Flight 1; Oct 25, 2008
Flight 2; Oct 24, 2009
Flight 3; Mar 13, 2010

This web page exists so I can thoroughly document the inception and construction progress of my NAR Level 3 Certification rocket. While not specifically required by the NAR, I thought it would be a good way for me to keep notes and organize the photographs I take during the construction process. Click here for a table of sources I used while constructing the Mighty Moe.

Background image is my photo of the Level 3 Mighty Moe launching on an Aerotech M1297W at Rainbow Valley, Arizona on 25 October 2008.

Previously, the background photo was my photo of Gerald Meux Jr's NAR Level 3 Certification flight on October 28, 2006...the rocket is a 10-inch diameter Nike Smoke. Click here for the color version of that photo. Click here to see a page with a few more photos of this awesome rocket.



I’ve been involved in Model Rocketry on and off since 1975. In fact, you can read about it on one of several rocketry pages I've created to document my rocketry activities. In mid-2006 I unpacked a moving box full of built rockets that hadn’t seen daylight since 1999. Then I dug into the boxes of rocket kits that hadn't been built yet. The spark was rekindled and I began an Internet search for a local rocket club that I could join. I soon found the Superstition Spacemodeling Society (SSS) and decided I’d attend the next club meeting.

But let's back up a few years. In 1999, I saw my first mid-power launches and I was pretty impressed with the power and noise of those motors, but personally seeing my first high power rockets fly in 2006 launched me into getting involved at the high end of amateur rocketry. Through the SSS I’ve made a lot of new friends and I’ve attended many launches and meetings. An exciting part of the first couple months was that NARAM-48 was being held right in our own backyard…well, sort of. The club uses the sprawling "Rainbow Valley" launch site to the southwest of Phoenix...and it's perfect for all types of rocketry activities. True, it’s a bit of a drive for most members of the SSS but it’s also used by other Arizona rocketry clubs, so we’ve actually got it pretty good...proximity wise. It takes me an hour or so to drive there…maybe a bit less…but its well worth the effort. Besides, I really enjoy trying to photograph the launches and sharing my efforts with the builders and flyers of these exciting rocketry creations. You can view photos of some of my rockets and rockets built by others at: Moe's Rocketry Photos web page.

Soon after joining the SSS, I bought my first high-power capable kit – the LOC IV. I built it and with the help of Geoffrey Kerbel, we launched it in August 2006 off one of the sport pads at NARAM-48. Bruce from Semroc Astronautics kindly sold me an H reload at a discount so I could try to get my bird in the air. As this was a pre-certification launch for me, Geoffrey built the motor while I observed. I really just wanted to see it fly, and fly it did on the Aerotech H180W reload. At the September 2006 launch, I built an H128W reload for the Loc IV and launched it again and successfully certified NAR Level 1 at Rainbow Valley. I was officially hooked on high power rocketry.

Not long afterwards I discovered the EMRR website and started reading a lot of the reviews, guest stories, launch logs, and other interesting tid bits on the site. I also found many more personal webpages and web vendors dedicated to model rocketry of all levels...it was great!! I decided it was time I started entering my flight logs on EMRR, including those from the past that I could account for. Being a shutterbug, I had often documented my flight efforts during the very late 1980s and 1990s on film and video. And thankfully, my folks had taken photos during the mid-70s of various front yard launches so I have those images as well. I went through my archives and re-discovered many of the launches that were only a distant memory. In addition to uploading my launch logs, I began putting together personal web pages documenting my rocketry activities. I found a lot of satisfaction recounting the memories of building and flying rockets at various times over the past 31 years - now over 33 years as I type this.

In the months following my L1 Certification I dabbled in high power while still building smaller rockets as well. Specifically, I finished building my Tango Papa 2x Mars Lander and launching it twice on 38mm I211W reloads– the second flight ended in a broken shock cord and a very damaged Lander. I was a bit upset but not put off. I accepted the fact that major failures are a part of all levels of rocketry and hopefully I learned from the experience. After all, I was fairly new to high power rocketry and had yet to learn some of the finer (read: critical) points of this relatively new endeavor of mine.

I continued to build and fly model and mid-power rockets and at one point I thought the appropriately named Mighty Moe by Estes would be a great candidate for upscale to high power size, possibly even as a Level 3 project someday. With that idea in the back of my mind, I took the next step and decided to attempt Level 2 certification in January 2008. I contacted Matt Steele (our club NAR rep) and ordered the L2 test so I could take it at the Jan 2008 club meeting. I’d been studying the pool of test questions months ahead of time and I went through them again several times the night before the meeting. As Matt Steele handed me the test at the meeting, I was confident I’d do well. Despite having a pounding head-ache during the test, I ended up getting 100% on the 50-question test. Now all I had to do was safely launch and recover my Level 2 rocket.

I’d built a LOC Caliber ISP (with a 54mm motor mount) several months before and flew it successfully on a 38mm I154J motor late in 2007. With both my Dad and my Boston Terrier Penny Lane in attendance at the January 2008 Rainbow Valley club launch, I put the Caliber up on a 54mm Aerotech J180T. Launch and recovery were perfect but after a lengthy search I found the rocket and discovered the motor casing had kicked out. I'd failed Level 2 certification because the single aluminum retention clip failed, allowing the motor to kick out when the black powder charge ejected the chute. Motor retention is critical, especially from a safety standpoint. The falling casing could’ve easily caused major damage to persons or property on the ground. Luckily at the end of the day we found the undamaged casing not far from the pads. I was determined to do it right the next time, but another attempt would have to wait until the February club launch.

With modifications to engine retention (two "Kaplow" type clips made of steel) I put the Caliber up again on another J180T at the February 2008 launch. At apogee, motor ejection separated the rocket and it free fell for 80 seconds until the Chute Tamer ™ control activated and released the main chute. The rocket floated gently down and within 12 minutes I was back at the launch site with rocket (and motor casing) in hand. It was a perfect flight and I had my Level 2 certification in the bag…I was quite pleased. It didn’t take me long to start seriously thinking ahead to NAR Level 3.

The Mighty Moe


Within a week of getting my Level 2 certification I was researching the Level 3 project. I downloaded the necessary NAR Level 3 paperwork from the NAR website and read it through. In fact, I've been re-reading through it as often as I can to better familiarize myself with it. The Level 3 certification process is a detailed, meticulous road. Currently, our club does not have an L3 Certification Committee (L3CC) member so I had to look outside the club. The NAR website maintains a listing of L3CC members and the only one listed for Arizona is in Tucson. A couple months after initially writing this paragraph, our SSS club has a new L3CC member (Gerald Meux, Jr.) and we'll be working together through the build and certification process.

During my initial materials research, I ordered a PerfectFlite altimeter…and it showed up two days later. The L3 cert flight requires redundant (read: at least two) electronics to initiate the recovery sequence so I’ll be ordering another in due course. A recommended practice is to use altimeters from different companies to minimize the chance of dual failure in the rare case of manufacturing defects. You do NOT want a recovery system failure on any rocket, especially a Level 3 project. In late February I flew my Caliber on a J180T with the altimeter in ‘report’ mode to check its function. After recovery, the altimeter reported an altitude of 5,516 feet - I'd broken the mile altitude mark...a fact that didn't occur to me until Geoffrey pointed it out. In February 2008 I modified my LOC IV for electronic ejection by adding an electronics bay. Full electronic deployment can be done by using a plugged forward closure on the motor casing and adding a timer or altimeter activated black powder charge for ejection. I plan on having several flights with full electronic deployment prior to my L3 cert flight…that flight is currently planned for fall 2008. In the meantime I have to build the upscale Mighty Moe.

In order to help myself plan and visualize the L3 project, I constructed a small, non-flying version based on the rare 1 inch diameter (BT-51) Estes tubing. BT-50 fits nicely inside and works great for the couplers and E-bay. I fabricated a paper conical nose cone using a transition calculator I found on the 'net. Just set the smaller diameter for the transition to "zero" and the output is a cone instead of a transition. Print it out and form the cone, use a piece of BT-50 for the cone shoulder and viola: a custom paper nose cone sized for BT-51.

Here is the small non-flying version I built. It's a bit longer than it should be because this was built before I redesigned the e-bay and finalized the tube lengths. Also, the fins on this version are scaled from the original Estes kit; my upscale has fins of a slightly smaller planform, though they resemble the originals.

For the actual build, I decided to go with a 6” phenolic airframe and 75mm motor mount. 75mm would enable me to fly an M1297 reload for my L3 cert attempt. I can also fly an L motor in the same casing, as well as a few other smaller reloads capable of lofting a rocket of this weight. Conversely, the lower payload bay is roomy enough to accommodate a longer 75mm casing (75/6400 for example for the M650W, M1315W or M1550R reloads.) With the materials in mind, I started designing the rocket using RockSim to suss out the general arrangement. I upscaled the Estes dimensions to 6.16 inch diameter and that came out to an 836% upscale, or 8.36 times the original BT-20 (.736) diameter. The original Estes Mighty Moe stood 13 inches tall, and at that scale factor my version would be at least 108 inches tall. During assembly I'll add at least two layers of fiberglass cloth to the outside of the airframe and fins - I may even glass some of the internal structure - especially the fin can. Speaking of the fins, I printed out the fin pattern from the fins I created in RockSim. I thought I'd done a decent job of replicating the Estes Mighty Moe fins but as it turned out, mine are significantly narrower...that is to say, overall the fin span is not as wide as the original kit fins. I'm not too concerned about it as I'm going for the general outline of the original Mighty Moe, not a dead-on-balls-accurate-one-hundred-percent-faithfully-reproduced upscale. I plan on painting (and decaling) my version to match the original as closely as possible so at least it will resemble the original Estes kit.

