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Author Topic: Pterodactyl  (Read 3174 times)

Joel

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Pterodactyl
« on: August 09, 2006, 09:23:33 pm »

This was one of the happiest moments of my life.  It was a Public Missiles Pterodactyl.  6.5 feet tall, 7.5" in diameter, launching on a K550 Aerotech composite motor.  Out on Lucerne Dry Lake in the Mojave, in September 1998.  Even wife and daughter came out, though wife had spent months semi-seriously mocking all the work I put into Pterry. 

He only flew a few times more and then had a couple of spectacular crashes, and then in 2001 BATFE hassles got too much and I left high-power.  But this was my very first.  My Level Two certification launch.  It's a lot like losing your virginity.  You can get better at it, but you only get to do it for the first time once.

Me: (right after I snapped the picture) "Perfect!"

Wife: (who let me lean back against her, even though by then we were already pretty much estranged) "It's beautiful!"
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Lightning

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Re: Pterodactyl
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2006, 07:07:16 am »

WOW!  How cool!  I can see why you felt so happy and proud.   :mellow:
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Bear

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Re: Pterodactyl
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2006, 11:49:03 am »

And no CATO! That must have been as much relief as joy. Good work. Sorry about the JBTs.  :angry:

When my daughter really was a kid, I introduced her to model rocketry. We had a blast! (no pun intended).
It seemed to me, though, that there was a bit of a learning curve for folks moving up to bigger rockets,
and some launches ended badly, if not spectacularly.  What you did was a significant amount of work and effort.
I'm glad you got it on film.

Bear
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Joel

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Re: Pterodactyl
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2006, 12:00:40 pm »

I was looking last night for a photo I took of my one and only CATO, which very thoroughly destroyed my favorite and most-experienced rocket about 30 feet above the launch rail.  But I couldn't find it.  If I did I'll post it.  When it comes to wrecking rockets, the space shuttle program ain't got nothing on me.  My mortality rate is lower, though.
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Joel

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Re: Pterodactyl
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2006, 08:56:21 pm »

I found my other photos I was looking for last night.

I'm nowhere near the photographer Thunder is, and some of these were taken under adverse conditions.  So bear with me.

After Pterodactyl suffered a recovery system failure that reduced his main airframe to rubble, I rebuilt him with an additional 2' of avionics bay and a good friend gave him a much nicer paintjob.  The photo really doesn't do the rocket justice; it was gorgeous.

At the same time he got new motor mounts that made (what seemed at the time) better use of his girth.  There was so much wasted space back there than I made room for outboard rocket motors in addition to the main motor. 

And that's where we got into trouble, because I rushed to launch without consulting with people who knew more about clustered motors than I did.  The first half second of that mistake was captured here.  I didn't have the heart to record the aftermath.

If you look closely, you'll see that instead of the large white backblast of the first shot, this one has two smaller yellow ones.  Those are the smallish outboard rockets that were supposed to assist the big main motor in getting the rocket off the rail.  All they really accomplished was to pull the igniter out of the main motor, which took longer to light.  The rocket only got five or six times as high as this photo shows, which was plenty high enough to shatter it on impact.  I was sick.

Here's the CATO I referred to earlier.  What's wrong with this picture is that the front of the rocket isn't supposed to be trailing behind the rear of the rocket, and it isn't supposed to be getting toasted by the backblast.  This was White Heat, my very favorite rocket, the day the motor's front enclosure burned through on liftoff and blew everything out through the front.  Again, it didn't get much higher than this.  And then it lay down on the playa and burned.  Still I salvaged a bunch of the components and built another just like it.  White Heat was a good basic rocket, and got a lot of use.

Now, this was not my rocket.  This was the biggest rocket launch I ever personally attended, and one of the biggest amateur/hobby rockets ever launched - though not one of the most successful, alas.  An almost identical rocket with a solid steel dart as a second stage set the amateur rocketry altitude record at about 95,000 feet.  This one was a single stage, and only got to about 25,000 feet before it shook a fin loose, skywrote briefly, then tore itself to pieces.  I saw this launch the only time I ever went to the Black Rock desert in Nevada.  It was seriously cool.  I took this picture from a very respectful distance.
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Thunder

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Re: Pterodactyl
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2006, 06:10:25 am »

I'm nowhere near the photographer Thunder is, and some of these were taken under adverse conditions.  So bear with me.

That's ok.  I'm nowhere near the writer that you are.  And I've only done the little piddly Estes rockets.  Nothing as gargantuan as the ones you've done.

Awesome stuff!
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