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Day 63 - Mk2. Katz Stager Test Flights
Neutrino sustainer and Baryon booster ready
to test the stager.
The parachute is released by a wire pulled
out of the piano hinge arrangement on the door
Deployed parachute. The main flap is bent so
that it is spring loaded to make sure it opens
clear of the parachute.
Placing the sustainer into the staging
Combination ready for its maiden flight.
The booster lands without incident, although
the parachute opened late.
Flight #2 did minor damage to the crumple
zone and nozzle cap.
Documenting the test flights.
A couple of frames from a video sequence
showing the staging in progress.
2008(3:00pm - 4:30pm)
Location:Denzil Joyce Oval, NSW
Conditions:Cool, light breeze, over cast. Temp: 15 degrees C
Team Members at Event:PK and
Only a short update this week. Less than 48
hours after dad got back from Europe we went down
to the local park to fly just one rocket
in order to test the Mk2. staging mechanism in
flight. We didn't get to the park until late
Sunday afternoon due to other commitments.
Overall it was a successful flight day.
The rockets specifically made for this test
were the Baryon and
The booster consists of a spliced pair of
1.25 L bottles giving a total of 2.1 L
capacity. The tail section was taken from
the Tachyon sustainer. The stager was fitted
to the top of the rocket.
A small collar was made from another PET
bottle to hold the parachute against the top
of the booster. The deployment mechanism is
simply a piano hinge arrangement on a flap
with the hinge pin being a piece of solid
core electrical wire tied to the sustainer.
As the sustainer is released it pulls the
releases the parachute on the booster.
This approach has two problems, firstly the
parachute starts deploying at peak velocity
which could rip off the parachute and
secondly if the staging mechanism fails to
release the sustainer, it will also fail
to release the parachute. The advantages are
that it is simple and lightweight. We will
unlikely use this technique on larger
boosters as too much damage would occur if a
parachute wasn't opened properly.
The sustainer was designed to be small and lightweight
so that: we wouldn't need extra supports on
the booster; it was going to have ballistic
recovery; and that it would not
leave the local park. The pressure chamber
was made from a 600mL Coke bottle, with
another half a Coke bottle used to create a
crumple zone above the pressure chamber and
a soft foam nosecone to absorb the landing
The sustainer also has a new fin arrangement
that we haven't used before although the
water rocket community has been using for
eons. We made the fins from 3mm plywood and
coated it with 5 minute epoxy to water proof
it and smooth it out. We then sanded it to a
smooth finish. The fins were just glued with
PL premium to the pressure vessel.
Launch Day Events
The booster was setup on the medium
launch pad and the sustainer was simply
placed on top. Once the sustainer was in
the stager we raised the Gardena collar
and put a support pin under it to keep
it locked. Once we started filling it
and got to about 30psi the stager
locking pin came out and we removed the
support pin. After that we continued to
fill up to the full launch pressure.
For the first launch we filled it to
100psi, to make sure that not too much stress
was placed on the components. We really
couldn't use much less as the rocket is
quite heavy at lift off. (Sustainer is
carrying water) The first launch went
great and the staging happened right on
cue. The sustainer took off very fast
and flew to around 90-100m. The crumple
zone was a little... well crumpled, but
the rest of the rocket survived well.
We set it up again and this time
launched it at 110psi. But the staging
mechanism failed to release and the
rocket went up about 30meters before
slowly turning over and crashing. It was
a funny looking crash because as the
rocket hit the ground the nozzle cap
broke on the sustainer and all the
pressure came out so the booster was
bounced back up by the blast of air from
The crumple zone on the sustainer was
now a lot more crumpled so we
straightened it once again. We also
replaced the broken nozzle cap. The failed
staging though was a bit of a worry and
so we removed a piece of plastic we had
been using to try to reduce the metal on
metal friction between the locking pin
and the locking arm. We increased
the tension on the rubber bands, and
gave everything that moved on the inside
and out a good coating of silicon
We pressurised the rocket again to
110psi and launched it. This time the
staging occurred when expected and
the sustainer went higher than on the
According to time of flight and
simulations it went over the 100m (330') mark. The sustainer
again needed a bit of repair, but was
good to fly once more.
We set it all up again as in the
previous launch and everything
went well again with the staging and parachute
deployment. The booster sustained no
damage over the four flights.
We were happy with the staging mechanism
performance after it was tuned and we
only went home because the sun was
starting to set which would have made it hard to
video tape and photograph the rockets.
(If the video does not play, try the latest
Flash player from Macromedia)
We will now be fitting the staging mechanism
to a larger booster and sustainer for more
test flights before fitting it to the big
Acceleron booster. The final configuration
of this has not been decided yet, but
because of the potential of higher altitudes
we will need to fly it at Doonside. Also
because there are often quite a few people
and cars at Doonside we will have to fit the
sustainer with a recovery system.
As far as other rocket development goes, we
are still working on repairing the Polaron
rocket. It takes a while to find/drink
around 20 2L bottles for the job.