Conical nose cones of the size required for this project are hard to come by from commercial sources. I guess there isn't much demand for them...especially a 6 inch diameter cone 22 inches long. One possible commercial source I found on the 'net turned out to be a no-go so I started thinking outside the box. I talked to my dad about the project and he agreed to fabricate a custom conical nosecone for me on his wood lathe. In fact, in the coming weeks I learned he was planning on turning several nosecones for me...what a great guy!!

RockSim screenshot of my upscale Mighty Moe design. As shown, the weight of 380 ounces (23.75 pounds) is minus motor and parachutes. As I progress with the build, I'll get a better idea of the final weight as I weigh individual assemblies.

After considering my options, I decided to go with beefy ½ inch birch plywood fins. Since I was still figuring the specifics of the airframe components, I had the fins cut out even before I ordered the airframe components from Public Missiles Limited. On February 19, 2008 I finalized the airframe lengths and ordered the necessary parts from PML. Among other services, PML will cut and slot the airframe for a nominal fee so I sprung for those affordable options for the sake of convenience. I also ordered centering rings, motor tube, bulkplates, and a coupler tube for the e-bay and coupler stock. If they ship as advertised and the stuff arrives within a week, I should be able to start construction by the end of February 2008.

Feb 28, 2008 and my PML order still hadn’t arrived. A phone call to the PML office confirmed the order shipped on Feb 22 and I was given a UPS tracking number. A quick check of the UPS website showed the package was on a truck for delivery…within a couple hours the driver dropped the large box off at the door. I inventoried the box and all was accounted for, including the leftover lengths of tubing and coupler stock. I mailed the six-inch length of airframe and a similar length of coupler stock to my Dad so he'd have the exact dimensions to assist him while turning the nose cone shoulder to the proper diameter. Using a long section of coupler stock, I plan on doubling the thickness of the upper payload bay for added strength (zipper protection)...that's why I sent Dad the coupler stock as well. With all the major components on hand, I can actually begin working on the Mighty Moe.

Most of the Mighty Moe components after unpacking from the shipping box. Also in the photo is the blue 75/5120 motor casing, the 1/2 inch plywood fins I made, and the extra, short sections of airframe and coupler stock. PML sends everything you pay for, including these left-over tidbits from custom cutting.

3 Mar 2008

Over the weekend I made some progress on the rocket:

1 - E-bay and electronics sled construction started. The e-bay is nearly complete; the sled is also nearly complete except for installing micro switches and wiring the sled. The new e-bay is just under 14 inches long with a 1.75 inch length of airframe tube centered on it. The plywood end plates are double thickness bulk plates drilled in the center for ½ inch all thread. Forged eye nuts and associated hardware secure it all together and serve as recovery harness attachment points. Additionally, I used some Estes BT-5 (.541inch) body tube to cover the internally exposed ½ inch all thread so wires won’t chafe against the threads. Two lengths of ¼ inch all thread and hardware are used to mount the sled in place.

Revised electronics bay for the 6-inch diameter upscale Mighty Moe. This one features the 1.75 inch airframe section.

2 – Motor mount started. I decided to double the centering ring thickness (to 7/8 inch) and possibly use only 3 ring positions: one at the bottom, one at the top, and the lower of the other two I’d planned on using. (I've since changed back to using all four ring positions.) Because I originally ordered only four rings I had to place another online order with PML for centering rings to complete the motor mount in the new configuration. Hopefully they’ll arrive within the week. In the first double centering ring I constructed I installed a ¼-20 barrel nut in the edge to later secure a rail button. My dilemma is where to install a rail button above the CG - I'll probably install it in the e-bay. Since the fin can / motor mount is only 30 inches long, all other airframe components above the fin can are “loose” and subject to possible twisting when loaded on the pad. Maybe this is a slim possibility, but it's not a good situation for maintaining rail button alignment along the length of this rocket. Of course, I’ll have small shear pins installed holding the lower payload bay to the fin can until deployment; I’m not sure if they’ll be able to maintain alignment under launch stresses. They could well prematurely snap and that wouldn’t be a good situation at all. The lower payload bay is secured to the e-bay with blind nuts, so maintaining that alignment is not a problem. Maybe I'm just being overly pessimistic about a minor issue. I guess one way around the issue is to use a launch tower - something I haven't completely discounted at this early stage in construction.

Finally, I installed 8-32 tee-nuts in both shoulders (six in each shoulder) of the e-bay for payload bay (airframe) connection. (These were changed to 10-24 tee-nuts when I constructed the new e-bay)

75mm (3 inch) motor mount. One ring assembly is installed, another is setting up after bonding two rings together.

3 – Built a fin alignment jig. The 75mm motor casing is inverted and secured to the base of the jig with a 3/8-16 bolt. This supports the airframe while the fins are secured in place.

Fin alignment jig with 75mm motor casing and 1/2 inch aluminum channel fin alignment guides.

4 - I started working on my flight checklist. Level 3 certification procedures require a fair amount of paperwork, including a comprehensive checklist covering all aspects of the flight attempt. My checklist covers everything from making sure I have all the necessary tools, the rocket components, electronics, and even the checklist itself are packed and ready to depart for the launch site. At the site, the checklist covers a multitude of actions from verifying the appropriate people (L3CC and another flight witness) are present; a suitable launch pad and controller are available; assembly of the rocket, electronics, recovery package, and motor are all accounted for. The launch pad preparations, countdown sequence, and post-recovery items are all included. With 7 months left to go until proposed lift-off, there are probably items still to be added to the checklist that I haven't thought of yet. The paperwork will continue right up to when the button is pushed for launch, and the paperwork will continue even after the rocket is brought back to the preparation site for inspection.

10 Mar 2008

Last Friday I received the additional motor mount centering rings from PML. No serious work was accomplished on Mighty Moe over the weekend due to the launch at Rainbow Valley on the Saturday. On Monday I prepared the new rear centering rings by installing both a ¼-20 and 5/16-18 blind nut for motor retention, 180 degrees apart. I sandwiched these between the two rear centering rings before bonding both rings together with 30-minute epoxy. Since there are no motor ejection forces to contend with, retention is there simply to hold the heavy motor casing in place and prevent losing it during drogue chute ejection (it could be blown out by the BP charge if not properly retained.)

Up to this point, only one of the fins had been notched for the centering rings. Monday night I completed notching the other two fins and temporarily installed them in the fin can to check fit and take a photo. At least the extreme lower portion of Mighty Moe is beginning to look like a rocket.

Fin can temporarily assembled to check component fit. That's a six-inch scale for size comparison.

12 Mar 2008

Tonight I again temporarily assembled the fin can and placed it on the fin alignment jig for a posed photo. After I took this photo I disassembled the fin can and bonded the upper of the two middle centering ring assemblies to the motor tube. You can see I've elected to use 4 centering rings to bond the motor tube to the lower airframe. Because I went this route, I opened the slots on the lower airframe so the completely assembled fin can (strengthened with glass cloth) will slide right into the lower airframe from the rear and get bonded into place. I plan on glassing the internal fin roots as well, though this will be more difficult since there is only 1 1/2 inches clearance all the way around between the 3-inch diameter motor tube and 6-inch diameter airframe.

Fin can posing for a photo on the alignment jig.

16 Mar 2008

Again, not a very productive weekend of working on the Mighty Moe. The competition launch at Rainbow Valley took up most of Saturday but Friday night I did manage to get the first fin bonded to the fin can. Sunday afternoon I bonded the other two fins so now I have a complete fin can for the Mighty Moe. I also received some photos of the nose cone materials from my Dad...they are shown a bit further down the page.

Fin can with all three fins bonded on the alignment jig. At right, the lower airframe is temporarily in place. After curing the next step is glassing the fin roots to the motor tube.

19 Mar 2008

My dad has been working on turning a couple of custom redwood nose cones for the project. I received some photos of the nose cone materials from my Dad and here are some pix of his efforts thus far. The first completed cone looks very nice indeed!!

25 Mar 2008

Yet another launch at Rainbow Valley last weekend meant I didn't make any progress on the Mighty Moe. My dad turned yet another cone and shipped both to me on the 24th of March. I should have them in a week or so. I'm looking forward to putting the whole stack of components together and getting a photo of the rocket. Hopefully I'll get some glassing done during the upcoming three-day weekend, but with new little projects always manifesting themselves, I'll have to buckle down and prioritize if I want to make some mighty progress.

27 Mar 2008

Today my Dad called me to let me know the Fedex website indicated the package he shipped to me containing the two nose cones had been delivered to my house. I was on my way home anyway so it wasn't long until I found a nice wooden crate on my doorstep. I took it in the garage and removed the wood screws holding the crate together. Inside I found two awesome, nicely secured nosecones that he hand turned for me on his new wood lathe. My Dad is a machinist by trade and he's turned many items from metal and wood but never on a wood lathe...all his lathe work had been on a metal lathe. I carefully unpacked the cones and admired his beautiful handiwork. I could hardly wait to resume work on the Mighty Moe but for the moment I placed a cone on a section of body tube to see how it fit. Dad was very successful obtaining about as close a tolerance as you can get while wood working. The fact I'd sent him the two sections of body tube a couple weeks ago certainly paid off so he could get the cone(s) turned to fit inside the body tube as perfectly as possible. Later in the evening I assembled the "stack" in my garage to see how it all fit together. The ceiling is too low to allow the complete assembly to stand upright so I'll wait until daylight and assemble it outside for another photo. Meanwhile, below is a photo of the whole rocket minus nose cone and the two cones received today next to the tube. My pooch Penny Lane had to come out and inspect the rocket...and by the way, that's a yellow four-foot ruler to show scale.

