Die Fledermaus Debut
I finished painting Die Fledermaus, added the rail buttons, and threw some epoxy onto the eye bolt on the nose cone to close it off. The pictures:
The plan had been to fly at the Ranch on Saturday (May 5, one of my favorite days to launch rockets, especially at the Ranch: the anniversary of the MR-3 flight, Freedom 7, carrying Al Shepard on his first space flight). I scrubbed.
Despite the wind forecast, I went out to Snow Ranch. I had promised my daughter to drop her off at my cousin’s place to spend the day with their horses, and that was not made conditional on the weather. I was about halfway out to Snow Ranch, so I continued. Besides, wind forecast or not, a) it was a gorgeous day, and b) the forecast is not the weather. Unfortunately, in this case, the forecast held fairly true, and we had winds of about 10 gusting 18, with an occasional gust nearing 20 mph. Some of my fellow LUNARtics chose to fly despite the winds, and there were some great flights.
But, some of the flights were, well, not so great. One long, slender rocket probably caught a gust or buffet just as it came off the launch rod, before it was going quite fast enough to get good, solid vertical penetration, and it veered hard over, nearly to horizontal and heading downwind (away from us!) fast. Many of the others weather-cocked hard into the wind, resulting in a high horizontal component of the velocity at parachute deployment (ideally, the horizontal and the vertical components will both be very nearly zero). I fully expected Die Fledermaus to weather-cock some, and, though this thing is, I think, built very solidly, especially for a G-powered bird, launching in those conditions was a needless risk.
I had a pretty good idea that Delta Echo Fox would be even worse in those winds, given its asymmetry.
So, instead, I worked as Low Power Safety Check Officer, checking rockets for safety and assigning pads, and also as Forward Observer on the Hill, watching for aircraft that might impinge on our airspace that could not be seen from the range head. And Die Fledermaus will fly another day.
Old pilot’s saying, adapted to this occasion: better to have the rocket down here, wishing you had it up there, than having it up there wishing it was down here.