of my attention to the Taurus the past couple of evenings. The Fill N’ Finish on the balsa parts has been sanded smooth and those on the upper 2/3 were glued together last night; a coat of Fill N’ Finish applied to help cover the joints. This was sanded down this evening and I managed to find an almost empty can of gray primer to spray on the Taurus’ upper part. Sounds good, right?


As the primer was drying, I consulted the Taurus instructions and discovered that I had forgotten to glue the 3 rectangular balsa pieces making up the sensor array to the body tube in between the adapters. Doh! I am going to have to sand away some of the primer and get these parts on. No biggie, but I feel pretty dumb.

The game plan for tomorrow is as follows: 1) Go to Michaels, get more primer. 2) sand fin and pod support edges round. 3) Sand Aero-Dart and apply 2nd primer coat. 4) Glue fins on Taurus lower body tube. 5) Sand “sensor array” pieces to conform to body tube and glue in place. 6) Go to bed.

Monday, Monday...

The work week has begun – man, do I wish this past weekend had been longer! Outside of the scout launch, I didn’t get much done in the way of rocketry. I put a coat of Fill N Finish on the Aero-Dart’s nose cone, which had a couple of nicks. Tonight saw the 1st coat of gray primer. Things are moving along, albeit slowly.

I also put coats of Fill N Finish on the Taurus nose cones and balsa adapters; they await sanding. The fins and pod supports have been laminated and are in need of having their edges rounded – yet more sanding. There’s a lot of balsa in this kit, as you can see from the pic below:


The Wolverine sits off to the side, curing. A couple of more days and I will try recoating with a different brand of silver.

That’s all for tonight – I’m a bit on the tired side

A pack of rockets...

Some days you get lucky, and yesterday was one. I woke up in the late morning to the sound of rain, and expected the cub scout launch to be called because of weather. A phone call from a friend about 11 was a pleasant surprise – the launch was still go for 1 PM, and they would pick me up about 12:15. I packed a few rockets and got my range box ready; by the time noon rolled around the rain had stopped, and the weather radar showed most of the activity passing to the south. Things were looking pretty good!

I got to the field behind the Asbury Methodist Church about 12:35; Chuck (HARA’s VP) had already set up the club launcher. We sanded the clips and performed continuity checks – Channel 1 was definitely a no go, so we switched the cable to channel 10. That didn’t work either – right now, the thinking is that we have a bad cable. Anyway, we had 7 working pads on the saw horse, and 1 additional on the Quad Pod. I have to admit to being a bit amused seeing a 1/8″ rod stuck in the beefy Quad Pod, which normally launches birds on I motors. Talk about down-sizing! It was a good thing we had 8 pads, because there were lots of scouts and their families -2 whole packs (several dens) of them! Chuck gave the crowd a pre-launch briefing a little after 1:


The rules were pretty simple – Nobody near the pads except when they were being loaded, the kids could push the firing button if they stayed at least 5 feet from the controller until their turn, no catching of rockets, and no tree climbing. The briefing over, we started to load the rockets – I acted as a pad manager, helping out by loading the rockets on the rods (most of the scouts could not reach high enough to put them on) and attaching the igniter clips.


As you might expect, most of the rockets were Estes RTF or E2X – plenty of Patriots, Alpha III’s, and Chrome Domes, plus a surprising number of X-15’s. An occasional Quest bird showed up; I have no doubt the rocket stash at Hobby Lobby is now depleted. J There were also lots of Vikings, Yankees, and Sizzlers; I even saw an Alpha on the pad. I was surprised by the number of Estes Shuttle Express models, all of which turned in good flights with no recovery failures. The attached gliders were a different story, however. I don’t know whether it was due to poor design or a lack of trimming, but most did fairly passable imitations of a WWII dive bomber – straight down, into the ground. A brick would’ve flown better.

Smooth was the word for the day – there were very few igniter problems, especially at the beginning, and we were putting up a rack every few minutes. We did have one rocket that just refused to budge – the dad changed the igniter over and over until an inspection revealed that he was loading igniters into a spent motor casing J Funny – and somewhat embarrassing for the parent – but it gives you an idea of the pace of this launch. Remember the stories about civil war soldiers so caught up in thick of battle that they forgot to remove the ramrod before firing their muskets? Well, the rockets were flying thick and heavy – everyone wanted to fly, and many were determined to exhaust their pack of motors before the launch ended.

There were no real major recovery problems, either. The wind was calm, and we even got back many of the Alpha III’s or Vikings that explored the clouds on C motors. The nefarious rocket eating trees did claim a few victims, one model hung on a power line, and a X-15 on a C6 decided to emulate the real thing by flying nearly horizontally over the church. It impacted – hard – on Hughes road; the owner was spared any attempt at repairs, as the wheels of a passing car put the model out of its misery before the scout recovery team could get to it.

