Space Shuttle Discovery flew again today. Of course, I mean a low-power model of the storied orbiter. The first time I flew Discovery, which was shortly after Space Camp when I was about in the third grade (think ~10 year hiatus), a misjudgment in nose-weighting sent the model in a powered nose dive, splitting the nose off the all-foam core. Now, with a bit more advanced rocketry skills under my belt, I figured I could put Discovery back in working condition.
The nose had been fixed with contact cement a while ago, perhaps for the sake of preserving the cohesion of the parts, but the parachute still had been melted through in spots and a shroud line had snapped (but not before taking a corner of the parachute with it. After patching the small holes with clear tape, replacing the last shroud line with a chord of fishing line and duct tape, and touching up the nose with a bit more weight in the form of white duct tape (for aesthetics and function), Discovery was ready to fly again.
All I had was a single B6 motor, which was not my first choice of motor, but it would suffice. It turned out, by my very rough estimate, that Discovery would be marginally stable (stability a smidgen upwards of 1.0 caliber) with the B motor, which may have explained the snafu with the C motor before. Back at my home launch site at Louisville’s E.P “Tom” Sawyer state park, temperatures were in the upper 30s and the wind velocity was pushing 10-15 miles per hour from the southeast.
The flight seemed stable, though the model was sufficiently heavy that the maximum altitude could not have exceeded 100 feet. In a beautiful roll maneuver, Discovery righted itself belly-side-down. Now, if the ejection charge would fire, the motor tube would pop out and descend by parachute and Discovery would glide to the ground. However, I did not account for the delay timer, so the rocket free fell to the ground, firing the ejection charge just feet away from the ground. To complicate matters, I had packed the motor tube a bit too tight, so nothing ejected. Fortunately, there was sufficient drag that the model was not damaged, and the ejection charge did not destroy the innards of the model (to my knowledge… I still cannot remove the motor tube.). Given the conditions surrounding the flight, I deem the launch a partial success, however, Discovery is one step closer to its permanent retirement.