28-30 Mar 2008

This morning I assembled the whole stack and put it on my front porch for a posed photo. The rocket stands just over nine feet tall. Also, last night I started glassing the motor tube to the fins. At right is a photo of the first "valley" glassed with two layers of five ounce glass. The centering rings on each end are not yet permanently attached...those will wait until I get ready to compete the fin can. Over the weekend I managed to get the rest of the motor tube/fins glassed...photo on far right shows two of the valleys. The scruffy white areas are roughed up areas on the glass where the internal fin can glassing will overlap.

31 Mar 2008

As seen in the photos below, tonight I bonded the outer fincan airframe tube to the fin can. The 2x2s are holding the tube against the two central centering rings while the epoxy sets. Once cured, I'll be able to add internal fillets to the centering rings and fiberglass the inside of the tube to the fins all around. Once that is complete, the upper and lower centering rings will get bonded into place.

7 Apr 2008

Over the weekend, I started glassing the internal joints where the fins pass through the fincan. I've got one done so far and over the next month or so I should be able to get the other 11 joints glassed. With less than 1.5 inches clearance from motor tube to inner airframe wall, it's a tight fit but the length is only about 6 to 7 inches so it's not too bad.

10 Apr 2008

A couple weeks ago my Dad turned another nose cone for me. This one was laid up differently than the others and incorporates removable nose tips in case of damage...a very cool concept. Below is a photo of the cone and the four tips he sent. The 1/2 inch all thread imbedded in them screws into a receptacle mounted in the nose cone.

15 Apr 2008

I decided to double the thickness of the upper airframe tube so last week I ordered a full length coupler from PML. I had them cut the tube to fit the inside length from the E-bay up to the top. Since the nosecone shoulders were turned to accommodate double thickness, this is not a problem. I figure the double thickness will help distribute recovery forces a bit more around the upper airframe and help prevent a zipper without adding too much weight to the rocket. I epoxied the coupler tube inside the upper airframe today.

Using some of the leftover coupler tube (also pre-cut by PML) I decided to make a new slightly shorter E-bay with the outside airframe ring only 1.75 inches long. I really didn't need 6 inches of airframe tube separating the upper and lower sections...I just needed some space to add the external switches for the power and charges. The tubing arrived on Friday April 11th and today I cut the existing E-bay all thread rods down to accommodate the shorter length coupler. In a couple weeks I'll have the shorter airframe ring to secure to the E-bay coupler tube. The end result is a Mighty Moe about four inches shorter (110 inches) than the original design and I've already updated the RockSim file to reflect the changes mentioned in these paragraphs.

Over the weekend I attended our clubs annual "Spring Blast" two-day launch at Rainbow Valley. Might have well called it RainBLOW Valley as the wind was constant through most of both days. The breezy conditions didn't deter most flyers though as motors all the way up through 'M' were flown in a variety of rockets. The night launch Saturday evening was very cool as a number of rockets were flown with various lighting setups to ensure visibility throughout the flight profile.

During the course of preparing my Caliber ISP for dual deployment on Sunday morning, Dwayne D. gave me a nifty safing switch I think I'll incorporate into the Mighty Moe. Sold by Newton's 3rd Rocketry these switches use a plunger type switch activated by a screw. You mount the switch in a hole in the side of the airframe (e-bay) and wire it to the altimeter. To arm, you simply tighten the screw...it's that simple. Here's a photo of the arming device. Dwayne also showed me some HotWire Ejection Canisters that I think I'll use as well.

28 May 2008

My dad visited Arizona during May 2008 and graciously donated a nice wood lathe to me during his visit. Here are two photos of dad demonstrating the turning of Mighty Moe cone #4 on the lathe in my garage. This particular cone is similar to the third cone dad made in that it has provision for easily replaceable nose tips.

15 Jun 2008

After a couple months of minimal progress, it's time to get back to work on Mighty Moe. I managed to get another internal fillet done on the fin can. At this rate I'll be done in 2011. Truthfully, I just need to quit procrastinating and get the internal glassing done so I can press on with the rest of the build. October is fast approaching and if I don't get serious I'll be watching others attempt Level 3 at the annual G.H.S. launch instead of participating. I have ten more internal fillets to do and if I can get two done per day this week then I should have it done by the weekend.

16 Jun 2008

Thankfully I made some more glassing progress on the Mighty Moe today. In trying to reach my goal of getting the internal glassing done by the end of the week, I managed to get four more fillets done. So as of now, the top six internal fillets are complete and the easier bottom fillets are all that remain. Now that I've regained my motivation to make progress, I should be able to knock the last six out in a couple of days. These will be easier because access to the bottom is not as restricted as the top portion.

17 Jun 2008

Got some more work done on Mighty Moe. I foamed what I could of the fin can (six compartments) and epoxied the top motor mount centering ring in place. Next I epoxied the fin-can coupler in place then fiber glassed the full inside length of the coupler. I just want to add a little extra strengthening to the rather fragile phenolic tubing.

First photo shows looking down into the fin can from the top showing some of the expanding foam used to fill the gaps.
Second photo is an in-progress shot of the internal fiber glassing of the fin can tube coupler. This photo is from the following morning after the resin has cured

18 Jun 2008

Spent a couple of productive hours on Mighty Moe this afternoon. I was able to finish all internal glassing inside the lower portion of the fin can: all six joints where the fins come through the airframe as well as the remaining exposed internal circumference of the airframe wall. Thankfully, I've met my goal of getting this work done by the weekend. :)

This photo shows the rear of the fin can and the glassing work I did. I just trial fitted the rear motor mount centering ring and it fits fine. After this resin cures, I'll foam the three compartments then permanently affix the rear centering ring. From there it's mostly external glassing and finishing work.

19 Jun 2008

Today I foamed the three compartments at the rear of the rocket and permanently installed the rear centering ring, being careful not to get any epoxy on/in the motor retention t-nuts. With this, I'm ready to begin the external glassing.

I also did a little work on the e-bay. I drilled three holes for the altimeter arming switches. I also made the rectangular holes for the pyro arming switches. These two switches are simple Radio Shack DPDT slide switches. I plan on drilling small holes in the switch buttons so I can safety wire these switches in the "on" position at the pad. In hindsight, one way I could have accomplished this was putting the switches side-by-side with the "armed" position facing each other and wire them together that way. However, I figure I need to keep it simple and have both switches face the same direction when armed. I'll add a steel cotter pin adjacent to each switch that I will wrap the safety wire through after arming the pyro charges. Bottom line is I just want to have positive locking of the switches to prevent them from jarring "off" at any time during the flight profile.

This photo shows 4 of the 5 switches temporarily installed. I may just revert to my "in hindsight" plan and mount the two pyro switches next to each other so I can just safety wire them together "on" without having to worry about mounting cotter pins. So who cares if they're not facing the same direction when armed. As long as I know the position that's all that really matters, isn't it? If that's the case, I'll just have to plug the hole on the far left with epoxy and make a new hole next to the existing switch. Easy enough...

22 Jun 2008

Made some decent progress on glassing the fin can over the weekend...I managed to get 2/3 of it done. Hopefully I'll get the last third done during the coming week. (Note: on 25 Jun I did get the rest of the fin can glassed. Below is a photo of that portion during the curing stage.)

24 Jun 2008

Over the past couple days I've done some work on the e-bay. For one, I decided to go with the previously-mentioned plan of co-locating the switches for the ejection (pyro) charges. To accommodate this, I cut a new hole next to one of the existing holes and plugged the previous one with epoxy. For the pyro charges, I picked up some slightly larger DPDT switches from Radio Shack to help make soldering the six terminals on each one a bit easier. Using a schematic obtained online, I wired both switches and prepared for a test. I installed two PerfectFlite HiAlt45K altimeters on the e-sled and wired them up to the pyro and power switches. On power-up, I found a problem. The primary drogue chute indicated continuity (a single beep from the altimeter) though nothing was hooked up to the terminal blocks for any of the chutes to complete the circuits. A continuity check revealed I had a short somewhere along the line in the primary drogue chute wiring harness. With assistance from a workmate, we found the culprit - a bit of shrink tube had chaffed through and made contact with a strand of wire that apparently poked through the adjacent shrink tube. With that problem now fixed, I have what I hope is a completely serviceable e-bay with external access to the main power for the altimeters and control over arming/safing the ejection charges.

Since I haven't permanently installed one of the e-bay bulkhead plates, I decided to fiberglass the inside of the e-bay. I first covered the holes in the 12 tee-nuts with a small piece of tape to prevent epoxy from fouling the threads. I also covered the five switch ports from the outside with tape. A good slathering of epoxy was brushed around the inside of the tube and a pre-measured sheet of fiberglass cloth was worked around the inside circumference. Once the epoxy cured, I cleared the switch ports of the fiberglass and any epoxy that seeped in. All that's required to finish the e-bay is some finishing work (Bondo and paint) on the external ring and then install the switches. The pyro switches will require some sealing since I cut/filed the holes a little larger than required. I'll probably use some Fix-It Epoxy Clay to fill the gaps and provide a good seal. I also need to drill the static ports for the altimeters. Finally, I may or may not permanently attach the bottom bulkhead plate...I kind of like the idea of being able to easily remove both plates to gain full access to the interior of the bay.

