Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Dungeon's Top 10 of 2013

Here is my annual list of things (mostly rocket related) that made me happy and captured my imagination. As usual, in no particular order:

1. Estes released the 29mm E16 and F15 BP motors. 2013 saw in its share of new motors, including AeroTech's ProSU and ProRMS lines. While I like the ProSU H135's, I really love those 29mm BP motors. I quickly bought their PS-II Majestic and began cranking out rockets: US Army Gemini (Two BT-60, semi-dead Estes rockets, inherited from Paul Miller, were stacked on top of each other with a Semroc Gemini Capsule cone. Drifted away on its 1st flight.); MLAS-S (a stretched Quest MLAS); Sacrificial Bertha (modified Baby Bertha); F-in-Rocket (mailing tube scratcher, say the name fast), Wasatalos (scavenged and reconfigured Talos missile - in the works);  Spool Spinner (a spool rocket with spinner tubes as seen in the Apogee newsletter; and the Frankenstein Big Daddy (see next item on the list.). They joined a bunch of existing rockets in my fleet that are flyable on these motors: 29mm Estes Big Daddy, 29mm Estes FatBoy, 29mm Quest Nike Smoke, AeroTech Cheetah, 29mm Art Applewhite 7.5" Saucer, Art Applewhite MaxQ, Art Applewhite Helix Monocopter, and, of course, my Hat of Death. Did I say that I *really* love these motors?

My Fleet with Majestic Flare

2. After ~5 years, the Frankenstein Big Daddy goes from the bench to the sky. I started this rocket in 2008 when Quest first teased us about bigger motors. I salvaged the nose cone and fins from my stock Big  Daddy, which lawn darted at NARHAMS. I found a wrapping paper tube that matched the cone, beefed said tube up and added a 3x29mm mount. Those new motors never appeared. Then, I hoped for the Klima motors. Since Estes beat them to the gun, I finished it up and flew it on three F15-6's at the November MDRA launch. Yay!

3. Rockets get bigger at the Wallops Flight Facility/Mid-Atlantic Spaceport, night launches are visible from my driveway.  I spotted a Black Brant VI, Minotaur-V/LADEE/, Minotaur-I/ORS-1, and Minotaur-1/ORS3. The Minotaur V was the best visually as it is the biggest rocket, but the following photo of the Minotaur-1/ORS-3 was my best shot.

minotaur 1 ors 3 11 19 2013 009

4. I finally got a smartphone. I no longer have to run back from the pads to my camp to get a camera since I keep my phone on me at all times. The photos are not quite as good as from my point-and-shoot with its 18x optical zoom, but the other benefits make it a nice addition. No sport rocketry apps yet but I use the Wallops app to time, and point the direction to, the launches that I have observed.

5. Flickr ups its free limit to 1TB.  All my rocket photos have migrated there.

6. Still, space turns me on. A lot of exciting things happened this year. Here are just a few items that pop to mind: SpaceShip2 had its 1st and 2nd powered test flights; The Dream Chaser's autonomous approach and landing test was successful. This cool flight got "really cool" (sport rocket saying) when one of its landing gears failed; Blue Origin tested their liquid hydrogen BE-3 engine in a simulated launch/landing scenario; and, SpaceX's Falcon 9 successfully put the SES-8 communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit. And, that's just here the U.S.of A. China launched and deployed their moon lander carrying the Yutu rover and India sent their super low budget Mangalyaan probe to Mars. Mother nature did her share to wow. Most recently, Comet ISON captured our attention as it swun around the Sun and burned up (mostly...I think). Finally, even though I'm saddened about our inability to fly our own people to orbit, there was a steady flow of people and equipment to and from the ISS, including the ATV, HTV and Cygnus vehicles.

7. The first smart phone powered satellite goes into orbit. I really like this concept. I include it because I had worked on a study to fly a Globalstar satellite phone in an orbital satellite. This was before phones were smart and before the Globalstar network was operational. Then, our overall contract ended. D'OH! Smart phone satellite applications don't use the phones as phones, but that's all we would have used ours for.

8. Space-X begins recording their Grasshopper flights from a hexacopter. These videos are among my favorites. All launches should be documented by quad, hexa, or octacopters!

Here's a quadcopter's view of a launch at NARHAMS.

9. Space Center Houston gets a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.  As shown in the concept photo, they plan to mount their Shuttle replica (now named the Independence) atop the 747. I am looking forward to seeing that stack in the flesh!

10. Water and air rockets with my grandson! 'Nuff said!