LDRS is an annual gathering for high power rocketeers from all over the country and a few from foreign countries as well. This year was LDRS 38 hosted by the Kloudbusters of Wichita Kansas. They are one of the best clubs in the country for large launches. They have hosted several LDRS launches and have it down to a fine art. Which is good because this was the largest LDRS ever.
At the last LDRS held at the Rocket Pasture, LDRS 30, the club built a two stage scale version of the Nike Asp sounding rocket. It flew well until time to ignite the second stage. It didn’t ignite! The recovery system worked properly and we got all the pieces back. We vowed that the next time LDRS was here we’d try again.
That time came last week at LDRS 38. Members pitched in and prepared the motors loaded them into the Nike booster and the Asp second stage. Electronics were prepared and all recovery devices were packed and loaded into their respective stages.
Then we departed for the away pads and to get approval of the Range Safety Officer to fly. One small problem getting RSO approval, he didn’t like our electronics set up to assure that the second stage would light only if the rocket was still within a few degrees of vertical. We worked that one out. Bob Brown the LDRS leader took one of our members back to our camp site to get the laptop so we could reprogram the electronics. After a few minutes all was well and we headed out to the pad to get the rocket loaded for launch. Time was ticking down as our FAA waiver only had about 20 minutes left. We finally got it loaded with just a few minutes left.
The countdown proceeded well and then with a loud roar off she went. Staging looked beautiful just like last time. Then the Asp second stage lit and off we go. Looking good…for a few seconds. Then the smoke trail changed a bit. That didn’t look quite right. But she is still going up. Wait, the second stage parachute should be out. Oh, there it is. That definitely is not right. There is nothing under the chute. Plus it should be a lot higher. We definitely had a problem. Then we noticed a large section coming down with no chute just trailing some cords to the east. No sign of the rest of the rocket. The Nike booster came down just fine. No problems there. Now we need to find the as many parts as we can. The radio trackers came out and then the nose cone was found, but still no sign of the rest of the rocket.
From studying the pictures, we definitely had an anomaly shortly after staging. Our theory is that as the rocket went transonic or just supersonic we lost a fin. That caused a deviation from the flight path that increased the angle of attack. This over stressed the airframe and it broke up.
At least we got the booster back. I’m sure at some point in the future we will try another club project, but for now we’ll take a break.
Still it was a great LDRS 38, mostly good weather and lots of great flights.