I finally decided to fly the low power repair job that I talked about in the previous post. The temperature was in the mid-50s (Fahrenheit) and there was a stiff 7-10 mph wind from the NNW. Cloud cover was 100% but there was no rain in the region.
After repairing the launch controller, which lacked a safety key and had a disconnected alligator clip, launch operations were transferred to Kentucky’s E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park at a local RC airplane club’s air field. Because the field was surrounded by tall trees downwind and a highway a hundred meters to the west, the pad was set up on the north end of the runway in the interest of relatively easy recovery.
The ultimate test lay in the functionality of the many-years-old Estes B6-4 motors. The first attempt yielded no launch. This may have been caused by a gust of wind disconnecting an alligator clip from the igniter. After removing the improvised safety key, I reconnected all the appropriate wirings and resumed the countdown. To my surprise (I really wasn’t expecting the motors to work.), the B6 lit up and sent the rocket in a beautiful arc (following the wind) beneath the clouds. Roughly 4 seconds later, the ejection charge fired and fully deployed the parachute. As the rocket floated toward the ground, however, I noticed that the fuselage was tumbling out of control. Much to my dismay, the shock cord had detached from the fuselage and I would be resigned to lacking at least half the rocket if I could make a recovery. It would have been futile to attempt a parachute/nosecone recovery as the winds would carry it far into the trees, leaving it impossible to recover even if I could find it. Fortunately, the fuselage tumbled down into a reasonably treeless area.
Thus began the search for the fuselage (which, as you may have gathered in the previous post, was the most significant investment of the build/repair time). I was not entirely certain of the impact site, but I had a reasonably good idea of the general area it might have landed. After about 5 minutes of searching, I found the fuselage lodged between two branches in a tree, roughly 10 to 15 feet above ground. It was just high enough that jumping would not work and just far out enough that climbing the tree would yield far worse results. As luck would have it, there was a perfectly-sized stick for throwing to dislodge the rocket from its resting place and a few throws would have it back on the ground.
Fortunately, the ultralight construction had prevented any damage (besides the obvious lack of a nosecone and parachute) on the tumble recovery. Most importantly, I found that my repairs served as viable field repair strategies and that the ad hoc mechanisms utilized were feasible for future repairs. And, as luck would have it, I found an abandoned bright red nosecone lodged in a tree while searching for this rocket, so now I’m just down a parachute and shock cord.