First Ever Rocket Launch

A while back, I purchased a model rocket kit and its parts. During my time in Sudbury, Ontario, from August 1 to August 23, I built the rocket. It was a tall, slender rocket and it was built with care. I hoped to launch it before I returned to Toronto.

August 21, 2014, despite a forecast of rain and overcast, turned out to be a beautiful day. The clouds were scattered and fluffy, and the sky had a strong blue tint to it that day. It was a good day to launch a rocket into the atmosphere.

Pre-launch preparations

My dad did a lot of work to make this launch a success. He built the launch pad using a dull pink, circular, concrete slab, drilled a hole into it and placed a steel rod through the hole. Its design was to keep the rocket straight. If it wasn’t straight, it would be flying at an angle, and likely hit the ground and cause a fire. That was a bad idea under the scorching heat of summer.

While my dad built the launch pad, I prepared the engine for launch. It was a cylindrical cardboard box filled with a series of solid chemicals. When ignited, it should burn through the series of chemicals and then the parachute will land the rocket safely on the ground. The first chemical it will burn through is the propellant. For smaller rockets, it is made of black powder, or gunpowder, which had been used in early firearms. After the propellant has been burned, it ignites the delay charge, which delays the ignition of the recovery system. During that time, the rocket will coast all the way to the highest point in its flight, and then begin to fall back to the ground. The delay mechanism will then ignite the ejection charge, which will push the parachute outside of the nosecone, and deploy the parachute. If all goes well, it will launch, deploy the parachute, and land safely on the ground. I quickly attached the metal leads onto the rocket nozzle, keeping it in place with a plastic peg. I then slipped the engine into the rocket, and set the rocket aside.

With the construction work over, we decided to search for a good launch location. Launching just outside our home would run the risk of causing damage to my neighbours’ property. We decided to launch at the bottom of the cliff. There, we can have family members with a bird’s eye view of the launch, and we would be far away from anyone’s property. The launch location we picked was on top of a sand deposit, left behind by ancient glaciers. It’s the same kind of sand that can be found on beaches. Plant life has since taken over, but it’s empty and wet enough that a fire is unlikely. It was the perfect spot.

Launching the Rocket

When we arrived at the launch spot, we unpacked all our equipment, including a shovel, a jug of water, and a fire extinguisher. My dad placed the launch pad, and leveled it accurately. I carefully slipped the rocket into the steel rod, making sure nothing broke.

We then attached the two wires of the ignition system onto the rocket to prepare it for launch. After attaching a (purposefully) loose wire in my circuit, the rocket was finally ready for launch. My aunt and my brother were watching, and recording, from the cliff where I saw the conjunction, and the sunrise. We counted down for 15 seconds, eager to see the results of our hard work. With each second passing, my nerves were growing in anticipation of the imminent rocket launch. In 5…

4…

3…

2…

1…

I turned the circuit on, and stuttered “IGNITION!” At that moment, the rocket ignited. It flew into the late afternoon sky, disappearing in a sea of blue with only a white smoke trail left showing the flight path. After a few second, I saw it in the sky. The nosecone was just ejected and the parachute had deployed. Unfortunately, it didn’t fully deploy. It fell down faster than expected. After a minute of worry, it landed by a bunch of trees. My dad and I quickly ran to the landing site.

Thankfully, we found the rocket undamaged. The parachute had been tangled up in the mix, which is why it didn’t fully deploy. That will be a problem to correct later. We brought the rocket and all of our equipment back to the car. We also dumped the water into the sand.

We returned back home with our video footage, and equipment.

It was a successful experiment; we launched the rocket, and got it back with no damage to the body. Despite the parachute tangling up, the rocket launched and the nosecone ejected without any problems. I hope to be able to launch again with larger engines, and go higher with that rocket, and maybe build bigger and faster rockets in the future. The sky is never the limit in rocketry.

I have posted a video on Youtube. Here it is:

 

 

WORKS CITED

http://www.hobbylinc.com/model-rocket-engine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunpowder

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