Below are some photos of the innards of the e-bay:

-Internal e-bay glassing
-Revised ports. The far left one has been filled with epoxy
-One of the two wire switch bundles that connect to the altimeters and end plates
-Drogue (bottom) end plate
-E-sled with two altimeters installed. Batteries are on reverse side

26 Jun 2008

During the night, I did my first ground test of the primary altimeter with HotWire ejection charges attached. The test went flawlessly with both HotWires firing as planned. I didn't use any black powder but the nichrome wire visibly heated up on each HotWire.

To perform the test I made a simple barometric pressure simulator. I got the idea online and used an empty plastic peanut butter jar and a punch balloon. I drilled four small holes in the side of the jar near the bottom for the main and drogue wires to exit. After feeding a suitable length of wire through each hole I sealed the holes/wire with some 30 minute epoxy. After hooking up the altimeter battery and switch, I connected the wires to the jar wires, which in turn were connected to the proper terminals one of the end plates of my e-bay. I then connected a HotWire to each of the two corresponding terminals and taped the ejection canister itself to the supports on the end plate. Finally, I turned on the altimeter switch and placed it in the jar along with the altimeter and battery. The punch ball was stretched over the mouth of the jar and sealed with a large rubber band. Turning on the switch for the charges, I got the indication I had continuity on all main and drogue connections. (Alternately, one could use a completely self-contained jar set up. I went with the external wires so I could hook the simulator up to my ebay. The mini light bulbs mentioned in the next paragraph can be substituted for charges to indicate when the charges "fire")

To perform the actual test you simply grab the little nipple on the end of the balloon and pull it steadily away from the mouth of the jar. This simulates the ascent of the rocket. When you stop pulling, the altimeter senses apogee and fires the first charge. As you release the balloon, the pressure increases and the main charge fires a moment later at the simulated altitude selected on the altimeter. It's actually pretty cool and alternately you can use mini light bulbs from Radio Shack (part# 272-1099) in place of the charges. I'd done the mini light bulb test plenty of times in a self-contained set up and I wanted to test the actual HotWire devices.

After testing the primary altimeter, I tested the backup. Based on the altimeter beeps, the primary got to 1660 feet and the backup to 1668 feet...all while sitting on my desk. In the photo of the test setup below, you'll notice I replaced the white pyro cups with steel L brackets. As shown, the brackets will support the HotWire canisters. For launch, I'll tape the canister to the bracket instead of taping just the lead.

Below is a schematic of my dual-deployment recovery gear. Click for larger image. The altimeters are PerfectFlite HiAlt45k and the pyro shunts are DPDT switches from Radio Shack. The arming switches for altimeter power are from Newton's Third Rocketry.

1 Jul 2008

No major work on Mighty Moe the past couple days. However, I did decided upon a location for the upper rail button: the lower bulkhead of the e-bay. To accommodate the 1/4-20 barrel nut, I glued a segment of coupler bulkhead to the top of the existing e-bay lower bulkhead. This new piece conforms to the internal circumference of the e-bay and effectively doubles the bulkhead thickness in that area. The only drawback to this method is I have to assemble the lower portion of the rocket then attach the rail button. Still, this puts the top of the e-bay at only a manageable 58 inches above the ground, so access to the innards is not a problem.

As noted quite early on, one concern with my design is potential twisting of the rocket for the brief moment the rocket is under thrust but still "attached" to the rail. According to RockSim, Mighty Moe should clear a 100 inch rail in less than a quarter second but anything is possible during that brief time. I'll just have to trust the lower shear pins to hold and let the buttons guide the rocket straight up and away from the pad. However, I'm still thinking about incorporating a "key" of some sort that will keep the fin can aligned with the rest of the rocket and minimize any tendency to twist.

5 Jul 2008

Managed to get the rail buttons temporarily installed and lined up. Guess I didn't get the upper barrel nut hole drilled straight because the buttons don't line up perfectly. As seen in the third photo below, I used a piece of small gauge wire on one side as a shim. For launch, I'll use something a bit more substantial epoxied to the bottom of the rail button. In the fourth photo you can tell the barrel nut is not perpendicular. Probably won't be a major problem.

14 Jul 2008

Not a lot of Mighty progress in the past week. Over the weekend I did manage to get one portion (quadrant?) of the fin can covered with resin. In an effort to smooth the whole thing out, I mixed up a batch of Sticky Stuff resin and painted it all over one quadrant. I also built up nice fillets in the two adjacent fins. As the stuff was curing I wet my fingers with rubbing alcohol and smoothed out the surface and the fillets. The result is a moderately smooth, glossy surface. I tried to minimize runs and sags as the stuff cured but in the morning I found I had one sag that needs fixing. I plan on doing the rest of the fin can during the week.

Fellow rocketeer Dwain D. attended the sport/NARAM-50 test launch at Rainbow Valley on 12 July and we discussed our level 3 projects. He's also building a rocket to certify with at Rainbow Valley in October. We decided to split the cost of some of the major recovery components. In the coming days, I'll place an order with Giant Leap Rocketry for a TAC9-B chute, a couple of their 24-inch drogues, and some other necessary hardware.

I also read online during the week that Aerotech (manufacturer of the motors and motor hardware) is now requiring the use of a Forward Seal Disk in their 75/5120 motor casing with certain reloads including the M1297 I plan on certifying with...I'll have to purchase one online with Aerotech. Below is a link to a page discussing this requirement:

Forward Seal Disk News Release 21 May 2008

If that link doesn't work, then access a copy of the page text here.

15 Jul 2008

Coated another fin can "quadrant" with resin last night.

22 Jul 2008

Yesterday I managed to get the last "quadrant" coated with resin. Now I need to start working on the fin surfaces and leading edges. I also borrowed a 30-pound capacity scale from a buddy and weighed some of the components. Right now without paint and motor propellant, the rocket weighs in the mid-30 pound range. I'll post more accurate weight of the components in due course.

23 Jul 2008

Mixed up a 120-odd gram batch of resin and coated one fin side last night as well as one of my custom nose cones. The redwood cone really soaked up the resin...I may sand this coat down and apply another. A good coat of primer should seal it up nicely for painting. Just about 3 months to go until I certify NAR Level 3 with the Mighty Moe.

Nose cone after first coat of resin and sanded smooth.

29 Jul 2008

Got a few more of the fin sides coated with resin over the weekend...only one side left to go. Figured out it takes only about 50 grams of resin to coat a fin side. Chucked the cone in the lathe and sanded down the excess resin...almost ready for another coat to seal it up.

3 Aug 2008

Coated with last fin side with resin today and started sanding the resin coating on the fin can body tube. When I coated the body tube the resin didn't cure completely flat in many spots (how could it when not on a rotisserie?) so there are a lot of high spots to smooth out. I won't be able to get it completely smooth but I'll do what I can.

6 Aug 2008

This Saturday is a Rainbow Valley launch and I intend to ground test the pyro charges while there. This entails loading up the recovery gear as if preparing for actual launch but the rocket will be laying on its side on the ground. Black Powder charges will be first installed in the upper payload bay and activated with a 9-volt battery. The goal is to determine approximately how many grams of black powder will separate the nosecone and pull the recovery gear from the airframe. 3 to 4 grams should be sufficient.

To this end, I've prepared the nose cone and upper airframe with holes for three 2-56 nylon shear pins. I've also mounted thin brass strips to the shoulder of the nose cone below the holes for the shear pins, the theory being the brass will cleanly shear the nylon pins as the nose cone is blown off the rocket. I first used a wood rasp to create a flat spot for each brass strip to nest in. Using a Dremel tool I then cut deep slots an inch or so below each shear pin hole. The brass pieces were bent at a 90-degree angle to create a "tang" to fit in the grooves. I drilled several small holes in the tangs to give the 30-minute epoxy more bonding surface within the slots. To facilitate the bonding process, I covered each brass piece with a wide piece of clear tape then installed the nose cone in the airframe while the epoxy set up. I checked every few minutes to ensure I wasn't bonding the nosecone in place. Thanks to the excellent lathe work by my Dad, the nose cone already has a very close tolerance and the brass strips create a tight fit despite the flat spots I filed earlier. A little manual persuasion with a hammer applied to the brass strips flattened them out a bit more and made for a better fit.

If the test is successful, the same procedure will be performed on the rear of the rocket.

- Brass strip
- Slot and shear pin hole in shoulder of nose cone (one of three)
- Strip secured in place with epoxy.
(Note: The holes for the pins will be changed to "through the brass")

9 Aug 2008

Rainbow Valley launch today. Didn't fly any rockets as my primary goal was to ground test pyro charges for Mighty Moe. With help from Rick and Dwain, we made four tests with varying level of success. First three tests were of the main chute compartment. Final test was the drogue chute compartment.

Let me preface this by saying the Giant Leap TAC-9B chute I was planning to use for my L3 cert flight is just too big to fit easily in my chute compartment and slide smoothly out without a lot of effort (however, I DIDN'T try any baby powder...might have helped!!) I was hoping to use that 'chute but as you'll read below, I'm in the market for a new chute that fits my requirements for descent rate and fits easily in the compartment.

