Fire in the Sky 2010 Post Mortem

Fire in the Sky is the largest rocket launch event in Washington State. It spans about four days, starting the Friday before Memorial Day, and running into Memorial Day itself. Friday is a mixed day of research launches and some commercial flights. Saturday is when most of the fun stuff happens, Sunday has an awesome raffle, and things get wrapped up on Monday. I arrived a little after 5PM on Friday, and we all left around 8PM on Sunday, for reasons I will be getting to shortly.

To begin, I was picked up a little after 11AM on Friday. At this point, we were running a little over an hour behind schedule. After picking up the remainder of our passengers, we were on the road to Mansfield, WA by around noon. We stopped in Leavenworth a little after 2 or so and got food and Alex bought a case of wine. By around 3:30 we were back on the road. We passed through Waterville, Home of the Shockers, and arrived at the Sportsmans Club just outside of Mansfield around 5:15PM. We set up what was left to set up of camp and got to work on finishing rockets and preparing for flight.

Friday was fairly uneventful, we didn't get any flights in, but then, we weren't really expecting to either.

Saturday: Most of us were up by around 7. It was cold, and took a couple hours to get warmed up, so we ate breakfast, attended the fliers meeting, got raffle tickets and one of two FITS shirts. The first, lets say half of the day was spent doing more rocket preparation. Tragic Little Aerospace Flight No. 1 was ready by around 2PM, and Nate got his AMRAAM4 checked out, and set up with a rack and pad to fly on. Ignition was great; it was spectacular watching it leave the pad. I'm not sure it could have gone much better. Unfortunately, that is also the end of the good notes of this flight. The rocket reached apogee, turned around and came straight down with no events. We spent around six hours on Saturday with about eight of us looking for the rocket to no avail. Early Sunday we got word that someone had found it and we were finally able to locket the wreck and recover what we could. The rocket was destroyed. The parachutes should be repairable. Of the electronics: our telemetry unit was destroyed, and the altimeter was severely damaged. We suspect the altimeter failed, as it did not appear any of the charges went off. I'm waiting for Nate to plug it in to see if it has any data on it, or if its dead.

With such awesome events, we went to Town Bar and Grill for dinner around a quarter to ten. Unfortunately, the barmaid had shut the grills down so were stuck with appetizers and alcohol. It was alright.

Moving on to Sunday. Tragic Little Aerospace Flight No. 2 with Robert. He flew a glider on an F motor, unfortunately, I do not recall which one. I'll get that data later, as well as what Nate flew on. This flight went much better, unfortunately wind was not in hour favor and it flew away from us, hitting a power line and going down. We found it just missing a rail button. Great flight. Checked with Puget Sound Propulsion, and purchased another 38/720 motor casing, since Nate used the one we had and at this point had not recovered it yet, nor did we have word that we knew where it was. Went back to came and Alex and I prepped for launch. Passed safety check easily. Set to the next rack. Got the rocket on the pad and waited. Was VERY nervous. Our rack had at least 3 cert flights. First flight succeeded. Tragic Little Aerospace Flight No. 3 was mine. I flew my nearly eight foot, modified LOC EZI-65 on an I-600R. Again, beautiful take-off. It flew better than I expected, perhaps due to the amount of thrust from the I-600R. We had an event at about apogee as expected, at around 11seconds after launch. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough drag on the deployment bag to pull the parachute free, so the rocket came down about two or three times faster than it should have. Recovered the rocket to minor damage. Unfortunately the damage was sever enough that certification was not successful. Tragic Little Aerospace Flight No. 4 was Alex with his Public Missiles, Ltd kit. I do not recall which kit it was exactly, I'll get that information later as well. He went up on an I-200W, (I think, I will verify later), and succeeded in getting his level 1 NAR certification. So of four flights and three certification attempts, we had two successful flights, one almost successful flight, one catastrophe and one certification. We are unfortunately living up to the name of Tragic Little Aerospace.

After launch number 4 seven of us went to recover the failed flight, and were able to recover broken electronics, two damaged parachutes and deployment bags, shock cord, some hardware, and the motor casing and retention hardware. Two of the fins were salvageable, but the rest was trash, unfortunately.

At the raffle, Robert won a Binder Design Excel Plus 38mm kit (I think, it was an Excel something) and a signed picture with a couple astronauts.

We left Mansfield around 8PM. I arrived home at about midnight.

All in all, it was a spectacular weekend. It was a little windy, but minimal dust, which was nice. Nights were cold, but still tons of fun. We were better prepared than last year, but still a little uncoordinated.

I will be getting pictures posted in a couple days once I get them from Robert.

With that, have an awesome Memorial Day.


EDIT: Flight details.
TLA Flight 1: Nathan flew a modified Public Missiles, Ltd AMRAAM 4" on an Aeroteck J-340M (Metalstorm)
TLA Flight 2: Robert flew his Glider on a F-12
TLA Flight 3: Dustin (me!) flew a modified LOC EZI-65 on an I-600R.
TLA Flight 4: Alex flew a stock Public Missiles, Ltd Tethys on an Aerotech I-200W

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