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Setting Up the Launch Rail

Setting Up the Launch Rail

Last week Dave and Gary started to mow the Northwest Indian College Space Center Launch Complex. It’s located near the old blockhouse site on the extension of Kwina Road after it intersects with Hillaire Road. It took two days of mowing the tall grass, black berries, and smallish trees with the College’s Billy Goat brush whacker. About 1/3 acre was cleared.

On Friday, FAA and Canadian Aviation Agency permissions were obtained for a launch on Sunday, September 5. At 8:00 am on the 5th, Gary, Shelley, Lars, Niels, and Leif (Shelley’s cousins that were visiting from Sweden) set up the ground support equipment to do a launch. The principle purpose behind the launch was to test communications with various aviation agencies, test the launch rail and control box, and test the operating procedures for launching and recovering the rockets.

The weather was overcast with light winds blowing from 1-5 knots from the Southwest. We launched a model rocket first to test the winds at altitude and recovery strategy. The rocket flew to a measured altitude (on-board altimeter) of 561 feet and drifted about 100 yards to the South and landed in very tall grass. Shelley’s cousins are all well over six feet tall and that height was very useful in directing Nils to the landing area. The rocket was successfully recovered and the launch pad was adjusted to compensate for the wind.

Shelley contacted Bellingham and Victoria Air Traffic Control Centers the appropriate 5-10 minutes prior to launch to receive clearance. We then launched BOB, a mid-power rocket that carried a camera and altimeter and had an F motor. It flew about 1000 feet, the altimeter and camera both malfunctioned and it took about 15 minutes to recover it.

Our next flight was with Ariel, the black and red rocket that many of you have seen. Shelley received permission from Bellingham and Victoria to launch and Ariel roared into the sky on an H motor. The altimeter recorded 1452 feet, speed – 204 mph, and 65 g’s of acceleration (if you weighed 100 pounds, you would have weight 6500 pounds at peak acceleration, and of course you’d have been a puddle at those forces!). Recovery was about 300 feet from the launch pad, and again the camera didn’t work!

We closed up shop, notified the appropriate agencies and called it a very successful day. Everything worked as we hoped that it would. Recovery will require some form of visual signaling as well as working 2-way radios and audible alarms fastened to the rockets.

We hope to have an opening ceremony that will include launching one or more rockets in early October. We want to include the College as well as tribal members as part of the introduction to the Northwest Indian College Space Center Launch Complex.

On September 25-26 Dave will be taking several students to Mansfield, WA so that he and they can attempt to earn the Level 2 Certifications. This will permit us to purchase and fly the larger rocket motors that we will need for our NASA project and competition. 

A video and slide show are here.

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