This summer’s weather in Tampa has kept the Tripoli Tampa’s launch pasture closed due to excessive water on the field. Finally, the winter pattern started, and the daily thunderstorms have ended. This past weekend was the Buccaneer Blast hosted by Tripoli Tampa and I was able to launch the Callahan’s Express. I planned on launching the rocket on Saturday. After seeing a couple of rockets break apart in flight and watching another one burn up on the launchpad, I decided to put my launch on hold. Not to worry, I did launch it on Sunday. So, read on to see more (including a video).
Callahan’s Express Launch
You can learn more about the Callahan’s Express here.
I took the rocket home Saturday night. In my workshop, I inspected it and ran through the preparation checklist again. Everything looked good. So, on Sunday launch operations began again. The weather was a little breezy, but nothing to be worried about.
OpenRocket estimated that the flight would crack 7,000 feet. The rocket was slid onto a 1515 rail and the electronics powered on. All the status tones were good. I inserted the igniter into the motor and tested its continuity. This Lightning Bolt was poised to fire!
The Callahan’s Express flew straight as an arrow. It reached apogee and started to arc over. We saw an “event”, which is the first charge firing to deploy the drogue parachute. But, then something unexpected happened. There was a second “event”. The next thing we see is the main parachute deployed near apogee.
The planned chain of events was to deploy the drogue at apogee. As the rocket descends at a rapid pace, the flight computer deploys the main parachute at 700 feet. This method is used to keep the rocket from floating away. If the main parachute deploys at apogee, the rocket can land many feet or even miles away.
So, the rocket was at 7000 feet with the main parachute deployed. It drifted to the southeast at least a mile. When it was around 1,500 feet the winds aloft pushed the rocket back towards the launch area. It landed about a half a mile due south of the launch line. All the spectator’s said it should be okay.
I had a signal beacon in the electronics bay of the rocket and used my radio to find the rocket. As I entered the south pasture, the grass was thigh-high. I kept walking and the direction finder pointed me to a depression in the middle of the pasture. This depression was a water-filled swamp.
I waded out into the pond/swamp, but I stopped when the water was up to the bottom of my shorts. I could see the rocket sitting on some grass/reeds in the pond.
So, I went back to the launch are and got the chest-high waders that the club keeps in the equipment trailer. Back at the pond, I got a little closer to the rocket with the water up to my chest. As I was deciding to go further into the pond, a vulture started circling over my location. Taking the hint, I called the recovery mission off.
The club officers offered to help me get this rocket back later in the month with more equipment and permission of the land owners. I appreciate that, but I think I will wait for next month’s launch and hope that the water has receded. I will also bring a grappling hook!