Launches & events - commentary

Sat. January 19, 2013 - TTRA launch - Varn Farm - Tampa, FL

 The launch site was the usual open field of Varn Farm. By the time I got there, the launch was already underway with several rockets already on pads. Clouds were hovering, but enough sunlight was peeking through, helped by strong and occasionally gusty winds. Not a good day for gliders or lighter models. This time of year it's quite dry with no significant precipitation, meaning ponds around the field were at their lowest and the ground was solid enough for vehicles to drive around without being stuck in mud. Most flyers were using dual deployment with streamers as high altitude drogues and parachutes blossoming at 700' to 300' above ground. Few flyers opted for motor deployment trusting their judgments for the right combination of rocket weight and parachute size to avoid seeing their rocket drifting into the next county or causing an "accelerated" return to the ground with too small of a parachute and consequent damage.

 My flight was a PML - AMRAAM 4" built according to manufacturer's instructions (yes - that includes piston deployment and no dual recovery!).  The model has been ready to fly since Sept. 15, when a stuck piston prevented me from flying it. The motor of choice, an AT I300 medium delay, was already assembled and ready to go. I settled for a home-made 40" parachute with a large spill-hole, originally intended to be used as a drogue. It seem to be the best compromise for today's windy flight conditions. After spending almost an hour with sandpaper trying to fit the piston, I decided to remove it and protect the parachute with nomex fabric. I had also fabricated a baffle of sort by placing a metal scouring pad at the end of the motor mount to cool down the ejection gasses and capture flaming particles. The model lifted off a 5' rail an proceeded quite straight for a high altitude (estimated @2,400'). It appeared horizontal at apogee and right then it deployed the parachute. It seemed to travel quite a distance away into the wind, but settling down gently. It eventually landed no more than 1 km from the launch pads, avoiding a shallow pond nearby. The model was intact with no damage. 

Next launch will have more models and dual deployment recovery. The electronic bays are ready and once the retaining holes are standardized  





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