Desert Heat 2014 - August 22-24, 2014 (Brothers, OR)

This was another fun Brothers adventure!

I was originally hoping to join the small contingent in Brothers Thursday night, but by the time I was ready to hit the road it was pretty late at night so I bagged those plans. I left Portland at 5:30 AM on Friday morning, which was early. I made a breakfast stop before heading over the pass, only having to pull over in Warm Springs to take a short nap. When I pulled into the launch site at 10:30 AM I was only the 4th person to arrive, which surprised me. It was great to see David Holloway out there again! I got camp set up and finished prepping a few rockets, with more people arriving as the day progressed.

On Friday evening I flew my Binder Galaxy on a CTI K445 Classic, a motor I had bought off one of the PSAS guys. This was the first CTI motor I had ever flown and it performed well, taking the Galaxy to 7200’ which is the highest I’ve ever flown that rocket. It had an easy visual recovery 50 feet away from the “shack” – I walked right to it without GPS.

(Photo credit to Ed Harrison.)

I had dinner and enjoyed a nice night around the fire that evening.

First up Saturday morning was Code Blue on an M650W. This moonburner reload goes in the 75/6400 case and was my biggest motor to date! Gluing the grains end-to-end in the liner the day before was a bit finicky, but it worked. Of course, the mandrel I brought was about 1/16” too big, so I had to do a bit of searching around for something else that would work. I loaded Code Blue up on the tower, waited for a lull, and went for it. The boost was a bit slow to start off, but she climbed beautifully and the 9 second burn took it to 16,600’, also a personal altitude record. Robert Braibish even said he could see the launch clear from the highway!

(Photo credit to Jeremy Louke.)

(Photo credit to Gary Goncher.)

(Photo credit to Gary Goncher.)

The BRB900 indicated I had a drogue out, which was good since of course I couldn’t see a darn thing. I kept getting packets throughout the descent, but still no visual. A little while later the receiver told me my main was good – as I looked up the coordinates I found out that I landed 1.5 miles south of the flightline. Jeremy Louke and I hopped in the truck and drove for a bit only to discover that, of course, the rocket was a mile from the closest road. We hiked up that big ridge behind the homestead hill and Code Blue was resting right on top of it. Talk about a panoramic view! With rocket sections in hand we descended back to the truck and returned to camp. Again, many thanks to Jeremy for helping with the recovery efforts!

I took a lunch break and did my LCO shift, after that it was time to start prepping my new rocket for its test flight on an L1150R. Until I come up with the name I just called it “To be named later.” ;) This is my 75mm minimum diameter bird with one of Mike Fisher’s aluminum fin cans and a Tender Descender to deploy the main. Just to be on the safe side, I moved my tower up the homestead hill and set up my launch controller there for Sunday morning. Rocket prep went well, as did dinner followed by another fun evening around the campfire.

Sunday morning came and it was time for what was to be my first minimum diameter flight, first homestead hill launch, and first time using a “non-conventional” deployment system. I was pretty nervous! I finished final rocket prep and Rob Appleton and I headed up to the hill. We got everything ready to go, snapped a few pictures, and retreated. I got my 5 count over the FRS radio, I pushed the button…and waited…and waited… BOOM! The L1150R roared off the pad and took the rocket to 15,500’, which was higher than I was expecting.

(Photo credit to Rob Appleton.)

(Photo credit to Gary Goncher.)

I saw both the drogue charges deploy, but nothing after that so I can’t be certain as to what happened. According to a few eyewitnesses, I was descending pretty fast since I opted to go drogueless. I was also told that my main chute appeared to have stripped when the Tender Descender went off at 800’. Upon recovery merely 50 yards from the old burn pit, that seemed to be the case. The airframe and fin can were unscathed, as was the nosecone. However, the 4’ Rocketman chute was not looking too great. My best theory as to what happened was that my drogue charges burned holes in the main chute, as they were located right below it. Furthermore, when the Tender Descender tried to deploy (what was left of) the main chute, it stripped because the rocket was coming in too fast.

I needed to rethink my deployment methods before I flew this rocket again, but I came up with a good design that I was satisfied with before I flew it next.

I got camp packed up and had lunch, but it took me a little while to get on the road since I also had to knock down my homestead hill equipment. After that it was an easy drive home with a dinner stop along the way.

My next excursion would be BALLS, at Black Rock Desert, NV.