Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rocket Party

I took the family out to have a little "rocket party" last Saturday. I had been working on a rocket with an onboard digital video camera and it was finally finished. (More information on this over at my Tinkering Lab blog.) So I also dug out some of my older rockets to re-launch. A couple of them needed a little fixing up, but no big deal. I bought each of the kids a simple rocket they could assemble and launch. And after getting my launch controller fixed up again (the switch had gone out) we were all set to go.

I found a huge field that is apparently used for growing wheat, but is vacant right now. It's close to home and free of trees and structures for our rockets to get stuck on. It rained a little bit while we were there, which almost spoiled the whole thing. But it eventually stopped and the winds didn't get too strong to kill the party.

The kids were funny to watch during the launches. Even though the rockets aren't that loud, the kids would plug their ears and flinch away. They even seemed to be a little scared of the launch controller, hitting the switch and almost running from it.

We did have one mishap with Rachel's rocket. Somehow the engine blew up on it. It was just mini A engine. Immediately after clearing the launchpad and about 20 feet in the air it just popped and fell to the ground. Rachel was so concerned for her rocket that she immediately ran to it and picked it up. Unfortunately it was still very hot and she burned the tips of her fingers. After letting it cool and upon further inspection we found that the engine had blown a hole in its side and the inside of the body tube actually caught fire. It was still smoldering when she grabbed it. I don't know if it was a faulty engine or just a really old engine (one of my old leftovers) that had exceeded its shelf life. I've launched many many rockets and never seen that happen before.

Aside from that major downer, we all had fun.

Anyway, here are a couple videos of my "Big Daddy" rocket with the onboard camera:

I'm so glad I caught the rocket on that second launch or it probably would have really munched it. The parachute can be repaired so we hope to have it flying again soon.

During our little rocket party we also got to see some jets from the airshow going on at the nearby Hillsboro airport. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds gave us some noisy flybys. We were close enough to get some cool views of the jets, but we weren't in any of the flight paths to be too concerned about our rockets interfering with the low flying aircraft. But we still made sure not to launch when the jets were flying around us.

That photo is of a very large plane that flew by. I'm not even sure what it is but it's HUGE! The picture doesn't even do it justice. It took us by surprise and I didn't have my camera out fast enough, but when we first saw it, we can only describe it as a "flying cruise ship." It looked too big to be flying. And to see it flying so low just made it stand out all the more.