|LDRS21 Launch Report|
I would like to thank everyone who helped get the Nike in the air this year. So many people rose to the occasion. From building the special booster igniter buss, to the team of people who built the all the motors. I'd like to thank the entire POTROCS crew for putting on a great LDRS. And a very special thanks goes out to Sharon Turner of Trailing Edge.The Plan:
I can't talk about what happened without first taking some time to describe what was supposed to happen. The plan was to load the 15' Penske Truck on Sunday July 7th. With that accomplished we would roll out to LDRS on Monday the 8th taking I-40 the entire route, arriving in Amarillo around noon on Wednesday the day before LDRS starts. We would take the remainder of the day on Wednesday to cover house keeping tasks such as setting up camp, pitching the tent, ice chest, stove...all of the things that we be needed for our stay of 6 days in Texas. With those items out of the way, I would be free to prep the Nike all day Thursday & Friday, and be able to get it onto the pad Saturday morning.
Monday thru Wednesday: The drive to Texas went very smooth. I took about 100 miles of driving to settle down behind the wheel and get used to driving a large truck with the 60' launch tower behind it. After stops near Flagstaff, Arizona and in Tucumcari, New Mexico we arrived in Canyon Texas. There we picked up all of the perishables for the trip and headed out to the launch site. When we arrived at the launch site we were immediately greeted by some of the POTROCS crew. What a nice bunch of people. I've heard rumors about Texas Hospitality but had never experienced it first hand. Great place to visit.
Thursday: The prep of the Nike began after some coffee and a moment to enjoy the sunrise. I'd never launched on pasture land, and the grass quite a change. The first thing I noticed about the launch site is that after being there for over an hour I had still yet to be covered in a layer of dust that normally accompanies a trip to the dry lakebed. Prep of the Nike went well the first day with almost non-stop visits from people wanting to see the Nike and ask how it was going, and when was it going to fly. Most notable was a visit from a couple who stated they had drove down from Toronto (a distance of 1800 miles) to see the Nike.
Friday: Was a repeat of Thursday, more prep and more visits. By the end of the day, things were looking good but were no where near done. There would be some more prep to do Saturday morning, but it didn't seem like it would be that long.
Saturday: The Nike was supposed to be on the pad at 8:30AM and I had hoped to get it launched around 9:30am. Somewhere around 3pm the Nike made it's trip to the pad. I always underestimate the amount of time needed to get the Nike onto the launcher and this time was no exception. At around 4:30pm the Nike was on the launcher and the hatches were being installed. The final hatch didn't fit quite right and I was called over to take a look at it. When I pressed the final hatch into place a charge blew in the nose cone. This ejected the nose cone off the rocket and landed about 15' away. The drogue was also ejected. This event (similar to one that happened at the last LDRS) really took it's toll on me. When the charge went off I leaped from the launcher, hit the ground and just covered up. Immediately I knew I was ok, but decided to just lay there for awhile while I recovered myself. People were asking if I was OK, and my answer was "I'm OK, but I'm just gonna lay here for a sec". This event killed any launch attempt for Saturday.
After making up some new charges and repacking the drogue we were ready to try again. The three major parts of the Nike were brought out to the launcher. The booster was setup first, the the main body of the sustainer. Finally the nose cone was set to be installed and pinned into place. The nose cone has three charges in it, and the base of the nose cone has four plugs that fit into jacks in the sustainer. I guess I was too concerned with fitting the plugs into their respective jacks, that I forgot to connect the quick link in the nose itself. The Nike was erected the area was cleared and a 10 count was given.
The flight itself:
When the countdown reached zero, the button on the Missile Works Digifire was pressed and all four M1315 motors roared to life. In reviewing the video frame by frame it appears that all motors came up to pressure within 160 milliseconds. See the "Ignition Sequence" page for pictures of this event. The Nike cleared the tower much faster than anticipated and once clear of the tower began to roll in flight. At booster burnout the Nike continued upward. Two charges were set to fire 1 second after burnout to separate the booster. Either charges didn't fire (doubtful) or were insufficient to cause separation (more likely). The Nike continued upward until the sustain motor (Aerotech N2000) fired. A huge mushroom shaped cloud is seen at sustainer ignition with the booster makes a sudden 90 degree turn. This was caused by the booster being hit by the N2000 exhaust. Booster chute was deployed right on time. The sustainer literally took off on a thunderous roar of it's motor. Shortly after sustainer burnout I lost sight of the Nike. A long wait and constant searching of the skies yielded nothing till there was the unmistakable sound of something coming in hot. A sickening thud and a cloud of dust in the distance indicated that the something is down and it wasn't under chute. While we were standing there trying to figure out if the sustainer had become a lake-stake suddenly the sustainer was spotted coming down on it's fully inflated 27' chute. What a pretty sight that was. The sustainer landed about 1/4' down range and was recovered with no damage. Then nose cone was found about 1/2 mile past that stuck into the ground about 5 feet. The weighted (32 pounds) part of the nose cone detached itself from the main body and kept travel into the ground a considerable distance. It was never found.
Pictures and addition video to be posted soon.