Monday, October 06, 2008

Weapons Masters Rockets SPOILER

Weapons Masters is a reality show in the spirit of Mythbusters. One 'weapons historian' and one 'master craftsman' explore the history of a weapon and the craftsman is challenged to make one of his own. Light on history and strong on sensationalism. Real time blogging notes follow. There may be some inaccuracies as I tried to keep up.

This episode explores the Civil War-era (1844) Hale rocket. It was powered by hydraulic-packed BP. Its main innovation was 3 angle vanes to make the rocket spin, thereby improving its range and accuracy.

We get a very brief overview of rockets starting in China through William Congreve's rocket.

Targeting was the main issue in using a rocket as a weapon. The early answer was connecting the rocket to an arrow, which people knew how to use accurately. India took rockets to the next stage by using metal casings. Better packing and built in shrapnel. Next improvement (?) was using sword blades in place of sticks. Then William Congreve built his from iron and used them as Naval weapons.

The exit to the first set of ads show some sport rockets going up.

While the craftsman is building, the historian goes to a KY gun range to learn about Gyrogjet (sp?), spin stabilized rocket gun. The 13mm (coincidence?) projectile had four nozzle holes to impart a spin. He showed a sample and even fired one.

Craftsman's 1st try - Take an Estes engine, put it in a short body, and build a external nozzle with canted ports. Looked like a 50mm round of some sort. Fired from a bunker of sandbags and plexiglas. Launcher was a metal tube. Fired with a hobby (Estes?) controller. Result: try any kit without fins.

2nd try - Longer with a wider back end. Same results.

Break to commercial with more sport rockets. Back from commercial with some 'real' rocket (NASA etc.) failures.

He calls in a 'real rocket scientist'. Rocket theory 101 ensues (physics and fins). But they want a spin stabilized rocket.

Woohoo, he goes to the 'Red Glare Rocket Festival' to learn about rockets and rocket fuel. He notice all the rockets have fins. Except for the big pyramid that's shown in passing (no flight).

He hooks up with Jeff Taylor of Loki Research. He learns about reloadable motors, AP, and notes they are much safer than older BP motors.

I see Dave Weber and his Tuber. Debra Koloms flies a small camera for them. Duct taped on. Flight to 9K. Nice footage.

His expert designs a custom nozzles with three canted throats while the craftsman builds a hefty test stand. Even is instrumented. Nozzle has 3 ports at a 15 degree angle. One convergent cone with three exits. Machined from graphite. Not too shabby. No talk about throat sizes.

Back to MDRA for help from Neal McGilvray. Motor case looked like 3" with a custom grain. Blue flame and lots of spin on the motor. 184lb thrust. Stand broke on test two but they tried it several more times. No CATOs. That's a good thing.

Craftsman builds an airframe. Looked like maybe 5.5" fiberglass with a plastic cone. Meanwhile, the historian sets up a recreation of a civil war battlefield in Fairhill, MD (sp?). Dragonforge Ironworks (sp?) built him a copy of the Hale rocket.

Jeff Taylor, Neil McGilvray, and Bob Utley from MDRA show up with several nicely finished rockets. I bet they built them.

A 'shootoff' ensues.

Hale #1: Fired from 'V' shaped track and lit by fuse. It mostly goes straight and is quite close to the 'target encampment'.

MDRA #1: Fired from a tube and via e-match. Cool high speed footage. Lots of spin. It's very unstable: the enemy is safe.

Hale #2: Kinda stable, not as close as #1.

MDRA #2: Unstable again.

Hale #3: Very unstable. Two out of three ain't bad.

MDRA #3: Added nose weight. Lowered launch angle. Still unstable.

Snowing heavily through the day and it's noted that weather has defeated more armies than rockets.

Last launch resulted in the target 'encampment' exploding and burning.

My Impressions:

I liked the show and it really didn't tie sport rocketry to weapons. The safety of sport rocketry was mentioned several times. In fact, if anything, the results show that unguided hobby rockets are quite ineffective as weapons.

It was light on history but I probably got as much as I needed or wanted.

The development of the canted nozzle motor was cool and the resulting EX motor worked great. The results were as I expected: fins are a good thing. Still, I'd love to see one of the spinning motors in action. I know people have successfully built spin stabilized rockets so more work in this area might result in a stable HPR model.

It's late and this post needs more editing, but I'm beat. I'm not sure this type of recap does anything for anybody and it was more work than it was probably worth. Opinions welcome. G'nite!