For the first test, I put 2.5 grams of powder in a charge holder and loaded up all the recovery gear in the compartment. The holder was wired to one of the unused terminals on the e-bay terminal block. A second wire was attached to the corresponding terminal block and routed through the ebay then out one of the holes where the power switches will eventually be mounted. Rocket was placed horizontally on two chairs and a blanket was placed some feet in front of the rocket for a possible nose cone landing pad. Below are the results and some photos.

Test 1: First test proved 2.5 grams of FFFFg black powder is insufficient to completely blow the nose cone with three 2-56 nylon shear pins installed in the current configuration. My L3CC (Gerald Meux) looked at my set up and recommended I drill the holes for the pins directly through the brass. As you can see in the photo, one or more of the nylon shear pins did not really shear...rather they snapped and remained between the cone and body tube. Lesson learned but the drilling will have to wait until another day.

Test 2: Upped the powder to 5 grams, which completely fills the Newton's Third large charge holder. Again, I didn't attach the nose cone to the recovery gear as I just wanted to try to separate the cone. This test was successful in that regard but the 'chute failed to follow the gear out. It probably would have worked if the gear had been all connected. Additionally, I found that the powder charge had made it through to the chute and caused some charring and tearing. Now I have (in my opinion) a chute that is worthless for my Level 3 cert flight and I'll have to order another one. One of the guys at the launch (Scott) recommended checking out Rocket Rage parachutes. After viewing their website it looks like I might go with the RRQS-100 to provide an extra margin of "cushion" for the hard desert playa that is Rainbow Valley.

Test 3: Well, a small portion of the 'chute is now toast but lets continue with the test anyway. Again, 5 grams was used but this time I attached the gear to the chute to see if I could get deployment. Got a good nose blow and the recovery harness escaped but the 'chute remained just inside the tube. Definitely gonna have to find a less-bulkier chute and the Rocket Rage Quantum series of 'chutes should fit the bill (and tube) nicely.

Test 4: Since it was now getting quite hot, we moved the test to under the canopy. The next test was to blow the lower payload compartment away from the fin can. I'd already installed a 2.5 gram charge in the lower compartment so it was just a matter of strapping the fin can (horizontally) to the work table and setting off the charge. I did video this portion but forgot to take some photos. Test was successful though I did manage to damage part of the e-bay coupler tube. After "ejection" it must have landed on a rock when it impacted the ground. The puncture goes all the way through the phenolic and even cracked the internal fiber glassing. Should be an easy repair job.

- Mighty Moe installed on the high-tech test rig. Note the use of multi-national components, i.e. Japanese-designed "back stop" to prevent rocket from kicking backwards when the charge fires.

(Note: For these tests, I removed the nose tip to prevent damage. And while it may not be readily apparent, that's over 9 feet of rocket laying on those chairs.)

Test Photos:

- Test 1 with 2.5 grams BP. Nose only traveled about 1/2 distance to full deployment.
- Close up of shear pin lodged against edge of brass. I'll drill through the brass to resolve this problem.
- Test 2 with 5.0 grams BP. Full deployment but chute remained in tube - possibly because it wasn't attached to recovery harness (on purpose)
- Dwain checking out the gear from Test 2 after removing the 'chute from the tube. You can still see "the smoking gun" as smoke curls out from within the tube. At this point we don't realize the damage inflicted to the 'chute from a cumulative 7.5 grams of BP (despite a Kevlar blanket between the charge and the 'chute.) If the chute had been pulled out of the rocket by the nose cone, I'm pretty sure the charring wouldn't have occurred or would've been less severe.

- Test 3, again with 5.0 grams. Can't hurt the damaged chute much more now, so press on with the tests. Here the Giant Leap "Fireball" is seen attached to the nose cone and visible are a couple pieces of tubular nylon shock cord as well as the bridle of the 'chute. Still no full deployment of the 'chute...the Rocket Rage Quantum series chute should do the job.

-Three photos of the E-Bay: Damage to the coupler tube from impacting a rock on the ground, and two photos of the end bulkheads. "Main" end after a cumulative 12.5 grams of BP and "Drogue" end after 2.5 grams. These end plates are easily cleaned up with a wire brush.

14 Aug 2008

Got a few things accomplished on the Mighty Moe today:

-Did some repair work on the e-bay: filled the external gash with 30-minute epoxy and put clear tape over it to help the cure conform to the circumference of the tube. On the inside I cut away the damaged fiberglass section and spread 30-minute epoxy over the damage. Should be OK with these repairs.

-Drilled new holes for the nosecone shear pins through the brass plates. I'll do another ground test soon to verify the shearing action of the brass. If this setup isn't satisfactory, I've already marked off locations for new brass plates on the nose cone shoulder. Don't know what more I could do to improve upon the setup though but then again until last Saturday at the launch I wasn't aware of the "new" method I'm going to try. Learning new stuff all the time...

-Received my new HiAlt45K altimeter from PerfectFlite today as well. Verified serviceability by testing it in the peanut butter jar altitude chamber. Both ejection events worked as verified by the light bulbs attached to their terminals. I plan on flight testing this altimeter in September in my modified LOC Graduator. The Graduator is a nice 2.6" diameter LOC sport rocket with a 29mm motor mount. I've flown it once on a G motor and it performed very nicely but I'm converting it to dual-deploy to increase it's versatility. I cut the airframe off above the launch lug to provide a drogue chute compartment in the fin can. Above that will be a 10-inch payload section and above that will be a homemade 6-inch long e-bay. Above that will be yet another compartment for the main chute, then the nose cone. In actuality, this conversion makes this rocket a "tri-deploy" if used with motor ejection. Below is how I envision the flight profile, and I plan on verifying the apogee and motor ejection timing in RockSim after I "build" and test the modified Graduator (now called the "Graduator 3D") in the program.

**Launch on a G-motor with a longish ejection delay (7 or 10 seconds)
**Prior to motor ejection, the altimeter will fire at apogee to separate the e-bay and upper section from the lower payload section and fin can. Rocket is in free fall at this point with the drogue chute still tucked away in the fin can compartment topped off by the lower payload section. This event is simply to validate altimeter apogee event works in flight.
**Motor ejection will fire thus separating the payload section from the fin can and releasing the drogue chute from the fin can compartment.
**Rocket will descend under drogue to the main deployment event set at 1,000 feet. The main chute will be released from the nose-cone payload section attached to the upper end of the e-bay.

I understand this profile means a lot of components may be flying around in rather close proximity to each other as events occur. I'll lengthen the shock cords to help minimize the chance of collisions.

This might seem a bit complicated but with a lack of high-power motor vendors at our launches, mid-power is still a feasible way to test. Since I don't have any reloadable motor kits at the moment for 29mm (in which case I could omit the motor ejection charge and go with true dual-deploy), I have to get a bit creative to test. Of course, if there are folks at the launch who happen to have a high power rocket in which they are willing to test my altimeter, then that is an option too. At this point though I have to rely on my own methods if I'm to perform the recommended flight test of this altimeter prior to flying in the Mighty Moe in October. (Note: NAR Level 3 certification procedures require flight testing and/or ground testing of electronics. Either will suffice; both are encouraged.)

18 Aug 2008

Over the weekend I did some power sanding on all the fins to smooth out the recently applied resin. The body tube and fillets are going to need a lot more work to smooth those out. I also revised the location on the upper rail button. I wasn't happy with the slightly cock-eyed mounting I did on the first brass insert...it skewed the alignment of that button a little bit. The new placement seems to be better but I'll have to verify with a piece of rail.

I also applied another coat of resin to the nose cone. It really does look too nice to paint what with the wood grain pattern the way it is. I also applied two coats of resin to the removable tip. Soon I'll chuck them in the lathe and sand them down in preparation for painting. Below is a photo:

19 Aug 2008

Received my 75mm forward seal disk today from What's Up Hobbies. The disk came with the o-ring that would normally come with the motor reload kit. When I originally spoke with customer service at Aerotech last week, the lady said they are shipping the disks with a couple of rings in case the proposed reload kit does not include the ring, so I was happy to see two rings with the disk.

I also applied another layer of glass around the ring section of the e-bay. I'm not exactly sure how much the diameter of the main body tubes will increase after I glass them this weekend but this additional layer on the e-bay shouldn't hurt. I'd just like the diameters to match as closely as possible to maintain a smooth airflow. Also, I still need to drill the static ports for the altimeters in this ring and after painting, install the switches.

25 Aug 2008

Paid a visit to Dwain's place Saturday and glassed the two main airframe tubes on his rotisserie. Despite Dwain's best efforts to keep the garage "cool" with his portable A/C my sweat was sweating. In the end, both pieces had cured enough that I brought them home and Dwain even lent me his rotisserie so I could later apply the finishing coat of resin. Haven't done so yet but I will in a few days.

Didn't get any of my own ground tests accomplished but Dwain tested his 7.5 inch Nike Smoke. He bought some shear pins from Newton's Third Rocketry and wanted to try them out. The tests were successful as shown in the photos of the two separate tests he did. First test was 2.5 grams of powder; second test was 5 grams.

27 Aug 2008

Did a little work on the recently fiber glassed airframe tubes by sanding the seams and cleaning up the tube ends. Next few days I plan on putting a finishing coat of resin on both tubes and the rotisserie will come in handy for this step. The tubes need considerably more sanding to get them ready for the last coat but it's not that difficult to do...just messy.

Less than two months to go now till I certify Level 3 with the Mighty Moe.

31 Aug 2008

Managed to get the two main airframe tubes coated with resin on Saturday. The rotisserie really worked nicely for this task and the tubes came out pretty smooth. They're not perfect, but they are certainly better than if I'd not used the rotisserie to keep them in constant motion while the resin cured.

