Archive for April, 2010

New finishing techniques

Sparkle Motion was assembled and technically ready for paint but I was feeling a bit uneasy. Had lunch with G (my rocket therapist) to have him look it over. This was the my first rocket with four fins. I fould that to be tough. The first pair were perfectly straight, the instructions advise the builder to install the fins in pairs so check the 180 degree angle. Tape, tape and more tape helped me get the first pair just right. I let that set overnight, and started the second pair the next morning. Something must have gone wonky with my taping because the second pair of fins were *not* straight. I was worried that it would adversely affect the flight with unintended spin. Of course I did such a stellar job with the epoxy that I could not remove them. LOL! Apparently a bit of curve is okay, however he thought that in the future I should attach one fin at a time. Duly noted.

The Nike Smoke design also merges the nose cone and payload section into one piece. This was new to me, so installing the bulk head ring felt off. G suggested I use some fiberglass cloth to reinforce around the ring and up the inside of cone. The comical thing about trying to mount the bulk head ring and later the cloth is that it is a long part and my arms are not. I was up to my shoulder in rocket part and ended up with epoxy all over my arm. We later laughed that the rocket kit should come with those shoulder length latex gloves used on a cow dairy.

Okay so back to the finishing techniques. The rocket has a cloth wrap over the cardboard body tube for reinforcement. I did not like the texture of the cloth. I have found that every imperfection on the rocket surface looks worse with paint. G skooled me about using a SuperFil to even out the lumps and bumps, and then a UV Smooth Prime for finish. Of course this stuff is not sold in regular stores, and needs to be ordered from some aircraft place Aircraft Spruce  in Corona CA. Keep in mind that this launch is taking place on a Thursday, and I am targeting to fly that Saturday.

This obviously would not come together in time to have a pretty rocket to fly. It would have to fly naked, and get dressed up later.

New Tripoli Card – Cert Level 1

Just excited to show-off my new Tripoli card with the cert level 1. I just love happy mail!

Introducing Sparkle Motion for Level 2 Certification

Nike Smoke 4″ is the desired vehicle for the Level 2 certification. For some explicable reason I wanted to name it Sparkle Motion. Yes from the Donnie Darko movie (clip of Sparkle Motion in action, so nah, nah, notorious). Don’t you doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion. Besides I love me some shiny, sparkly objects.

I had grand visions of purple-blue metallic look with some glitter, and stickers for the Sparkle motion logo and lower body area. Mark of stickershock23 was very patient is the color selection and explanation of my vision.

This Polecat Aerospace Nike Smoke rocket is of the most straight-forward and complete kits I’ve purchased. Granted that this was only my fourth rocket, in my limited experience it rocked. 1) it came with all needed parts with the standard exception of a parachute, motor and motor casing. 2) it included the appropriate shock cord and a U bolt. The kits I have encountered include a cheap elastic cord and an open eye-bolt screw, both of which I have been repeated warned to avoid. 3) the wooden fins were already shaped and need very little sanding for perfect fit. 4) all the parts fit together nicely with very little adjustments needed.

The combination of more confidence and a great kit to work with, the assembly went amazing well. Don’t be fooled, there was some confusion as I encountered different design elements like combined nose cone/payload section, launch rail lugs, and four fins, but overall my star rating was improving.

Skillz improvement

Since both rocket builds were such challenges for me, I decided that I need to build another one before moving onto Level 2.

A LOC/Precision Hi-Tech H45 was selected for the skillz building exercise. This one I named Bliss and an orange theme seemed appropriate.

Construction went more smoothly than anticipated. Was glad to see that I was getting the techniques down, and progress was a bit faster. I did wise up about what items I can batch together to speed up my total build time.

So Bliss is built and partially painted. I ran out of the Racing Orange paint and the hobby store is quite slow on ordering new inventory. Instead of the clothesline hang system to paint, this time I use a dowel with a clamp for the rocket to set on. That worked much better with more uniform coverage.

One for the what I learned: I had been having problems with getting epoxy on the shock cord. Came across this tip on a rocket blog. It recommended to thread the cord back through the motor tube when epoxying the front centering ring. Experienced rocket builders may be saying well duh, however it was a revelation for me.

Woot Level 1 is Mine – part 2

The rocket community is so nice. One seasoned rocketeer Chuck was just watching flights that day. He offered some guidance with better parachute techniques. He was kind enough to search down some baby powder. He shared that baby powder on the parachute, makes it silky and easier to open. With that trick in place, I re-packed the recovery system and parachute and purchased another motor for flight #2. 

Sir Isaac Lime (SIL) back on the launch pad. The second flight, the igniter popped and no take-off. Jack was kind enough to give me another igniter for the third attempt. Fortunately the motor was still good.

SIL roared off the pad, and whew the parachute emerged with a poof of baby powder. The rocket sailed gracefully down to ground, and was quite easy to retrieve.


A rare bit of lovely color on the dry lake bed.

Pictures of how rocket looked after landing. Everything all spread out nicely.

Flight and recovery went well, the last step is to have Paul review my rocket to make sure there is no damage.

Approval for Level 1 and Paul signed off on my certification paperwork.

Woot Level 1 is Mine – part 1

On April 3rd, Sir Isaac Lime (SIL) was ready to attempt Level 1 certification. The day started with a visit to What’s Up Hobbies trailer, to buy a motor from Jack. I decided to go with a Cesaroni H120-14A Red Lightning to get the pretty red flame.

It took me forever to get the rocket prepped for flight. Mainly due to my over epoxy craziness. I managed to get some epoxy in the motor tube and the area above the motor retainer was slightly buckled. I had a clueless moment during the motor tube assembly stage when I JB welded the motor retainer on before I added the aft end center ring. So I had to pry the motor retainer off. So I messed up the tube end a bit. So that goof came back to haunt me launch morning when I tried to insert the motor casing.

Of course in my rush to get ready in the morning, sand paper was the item I forgot. Luckily G is quite prepared and is always generous to let me borrow stuff. It took me about 30 minutes to sand it down enough so everything fit in smoothly. After that preparing the recovery system and packing the parachute, I carried the rocket over to Paul Snow the official to check my rocket and witness the flight. He instructed me to add some additional tape to keep my nose cone in place and to add some wadding below the recovery system to better protect the parachute from the motor heat.

Finally SIL had the nod to set-up on the launch pad. Loading the rocket onto the rail was easy. The ignitor step was a bit tricky as I did not remember the process from my first flight.


View of the range as I wait for my turn to launch


I announced the flight to the crowd, counted down, and pressed the launch button. The rocket fired up as planned and launched perfectly. All looked great until the point of apogee when the recovery system should kick in and the parachute emerges. The nose cone disconnected from the body of the rocket, but the parachute did not open. I watched is horror as the rocket spun wildly and was plummenting to the hard dry lake bed.


Zero our friend’s dog is learning to track the rockets. He made it to the rocket quickly. What a good boy! He was so proud of himself.

 The parachute strings were tangled and that was the culprit for the failed flight. Luckily the rocket was not damaged, and I could fly again.