Sunday, December 19, 2010

Review: Sweat-Stained Clifton Tracking Station Hat of Death

The Hat of Death is a UFO-type rocket made from an old fishing hat. The hat is removable in case I forget a ball cap - wouldn't want to sunburn the top of my head. Logging 57 flights to-date on motors from 'D' through 'G' (including some clusters), the Hat of Death has become my signature rocket at the MDRA launches.

This is really a minimalist rocket. I made the core out of a solid piece of 2" pink foam. I started by tracing the outline of the hat and roughing out a chunk with a sharp knife. I did just a tad of trimming to make sure it was oval, and then found the center point. Next, I drew a circle and slowly bored a hole for the motor mount. I also cut a slot on one side to accommodate a 1/4" lug. The motor mount includes a 3.25" section of phenolic tubing, a similar length of 1/4" launch lug, and a 29mm-76mm centering ring. The centering ring was mounted so that the motor tube was flush with the top of the foam. It serves to distribute the thrust to the foam core, and helps ensure that the motor tube is perpendicular to the foam's surface. This assembly was then epoxied into the foam block. I added a circle of scrap plywood to plug the front of the tube, making sure that all openings were sealed with epoxy. The final step was to find the point where the rod would pass through the hat itself, and cut a small 'X' with an X-acto knife. Like I said, not much to it. Slip the hat over the finished core and I was ready to fly.

I have also built a core mount with a 3" tube.  This core has provided interchangeable mount for flights on the Aerotech 38/120 motors and various clusters.

The Hat of Death's flight profile is similar to any other saucer rocket.  Recovery is tumble and the core often separates from the hat as it flutters down.  It has logged 61 flights as of the end of 2011 on the following motor types.

2x Est SU D12-0, 4x Est SU D12, 9x Est SU A8, AT EconoJet F20, AT EconoJet F21, AT EconoJet F23, AT EconoJet F42, AT EconoJet G35, AT EconoJet G38, AT RMS E18, AT RMS F12, AT RMS F24, AT RMS G64, AT RMS G69, AT RMS G71, AT RMS G76, AT SU G75, AT SU G77, AT SU G80, DRD F38, Vulcan G, Ellis SU F20, Ellis SU F20, Ellis SU G20, Ellis SU G35, EST SU D12-0/EST SU E9, Est SU E9

I find myself liking UFO style rockets more and more and couldn't resist trying this odd-roc. This was my first wearable rocket - I wore the hat to the RSO table, to the pad, and back again after recovery. If anyone else had flown a hat (and someone probably had), I didn't find anyone who had heard of it.  However, I have since seen numerous copycats :)

The Story Behind the Name In the late '90's, I was the project manager for a telemetry, command, and antenna control system. My team and I traveled to Clifton, Texas to run some preliminary tests with the antennas. Unfortunately, they weren't quite ready and since springtime in Texas is a tad warmer than in Maryland, we weren't happy campers. With the prospects of spending a fair amount of time walking between the building and the antenna pads in the hot sun, one of my guys ran to Wal-Mart for hats. This hat became our team's unofficial uniform, and mine came back fairly stained. I was finally about to chunk it when I got an idea!