I also chucked the nosecone in the lathe and sanded the resin smooth. I found a sizeable "ding" in the cone that will need filled before finishing. It might have happened during ground testing earlier in the month...all I know is I didn't notice it until today. Below are three photos of the tubes during the final resin process.

2 Sep 2008

Next month! I can finally say that. Besides the work described above, I also got a small tool box to make a dedicated range box for the Mighty Moe launch. I'd like to have all the necessary bits and pieces and tools in one place when I get to Rainbow Valley to prep the rocket for launch. Better that than have to sort through a couple of boxes I already have looking for any doo-dads I might need at the last minute.

3 Sep 2008

Painting of the Mighty Moe has officially started. Sprayed primer on the e-bay ring last night and after sanding it today I applied the first coat of gloss white. It's not much but it's a start.

9 Sep 2008

On the weekend, I once again borrowed Gerald's launch rail so I could ensure positive alignment of the rail buttons. With the new mounting hole drilled in the e-bay the top button is now better aligned - no need to shim one side of it to match the bottom button. I still want to double-check alignment with a plumb bob before drilling new shear pin holes in the bottom section. As I've stated a couple times before, twisting of the airframe at launch is a concern but I think the 4-40 shear pins will help maintain alignment for the brief moment the rocket is under thrust but still on the rail.

12 Sep 2008

Well today was my most productive Mighty Moe day in a long time. Nothing really major accomplished but I did get a few little projects started or completed:

- Final alignment of the rail buttons. I used one of the nose cone tips my dad turned as a plumb bob suspended from the ceiling. Once I was satisfied, I drilled the three 4-40 shear pin holes in the lower portion, plugging each hole with a shear pin as I proceeded to maintain alignment while drilling.
- Drilled the three 1/4-inch static port holes in the ebay.
- Drilled the three 2-56 shear pin holes in upper section through to the nose cone. (these got plugged up when I did the resin coating on the tubes a couple weeks ago)
- Got busy with the orbital sander on the fin can body tube. Worked wonders smoothing out the layer of resin.
- Bonded two of the three brass pieces on the fin-can coupler. These pieces are designed to help shear the shear pins cleanly, similar to the nose cone brass seen earlier on the page. These are "through-the-brass" and affixed to the coupler with 30-minute epoxy. Because of the fairly snug fit, I sanded a "flat spot" in the coupler to seat the brass and still maintain a reasonable fit of the tubes.

Below are a few photos from today:
1 - The PlumbBob NoseCone. String is hard to see because it is green.
2 - Ebay ring showing two of the static ports on the extreme outside located 120 degrees apart. Third is 120 degrees out from the others. One of these days I'll get the switches installed in the ring.
3 - One of the brass plates for the shear pins. This is after I put clear tape over it but before the temp airframe tube to hold it in place against the tube.
4 - How I use a piece of airframe tube to hold the brass in place while it cures.
5 - Portion of fin can after sanding with orbital sander. Compare the texture with photo #1: much smoother.

13 Sep 2008

Rainbow Valley launch today and I was able to accomplish two Mighty Moe objectives. First, I flight tested the PerfectFlite HiAlt45K altimeter that is my backup deployment altimeter. I launched it in my "Graduator 3D" that I previously described. I flew the rocket on an Aerotech Single Use G80-10T to a recorded altitude of 1,544 feet. The altimeter dual deployment worked perfectly and motor ejection of course worked as designed. With the 10-second delay I'm not quite sure which event occurred first (motor or apogee ejection) as I was not looking through binoculars. Motor ejection popped a small nylon chute while main ejection occurred at 1,000 feet. Luckily I had a large streamer for the main as the breeze carried the rocket a bit due east of the pads and I had a little bit of a walk to recover.

The other objective was further ground testing of charges and shear pins. First off I tested the 2/56 nylon screws through the brass plates with about 4 grams of BP in the main compartment and it worked great, shooting the cone a number of feet forward. The other test was the drogue compartment in the fin can with 4/40 nylon screws and again about 4 grams of BP. The smaller volume of this compartment produced a markedly louder "pop" and the e-bay/compartment went shooting forward about 20 feet and no damage occurred that I know of. Our L3CC Gerald was taking photos so I hope to post a couple when I get them.

As far as we're concerned, testing is pretty much in the bag. Now all that remains is painting and Mighty Moe will be ready for flight 6 weeks from today.

My photos from today:
1 - Graduator 3D launch on a G80-10T.
2 - All the laundry is out after all three ejection events.
3 - Graduator 3D laid out in the desert. Lots of new growth since the last launch.
4 - Preparing to test the drogue compartment with 4/40 shear pins and 4 grams of BP.
5 - Gerald Meux Jr. photo of the 4 gram test.
6 - Gerald Meux Jr. photo of the test showing how far the compartment shot forward.

21 Sep 2008

No work on Mighty Moe over the weekend but I really need to get the Bondo action going so I can get the primer on this beast. I hope to make time during the week to get'r done.

22 Sep 2008

Today I got off my duff and started working on Mighty Moe again. I got out the tube of Bondo and filled the holes in the fin can that needed filled. Besides the holes in the tube, I did the fin fillets, too. Going to let it set up for a day or two before I sand it.

I also contacted Carl at Rocket Rage to inquire about a parachute. I learned he has no chutes stocked in the size(s) I would require for Mighty Moe because, as he put it, "the flying season here in southern California is over for the year." What? You've got to be kidding me. At any rate, we had a nice discussion and I mentioned he might consider putting a notice on his website that he is a "seasonal" company. At least prospective customers would know he may or may not have what they desire at a given time. I'll research other companies to find a suitable main recovery chute for the rocket.

23 Sep 2008

After a bit of online research I selected Spherachutes (a Colorado-based company) for my main recovery chute. I was placing the order on the computer and I decided to call first. I spoke a very pleasant lady (Julie) about the chutes and she convinced me it would fit (as does their online information about chute sizing.)

I selected the 168" (14ft) diameter chute. To take advantage of a 20% discount I'm leaving the color selection up to them but I "requested" white, lime green, and dark blue if they have it. Those are the colors I plan on painting Mighty Moe so a matching chute would be pretty cool.

The online invoice says to expect about a 2-week wait for them to make the chute. Julie said she finished up the outstanding orders so maybe I'll get it before then.

24 Sep 2008

Did a little work on the e-bay: Cleaned up the holes for the arming switches by removing paint. I also permanently installed the two pyro switches. To secure these, I filled the small gaps around the switch with FixIt epoxy clay then closed off the opening from the inside with more epoxy clay. On the outside, I filled the surface joints with a fillet of clay. After this stuff cured inside and out it was rock hard and provides a good seal. I'll wait to install the four altimeter arming switches until after I apply the Mighty Moe decal on the outside. I'll do this because I need to paint a portion of the tube green where the switches are.

25 Sep 2008

Yesterday evening I got a little work done on Mighty Moe. First, I spent some time sanding the Bondo on the fin can. Still some unevenness in the finish but I'm pretty much satisfied with it. Next step is to clean it up and primer it. Speaking of primer, I sprayed the first coat of primer on both main airframe tubes; see photos below of the work.

29 Sep 2008

Over the weekend and today I did some painting. Nose cone and tip have several coats of royal blue on them; both airframe tubes have several coats of white. Fin can has some primer on it but it needs more work on the leading edges to better prepare them for painting.

Today my Dad found a source for the Mighty Moe decal. He sent me the email address and I've sent several images for possible use while creating the decal. I think it will be made of vinyl. I should have it sometime late in the second week of October.

1 Oct 2008

Well, this is the month. 24 days to go. Final preparations are under way. Got an email stating the new 'chute from Spherachute is in the mail. Didn't get any painting done the past two days but at least the paint I did apply Monday is curing up and ready for the next (final) coats. I did do a little work on the fin leading edges by filling some of the holes/depressions with 30-minute epoxy. Some sandpaper will smooth it out and the fin can will be ready for more primer then paint. The upper eight inches will get painted first since it is a white, beginning at the leading edge fin root. Once that is cured I can mask it and paint the rest of the fin can blue like the nose. The white will then get an accent band of emerald green. Same blue and green treatment for the upper end of the airframe. I'll wait to paint that until after I get the decal so I can see exactly how long it is. The length will dictate how much of a large white area I leave in the middle of the rocket. I want the proportions to pretty much match the smaller Estes version, though my airframe is just a little over 4 inches longer than the upscale dimension should be (85.6 versus 81.6 inches.) The extra length helps to accommodate recovery gear in the upper payload bay but I probably could've gotten away with 4 inches shorter. If I remember correctly I think I chose that upper tube length based on the cut lengths I'd get from PML. Not wanting to waste any, I just accepted the extra 4 inches.

I've also "disassembled" an old Air Force flyers suit to make use of some of the nomex cloth. I want to make some extra flame-proof protective "blankets" for the recovery gear and this stuff should work nicely. It's not as heavy as some of the commercially available blankets but I think if I double up the thickness before sewing it should provide enough protection for the parachute, shroud lines, and recovery harnesses. I also have some Kevlar(tm) sleeves and one blanket, plus provisions to make another blanket, and this nomex cloth should help round out the job.

