Under Construction


BELVIDERE, IL – It was too windy to fly, but the Space Program in Training (SPIT) spent the day preparing their rocket fleet for the day the weather improves.

Early in the day, a light snow was falling.  SPIT had launched in similar conditions at the end of February.  By the time they drove to the cul-de-sac launch site, the wind was picking up.  Daniel set up their weather station and the wind blew it over.

“We don’t know exactly how fast the wind was blowing,” said Daniel, “but when it blows the tripod over, it’s probably too bad to fly.”

Most of the SPIT arsenal spent the winter in the basement.  Some of the rockets were a bit worse for wear.  Bob and Daniel prepped all of their working rockets: Hi-Jinks, Neptune 1, Hermes 1, Phoenix 2, Rocketcam 2, Skyhawker and the Metallizer kit now named Silver Streaker.

Once the easy fixes were complete, they worked on more difficult repairs.  The Astrocam was grounded in June last year when the engine mount broke away.  Bob put together a new engine mount, but the plastic fin piece was slightly smaller than the body tube.

“I had to slip the engine mount in from the top of the rocket and slide it all the way down with a screwdriver,” said Bob.  “It took me awhile to get it so it wouldn’t get stuck halfway there.”

The crushed body tube at the top of the Astrobeam was removed and a new – longer – body tube was put in place.  The ground crew wanted to make it longer to make up for the difficulties they had last year trying to fit a parachute in the small tube.

One rocket that didn’t survive the winter was the Load Star.  The popular rocket had cracked a plastic fin late in the fall last year, but Meka had been able to use super glue to put it back in place.  However, sometime during the winter the fin had snapped completely off at the base.

“We can salvage the nosecone and some of the pieces,” said Daniel, “so at least part of Load Star will still go on.”

Near the end of the day, Bob and Daniel began working on another one of their new kits – the Estes Super Alpha.

“The fins were really big,” said Daniel.  “The instructions said to hold them with the glue for a minute, but we ended up holding them a lot longer than that.”  In fact, they used the fin alignment tool as a clamp to hold each fin in place for a couple of hours.  By the end of the day, all three fins were ready for fillets.  SPIT plans to finish the build next week and continue building as many kits as possible.

“It’s too cold to paint right now,” said Bob, “but by the time it warms up, we’ll have a bunch to paint all at once.”

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2 Comments

  1. Tom Rogers

    Bob-you and Daniel ever try to compensate for the wind by angling the launch rod? My boys and I are getting back into it and this was something that I thought aobut. A couple of “somewhat” simple physic problems to see if we can get the rocket back to launch base instead of the trees where I usually put them. Caleb has a saying that goes like “Dad, I think that engine is too big”. Usually followed by my fatherly response of “It will be fine.”

  2. Bob

    The proper answer to “that engine is too big” is “an engine can NEVER be too big” 🙂

    Yes, we angle the launch rod, but you don’t want to angle it too much. The Phoenix 2 launch in February was angled at about 10 degrees into the wind and it almost blew back to the launch site (~10 mph wind that day). Angling seems to work best when you have a big parachute / light rocket combination. Small parachute / heavy rocket, streamer (or no parachute deploy) don’t drift much at all after the engine burns out so you might as well just shoot them straight up and down. It also depends on the rocket. We have some that fly very straight and others that we have no idea where it’s going to go once it is off the launch rod. Hope this helps and have fun!

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