Tina, Ryan and Pythom
courtesy Pythom.com, SOURCE
That's my baby up there
courtesy Pythom.com, SOURCE
All pics shot on a dying Nexus (works only if tilted exactly right).
courtesy Pythom.com, SOURCE
Jogging to site of impact. Retrieval is an important part of the rocket launch certificate.
courtesy Pythom.com, SOURCE
Mission accomplished.
courtesy Pythom, SOURCE
Gene signing me off.
courtesy Pythom, SOURCE
Twice up and ready for more.
courtesy Pythom.com, SOURCE
Rocket Launch: Level 1 certificate

Posted: Sep 29, 2015 03:28 pm EDT

(Tina Sjogren) High winds killed my first attempt to certify which gave Tom and I a chance to test fly a bigger motor at Moffett.


It looked like our second attempt to certify would go the same way of the first. Weather forecasts for Black Rock desert in Nevada (seasonal location of Burning Man) showed heavy rains for the entire week.


Citizen self-driving rovers


We had really wanted to see this particular show: Next gen space engineers from around the world get to fly payloads on big model rockets launched by the club organizers. Boasting ten years of never losing a student payload in more than 250 flights; Arliss beat NASA, SpaceX and the Russians.


One after the other launch opportunities washed away (by the same rains that caused the terrible flash flood trapping people in Keyhole canyon) until finally on Thursday, Mike said, skies cleared and 4 days worth of rockets went up to get each visiting team a chance to test their concepts.


One team built a model rover that turns after landing to orient itself by GPS and then drives back to its young engineers. Besides cool this is pretty convenient. One of the requirements for Level 1 certification is that you retrieve your rocket after flight which can be easier said than done.


After the rains


We weren't here to buy payloads though but to fly our own. Arriving after the rains, on Friday, we went straight to work. We found Gene, our certifier. Mike (our rocket dealer) checked that we had the chute folded right. A new friend - Ryan, 15, (L3!) - was dispatched to help us rig to the rods and igniters at the launch pad.


When Ryan wasn't looking Tom and I messed up. It was back to Gene who happened to have some fresh epoxy on hand and we could quickly glue on broken parts. 30 minutes later my moment was in.


I was assigned pad number 23 for my virgin flight. The announcer presented my rocket, the motor type, that this was a first level cert and then he started countdown. 5-4-3-2-1, liftoff.


Next stage


The pictures tell the rest. It wasn't as straight and clean as at Moffett - but she did the job. My baby went up, turned around, unfurled her chute and landed as softly as a song. Only white sand powdering the tip of her fins showing she'd been anywhere at all.


I ran to get her. There she laid, on the dry, cracked soil. It was just us, a glaring sun, and the strange silence of an empty desert. I complimented her on her performance and collected the parts.


Walking back through yet another of my life's base camps - this one of tents, dirtbikes and RVs packed with rocket projects - I found Gene who inspected Pythom and signed me off.


I am now a certified rocketeer. Yup.


We drove home that same night, seven hours straight, passing gorgeous mountain hikes to spend the remains of a balmy SF bay weekend inside Techshop, completing the tutorial for Autodesk Inventor.


Next up: 3D printing Tom's L1 rocket from scratch in black carbon and our first load of sensors in the cone. Me and my girl will try for L2.


But before that, another launch weekend, the biggest of them all - aptly named - BALLS.


That report coming up.


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