2 Oct 2008

Yesterday I spoke with Clay (CW Graphics) in Reno to discuss the pending graphics. Our conversation prompted me to set up the rocket and do a placement check of the stencils I'd made so I can verify dimension of the graphic. I got the dimensions and emailed Clay the specs and the photo. See the image below:

3 Oct 2008

The parachute from Spherachutes arrived today. Upon opening the package I found the chute neatly packed in a red nylon bag. The chute itself, while colorful, is not in the colors I "suggested" but then in the end I didn't have a choice. They did what they could with the "scraps" they had on hand. It is black, green, red, purple, and pink. It's a very nice chute...I hope it works well.

5 Oct 2008

Been doing some painting today on the major components. I put a couple more light coats on each of the main airframe tubes. I also put several coats of white on the top portion of the fin can just above the fins. The nose tip has a couple coats of blue now as well.

6 Oct 2008

Seems that Clay from CW Graphics has finished my vinyl graphic. My dad picked up the graphic from the shop today and Fedex'd it to me...should have the box on Wednesday. I've been reading up on how to apply vinyl graphics and while not overly difficult, the process is finicky. Clay was kind enough to entertain my questions on the phone. I also learned he printed an extra graphic for me so I'll have three to play with. Hopefully I'll get the first applied correctly and have two left over! We'll see...

7 Oct 2008

Well the Fedex site shows the package from my dad is in Phoenix. Should be delivered on the 8th and I'm really looking forward to seeing the vinyl graphic.

I emailed Deby at Recovery Technologies (a local rocket vendor) to inquire about making me a custom drogue chute. I'm running out of options and I really want to go with a drogue larger than 24 inches...more like in the 36-42 inch range. She emailed me back saying she'd see if her machine was capable of sewing through the strap nylon she has and get back with me.

I also started working on my documentation package. I'd already done a lot of work fulfilling the requirements but I needed to start organizing it. I'll probably see our L3CC (Gerald) on Saturday the 18th so I'll present him the folder I'm putting together. This should fulfill the requirement to get the package to the L3CC at least five days in advance of the launch date.

To this end, I've been running simulations in RockSim to gather necessary performance data for the package. According to the program and the updated weights, Mighty Moe should reach about 7400 feet on the M1297W. However, that's just a simulation and assumes best case scenario with respect to winds, exterior finish, etc. I'll be pleased if the Moe reaches 6,000.

8 Oct 2008

Fedex delivered the box my dad sent containing the graphics. Upon opening the box I found a large sheet with three copies. I was very impressed with the final product and decided I'd try to apply the "Moe" portion to the lower payload bay. After prepping the surface with a light sanding with 400 grit and a swipe with the tack cloth I chose the final location. Thankfully the graphic fits right between two of the screws (and straddles a third between the two) that hold the payload bay to the e-bay. I carefully cut out the decal to the proper size and positioned it on the rocket. After a few minutes of removing the backing material, the decal was in position. I'm not sure how well it will adhere to the semi-gloss surface so time will tell. I hope to clear coat the decals but before I do I'm going to paint something so I can lay down some test decal and test different clear coats.

Below are a couple photos of the decal. If this is any indication, the Mighty Moe will look mighty fine once I get the rest of the painting done and the other decal applied.

11 Oct 2008

Two weeks from today the Mighty Moe takes flight...hopefully. It all depends on the weather, now.

Been a fairly productive couple of days working on the finishing touches. Yesterday I got the blue on the fin can completely painted. This evening I got the green stripe around the fin can tube painted, so now it is basically done and it doesn't look too bad. Tonight I also applied the "Mighty" graphic on the upper payload bay and right now I'm in the process of painting the green portion of the e-bay tube. Once that is completely dry I can mount the screw switches permanently in the e-bay. Tomorrow I hope to get the blue and green bands painted to the upper payload bay.

Tonight I also tested a clear spray paint on a piece of vinyl and it looks promising. I made a test strip by painting a piece of masonite with primer, then the same white I painted the airframe with. After that dried I applied a scrap of the green vinyl and sprayed it with the clear. No adverse reaction there so I'll likely clear coat the airframe with this stuff. Below is a photo of the status of the rocket as of tonight. Click on the thumbnails to view the rocket standing upright.

12 Oct 2008

Well today is the day I can consider construction and painting of the Mighty Moe complete. I still have to permanently mount the screw switches in the e-bay and finish clear coating, but otherwise it's done.

14 Oct 2008

Yesterday I spent some time fiddling with the electronics sled. It was the first time I actually had all the altimeters installed and wired...basically it was flight ready. I did an ops check on the screw switches and verified continuity of the main and drogue charges. At first I just had jumper wires connected to the terminal blocks on each end of the ebay but later I hooked up safe (no BP installed) charge holders and got the same result: continuity.

One thing about these PerfectFlite altimeters that puzzles me is I'm not getting an audible indication of battery voltage. The manual states you're supposed to hear the voltage beeps between the last reported altitude and the charge continuity beeps...I don't get that. Mind you, I've flown these altimeters in dual-deploy mode and they work fine so I don't know what the issue is.

2 hours later: Ok I sorted out the issue with the battery voltage indication. You must have the deployment charge terminals hooked up for the indication to sound. I've been doing most of my continuity checks with them hooked up but with the arming switches "off." That causes the altimeter to bypass the voltage indication and go straight to last altitude report. Then when I would turn on the pyro switches I'd would get my three [expected] continuity beeps. I was planning on re-verifying my electrical circuits anyway and during the course of tonight's testing I figured out the issue. Thankfully, my continuity checks tonight were all 100%. I did a reverification of the "peanut-butter jar" altitude chamber tests (both altimeters) with the leads hooked up to the e-bay wiring and all checked out good. I used the small light bulbs hooked up to the pyro terminals on the ends of the e-bay to verify activation of the pyro charges. All is well for now and I am 100% confident in my electrical scheme. Guess it's time to permanently install the four external power screw switches.

I also took the time to "tin" the ends of any stranded wiring I'm using where it connects to the altimeters. I know there are two schools of thought on using stranded versus solid wiring and I'm actually using a combination of both but I'm not overly concerned either way. My main concern is ensuring my connections to the altimeters are solid and wiring won't come loose during the flight profile.

Below are some photos of the loaded sled.

1 - Backside of sled showing primary batteries on top with the secondary (record only) altimeters and their batteries at the bottom.
2 - Frontside of sled showing the primary and backup altimeter.
3 - Top view looking into the e-bay. The wiring looks a mess but it is actually fairly simple to connect.
(Note: all batteries will be securely attached to the sled to prevent movement. I'll probably duct-tape them to the sled.)

17 Oct 2008

Been trying to get my L3 Certification Package ready to give to our L3CC Gerald Meux Jr. tomorrow. Lots of typing to get the package finalized including the flight checklists and the recovery and construction narratives completed. I'm also drawing a scale diagram of the basic layout of the rocket. I should be ready to hand it over to him for review on schedule.

18 Oct 2008

It was a great day for launching model rockets in Gilbert, Arizona today. I attended the Orbital Sciences Corp family launch out on the east side and had a blast. I showed up at 0645 to help the SSS start setting up the launch facility on the rodeo grounds near Val Vista and Ray. Launching started promptly at 0800 and ran straight through till noon. Former Orbital employee (and rocketeer extraordinaire) Matt Steel performed LCO duties for the 24 pads we'd set up. A BUNCH of people and families showed up to launch model rockets with motors ranging from 1/4A to F. Matt estimates about 180 rockets launched and I photographed a good number of them. Winds were calm all morning and not too many rockets drifted out of sight. While many rockets were launched in the spot landing competition, our own SSS President (and Orbital employee) Darrel won the spot landing competition with a "Snitch" UFO. Other contests held were Egg Loft 'chute duration and Sport Scale. The highest flown must have been a beautiful Estes Comanche-3 maxxed out with D-C-C motors. Other impressive flights included a nicely done Estes Canadian Arrow and a impressive glider flight with a stock Estes Eagle boost glider. Of special interest to yours truly was a very cool Flis Kits Acme Spitfire done up with the Mercury Redstone wraps and complete with launch escape tower. I plan on posting some launch photos on a separate page soon.

I was able to hand over the L3 Certification Package to Gerald at the launch and he kept it for the week so he can review at his convenience. I hope all my boxes are checked so I'll be ready to fly on the 25th.

20 Oct 2008

Today I decided to revise the power switches on the e-bay. I became concerned the proximity of the two outside switches to the adjacent static ports might cause some turbulence around the ports and affect the altimeters. I now have a close grouping of four switches in a diamond pattern.

(Note: The two large dark holes on either side of the green are the epoxy-filled former switch holes. The two smaller holes beyond those are two static ports, 120 degrees apart.)

23 Oct 2008

Since Dad arrived in town on the 16th we've had a great visit so far. We've assembled the Moe twice and sorted out some of the packing procedures. We put the assembled rocket on a dial-type bathroom scale. Previously I haven't been able to get anything but "Error" on a couple of different digital bathroom scales I've tried. Must be the way the digital bathroom scales read weight placed on them. Today the weight was about 43-44 pounds without propellant (since I don't have it yet) and that weight pretty much jives with the combined component weights I've calculated.

We also assembled a couple of PVC rocket cradles to hold the Moe horizontally. I used one of them to balance the Moe horizontally and find the Center of Gravity. I had to simulate the propellant weight with various tools stuffed in a sock and placed on the fin can. The CG is about 73 inches from the nose. This is about 13 inches further aft than the RockSim calculation but well within the allowable CG limit. My aft CG limit is 82.75 inches from the nose and 73 inches provides more than a two-caliber margin of stability based on the RockSim Barrowman Center of Pressure calculation of 88.9 inches.

