Ross Ohmen's Rocketry Obsession
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Getting my Level 3 just wasn't difficult enough...

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Agent 99, ready to fly - 06/07/09

A few of us were sitting around lunch one day, discussing another "to 100K" project, when we decided "Hey, we can do that!"
Then Cliff asked Wedge to borrow a "P" motor, and he agreed.  The James turned a nozzle, and started doing Burnsim work.  Then I started using RockSim and WRASP to see how high this would go.  Then we got a fin can for the sustainer.  Then I ordered $1300 worth of stuff from Performance Rocketry, and eventually it showed up - including an ISC that's to die for.
Well, we're started, and it's a huge, exciting project.  A truly scary and awesome project.
We've designed the beast. 

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RockSim design of the rocket

We've done simulations.

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WRASP simulation of the 99K flight

And, we've tested one of the motors:

N2900 Test at Black Rock, Aeronaut 2006. Exciting!

We did a second test.  It worked much like the first!

N3500 motor burn #2 at TCC Fresno

We did a third test.  That failed as well!

3rd N-class Motor Test, March 2007

But we have successfully burned the P8150 motor!

Link to YouTube video of P8150 burn.

05/17/08 -  Dairy Aire - After hours of work, Agent 99 (the sustainer) was ready to fly.  Charlie had the tracking gear working, and my 'chutes and cords from Enterprise 98 were loaded.  I'd assembled a "coffee-can" K458, and Steve had gotten the Av Bay working.  (Gotta turn on the BRB tracker before we button it up, next time.  We had to take it apart.)  With the new JPS CD system ready to go on a 16gram cartridge, the team discovered that I had loaded in .75 grams of BP - way too much.  Dissassembled the CD unit and reduced the BP.  Re-assembled.  Chris and Steve carried it out to Alan's launch tower.  I announced the flight. 

When we pushed the button, the K458 roared to light, and gently but firmly pushed the 25 pound rocket into the sky.  And kept burning.  Higher and higher, finally arching over.  Event at Apogee.  Good eyeballs on it coming down.  Event at ~700 feet.  The main came out great.  (I knew that piston was a good idea.)  Gentle touch down in the field.  Wahoo!!!

I trudged out and got it, and James came around with his truck and a cold water.  Thanks!!!  The MAWD was beeping out 4531 feet!   Great flight.  Next time - bigger and higher!
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080517 - Dairy Aire - Agent 99 Sustainer Flt #1, K458

080621 - MudRock - We flew the Agent 99 sustainer on a JPS L663 Swamp Gas, to 6600 ft., but took damage when it chucked the motor, and dragged a ways!  And the GPS failed at 100 feet!  (At least the motor held together.)
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07/19/08 - TCC Fresno - I prepped the rocket for a single stage flight.  And prepped.  And prepped.  And prepped. 
For four hours, I worked on that thing - procuring a K1499 and an adapter for it, honing the forward body when it wouldn't fit our nifty new Al coupler, and creating and wiring charges.  It took forever.
Finally, at 1:30pm, we put the rocket on the pad, and it roared off, sailing to 1800 ft., where the drogue came out, and deploying the main at 700 ft., as desired.
And it landed in a very muddy field, so I got the job of getting it out.  Not too hard, but the (extremely hot) road was hell on my (bare, muddy) feet on the way back.
We got our GPS results, but the camera didn't work properly - lost the video.  Nuts.


09/22/08 - XPRS - We prepped and flew the entire Agent 99 this time.
The prepping was time-consuming, but eventually, we had it on the pad, ready to go.

The M2500 lit beautifully, and heaved that 100lb rocket into the sky.  Burnout and separation happened quickly.  The sustainer lit.  It burned and boosted.  Then it jumped all over the sky, and rained down parts. 

At least the booster worked as expected, though a few of us ran out of air, as the booster 'chute took forever to inflate.

The sustainer aft came straight down, trailing 20' of Kevlar.  Hit hard.

The sustainer fore came down much slower, on a severely damaged Sky Angle 'chute.  No damage.

The culprit?  One of the head-end-ignition wires wasn't potted correctly, and the resulting plasma burned through the body tube.  Nuts.

But so many things went well, we couldn't be completely glum.  And much of it was salvable.  But, there were two serious beefs:

  • The on-board video failed, and
  • The on-board GPS tracking failed.

We've got work to fix this...

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080922 - Agent 99 on an Aerotech M2500T staging to a JPS L980R.
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That little hole is where the plasma burned through the side of the rocket.
08/09/09 - Aeronaut.  After months of preparation, simulation, and analyses, we were finally ready to go.

We've submitted the 80-page application for a waiver to 100K, and TRA looked at it.  They'd sit on it, then ask questions.  We'd provide answers and do more simulations.  Send it back.  They sit on it.  Repeat. Finally, they agreed we were ready.

Got all the way to the pad, put it up, and turned everything on.  The first time we pushed the button, nothing happened.  The second time, Charlie cancelled - the GPS was transmitting bad data.  The third time, the same thing happened.  Had to abort for this launch.  Later, we found that the GPS was getting too hot.  We'll keep it cooler for the next try.


09/21/09 - XPRS - We flew Agent 99 on Research Day at XPRS, and all did not go well.
We took a long time to get the rocket prepped and loaded on the rail, but finally, it was ready to go, and we pushed the button.  Here's what happened.

Here's a slo-mo video of lift off

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From below

That's not right

And bad things happen

This flight is over.

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Here's a link to Pat W's amazing series of shots

At about 2 seconds into the booster burn, the piston fired and ejected the sustainer.  This didn't go far, as the booster was chasing it at 9 g's.  The sustainer tipped over, and all heck broke loose.  The sustainer motor lit, the rocket separated, and the motor sky-wrote all over the place, raining down parts.  The booster continued climbing, arc'ed over, and came in on a partially deployed parachute, hitting very hard.

The damage report:
Both booster tubes are heavily damaged and unusable.  At least one, and possibly more booster fins are bent and unusuable.  ISC appears fine.  Don't know about the 'chute.  Dave's Walston broke (antenna stud), but the rest of the electronics are okay.
The sustainer broke a quick link, bent fins, and possibly other damage.  Tore off my HP Walston, and removed the batteries.  Luckily, it stuck around, and was silent, but not lost.  Found one battery.  Electronics appear okay.

It's fixable, but the new tubes are not cheap.  At least the motors worked as expected.   (Except a late report says the "P" case is toast.  Gaahhh!!!!)

09/24/09 - Forensics indicate that one of the LC800 units controlling the piston was set to "cluster" rather than "staging", which triggered the sustainer eject just after launch.  Just one jumper in the wrong place wrecked our flight.  Nuts.