Chuck really made this launch. His experience and patience permitted things to run smoothly, and HARA is lucky that he is willing to do these events. He wowed the crowd with a couple of mid-power saucer launches – the last, on a long burning G motor, really got their attention! The HARA controller also performed well, despite the lost channel. We figure that around 150 flights were made, in the span of some 2 and ¾ hours. That’s a rack every 8 minutes or so – not too shabby!

As for me, I managed to launch a couple of rockets – my Estes Snitch on a C, and my Deuce’s Wild on 2 B’s. The Deuce put in its usual great flight – straight up with nice smoke trails, good chute. The Snitch was popular with the kids – it made several more flights after I gave it to a scout whose rocket had broken. I also came home minus my Semroc Snipe Hunter, which was given away for a similar reason. It flew two times, each instance carrying a cargo of leaves in the clear payload section.

Just before 3, folks began to leave, their supply of motors depleted. We launched the last couple of rockets, and began to pack up. It was obvious that everyone had had a great time; there were many comments about coming back next year. I left with my ride, very pleased with how things went – no rain, lots of rockets launched with few glitches, and a whole bunch of fun. Plus, the fact that, now that I was in the car, I could finally eat the Honey-baked ham sandwich I had brought for lunch…

I did bring my camera, but didntt have much time for pictures. I managed to get a few – launch pics are essential – and here they are:

The first rocket – a Patriot – lifts off.

Chuck and the kids at launch control. They loved pressing the button to fire their rockets, though a couple were a little too eager. 5… ain’t much of a countdown

An Estes Shuttle Express sits on the pad awaiting its turn to go. Look out for falling gliders!

An Alpha III heads skyward.

The boys didn’t have all the fun – the girls also joined in. Here a young lady and her dad prep her X-15 while an Estes Executioner stands sentry.


Tonight was not a good night… And the worst thing is that it is all due to a lack of patience on my part.

I was intending to fly the Wolverine on its maiden voyage at the scout launch this Saturday. Last night, I managed to get a decent finish on the body using the Testor’s silver enamel; tonight, I applied the 2nd coat to the nose cone. Even though the humidity was low – at least according to the internet weather – the paint orange peeled. I waited a couple of hours, sanded the nose down, and re-coated – it not only orange peeled, it ran. Wait another couple of hours, sand down, repaint – more orange peeling and runs. Get frustrated and stomp the balsa cone to pieces under my feet…

Well, that last part hasn’t happened – at least not yet – but I have had it with the Testor’s silver. I’m going to wait a few days, sand the nose down, and apply some Krylon – hopefully, it will match. If not, I’ll repaint the body. The net upshot is that the Wolverine will not be at Saturday’s launch. I should’ve waited a couple of days after I got the orange peel on the first coat I applied this evening, but noooo… I had to rush things, and now I have a mess to fix.

Better news from the Aero-Dart; construction is complete and I am ready to move on to finishing. The nose has been coated with 3 coats of thinned Elmer’s glue, and tomorrow I will apply the Fill N’ Finish. I am impressed with the size of this rocket – It certainly isn’t a dwarf!


I have also started work on the Semroc Taurus I received yesterday. I have laminated one side of the fins and pod struts with paper (the other side will be done tomorrow), and coated the numerous balsa cones and adapters with 3 coats of thinned Elmer’s to prepare them for the Fill N’ Finish. I have decided to go with the “admiralty color” paint job (see here), which will require painting the pods and the body before the pods are attached. It should be a challenge!

And you can bet I ain’t going to use any darned Testor’s paints!

A good Sunday...

Today was filled with a lot of rocketry goings-on. After I finished lunch, I coated the Tango Papa Quasar decals with decal film and applied them to the model. I have to admit, they made the rocket, transforming it from something ho-hum to a pretty sharp-looking bird. Compare this pic to the one in the last post:


Not bad, eh? The shock cord has been attached to the kevlar thread coming off the baffle, and the Quasar is ready to fly. Perhaps this Saturday, at a local cub scout launch.

I removed the damaged decal from the D-Region Tomahawk using transparent packing tape – which took a while, and applied the new decal that John (Thrustline) had sent me. The 4 coats of decal film did the trick, and it went on without any trouble at all. Lesson learned.

I also laminated the remaining two fins of the Aero-Dart. Tomorrow, I can start sanding the edges (fun, fun) and glue the fins onto the body tube.

The primer on the Wolverine is still curing – I can still smell a faint odor. Maybe, just maybe, I will be able to lay on the first coat of Testor’s silver tomorrow evening.

Web site has been updated, posts made to the various rocketry forums – a busy and productive day!