Photo 1: Folded 168" Spherachute on my Nomex(TM) "burrito" chute protector I made out of an old Air Force flight suit.
Photo 2: Another view of the chute.
Photo 3: Yet another view of the chute.

24 Oct 2008

Wow - now we're down to less than 24 hours until we kick off the annual G.H.S. launch at Rainbow Valley. Dad and I drove down there this morning for two reasons. For one, Terry O. was bringing the club trailer to drop off and begin setting up the launch area and I offered to help him. Second, I wanted to do another ground test on the rocket since I changed the nosecone retention to 4-40 nylon screws. Got the ground test accomplished to my satisfaction...a full 5 grams of B.P. should cleanly separate the cone from the airframe tube. The first test I did was with about 4 grams of B.P. and the shear pins barely budged. As seen in the first photo of the series below, some gasses escaped through the vent hole and the nose cone joint but that was about it. The protective devices I had in place worked great in protecting my recovery gear. For the next test I used a full 5 grams of B.P. and it blew the nose clean off. I'm pretty confident under flight conditions the nose cone will continue to pull the parachute from the rocket for a safe deployment.

Photo 1: First test shows little movement of the nose cone. Some dust and gas but that’s about it. Three 4-40 shear pins and 4 grams of B.P. Also, the new PVC cradles are in use.
Photo 2: Dad preparing to fire the charge.
Photo 3: The charge has fired and the nose cone is traveling forward.
Photo 4: Here we see the nosecone about to land on the blanket. The green Nomex(TM) tortilla covering a towel (simulating the chute) is just visible inside the airframe. The actual chute will be attached to the nose cone and should get pulled from the tube.

Flight 1 - NAR Level 3 Certification Flight

25 Oct 2008 - Launch Day

What a great day for launching rockets. To begin with, last night I spent some time doing a bit of early preparation work. I decided to pre-assemble the e-bay and electronics so I'd at least be that much further ahead come launch day. There is enough prep work to be done on launch day and assembling the e-bay in the comfort of my living room would save me at least an hour on Saturday. I did a final check of the altimeters to be sure they were all functioning. Dad had never seen me test the altimeters so I checked them out with the peanut butter jar, and all four performed flawlessly.

I installed the altimeters and hooked up the batteries, then fastened the power switch wiring and did a final check on those. I secured the batteries with zip ties and duct tape to ensure they wouldn't move around and come loose during flight. Once I was satisfied all the wiring was as secure as it could be, I sealed up the e-bay. About the only thing left to do was gather all the components and get it ready to load up in the morning.

Come Saturday morning, Dad and I loaded up the truck and hit the road with the Mighty Moe, some snacks and a few steaks in the cooler for the evening BBQ at Mark's campsite at Rainbow Valley. We arrived around 0800 and found a place to park right next to Mark. After wandering the camp sites for a bit, I stopped by the What's Up Hobbies trailer and purchased two more 1-inch, 25 foot long nylon shock cords. I wanted to duplicate the shock cord set up both top and bottom. Back at my prep site, I began work on the rocket. Shortly afterwards, Mark asked if I'd help set up his launch pad. I had no problem with that since I'd be using his pad and helping out fellow flyers is part of the camaraderie with our club. We finished up with the pad and strung the power cords from the pad back to the launch area - over 500 feet of wiring. After all that prep work was complete it was time to get back to building a rocket. In the meantime, I took a break to watch (and photograph) Dwain Desbian launch his Level 3 Cert rocket. After spitting the igniter the first time, Dwain's 7.5 inch diameter Nike Smoke roared off the pad atop an M1315W and recovered for a near-perfect L3 Cert flight. Way to go Dwain! Of us three SSS members attempting L3 today, we had one down and two to go.

Long story short, I got the rocket prepped for launch about noon time. The club breaks for lunch for an hour to give the crews and flyers a break. 1pm came around and Mark was ready to fly, so I helped him out to the pad. We hefted his L3 Cert rocket "BFR" (Big Fellow Rocket) onto the rail and got it hooked up. Mark's rocket was also loaded with an M1315W and upon pressing the launch button, BFR growled off the pad for an awesome boost. At apogee though, the sweating began. As it turned out, Mark had loaded too little BP in his drogue chute compartment and the wimpy charge failed to separate his rocket. BFR settled into a flat spin but all was not lost. The TAC-9C main chute deployed on cue and safely lowered BFR to the ground. The problem was later determined and since all the charges fired as planned and the rocket was undamaged, Mark earned his L3 certification...we now had two down.

Now it was my turn to show my stuff. Dwain and I decided to just carry the Mighty Moe out to the pad. The weather was nice enough that we didn't break too much of a sweat on the walk out. Joel Young accompanied us to the pad and the only real hiccup of my flight occurred as we tried to load Moe up. Turned out my rail buttons needed just a bit of trimming (or could it have been the screws were just too tight to begin with...?) for the buttons to slide freely onto the rod. Joel solved that problem with his pocket knife. After a few moments, Dad showed up at the pad and after the cursory photos and continuity checks, the Moe was ready for launch. I started the video camera I'd placed near the pad and we walked back to the controller. I was expecting 7400 feet altitude so Terry O. called in the waiver to the FAA. Once cleared for launch, I asked Craig Viscusi to press the button so my dad and I could shoot photos...Craig graciously and eagerly accepted the task of launching Moe for me.

The moment of truth: 5-4-3-2-1-0-LAUNCH! The Aerotech M1297W came to life and quickly built up pressure. Mighty Moe lifted off atop a plume of fire and thick white smoke, swiftly climbing to apogee with nary a twist in the smoke trail...it was a beautiful sight. As I watched through my camera viewfinder, I saw the apogee event and was relieved to see the small 48" Rocketman drogue deploy. We're halfway there and all is well. Mighty Moe settled into a semi-controlled descent aided by fifty feet of recovery harness and a beautiful white drogue chute. Before long, we saw, then heard the deployment and report of the main charge(s) firing and the 168" Spherachutes main chute easily popped free of the airframe and filled with air. WHEW! What a beautiful sight...and the Rainbow Valley crowd cheered as Mighty Moe settled into a gentle descent under full chute. Needless to say, I was elated. I kept on clicking photos as Moe neared the ground and touched down probably less than a thousand feet from the crowd line. I'd done it...and my Dad and friends all congratulated me on what appeared to be a near perfect flight and recovery.

After arriving out at the recovery site in my truck I paused to take a few photos of the components as they were laid out across the desert floor. I pulled up next to the main chute and climbed up on the bed of my truck for an elevated view. With a total of one hundred feet of shock cord, the components were spread out over a relatively large area. Everything seemed intact as I checked out each component. I got to the e-bay/payload bays and carefully looked inside each to ensure all four of the charges had blown, which they had. I clipped the safety wire holding the external pyro switches and shut them off. The altimeters were wildly beeping their reports and I shut down all but one of the PerfectFlites so I could get an altitude reading. I was a bit surprised to find the Moe only flew about 4,200 feet but pleased nonetheless that everything seemed like it was undamaged. It looked as though I really was just one step away (Gerald's inspection) from officially receiving my NAR Level 3 certification. I posed for a "thumbs up" photo then Dad and I packed up the rocket and drove back to the camp site. I found Gerald at the LCO table and told him everything looked good. He was quite busy filling out the others' L3 paperwork so he could divvy up the temporary certification cards and get the application forms ready to mail to NAR headquarters to officially record our successes. Our new certification cards will arrive within a couple weeks after Gerald sends them in.

As recorded by my camera, launch of the Mighty Moe occurred at 2:10pm and liftoff weight was close to 50 pounds. I don't have a specific descent rate but it was probably around 15 feet per second. Due to handling prior to and after the flight the white paint is showing some dirt but that's to be expected on any rocket. The vinyl graphics held up nicely as I expected them to under the clear coating. I'm very pleased with the flight and glad that chapter is over with. Now I'm looking forward to just building and flying rockets :)


Below is a table of photos taken on launch day, October 25, 2008. The fella in the white shirt and hat assisting me is Joel Young, an aquaintence of my dad and I. In August 2009 he set a record of 160MPH on the Bonneville Salt Flats driving a streamliner with a Model T engine.


Prepping E-bay

Prepping E-bay

Prepping E-bay

Prepping the drogue

Loading the main

Working on the motor

Working on the motor

75/5120 Hardware

Motor Loaded

Loading the drogue

Loading the drogue

Aligning the shear pins

Safed and ready to fly

Safed and ready to fly
Me, Gerald, Dwain

Moe, Mighty Moe,
and Dad

Moe Launch

Moe climbing out

Moe climbing out

Moe climbing out

Dad's launch photo

Mark's launch photo

Drogue Deployment

Drogue Deployment

Drogue Deployment
Rocketman 24" Drogue

Main Deployment

Main Deployment
Spherachutes 168" Main

Under Chute

Under Chute

Nearing Touchdown

Nearing Touchdown

The landing site

Fin can: motor intact

It all looks good!

Pretty close to flight line!

Dad with airframe


29 Oct 2008

Today I finally took the e-bay apart and checked the altimeters again for altitude readings. Below is a list of the altitudes recorded:

1 - Primary: 4204 ft
2 - Backup: 4232 ft
3 - Secondary: 4164 ft
4 - RRC2 Mini: 4220 ft
Average of the readings: 4205 ft

Flight 2

Flight #2 was a year after my Certification Flight, at GHS 2009. It was a great day for flying rockets and Mighty Moe went up on a 5-grain Aerotech M1315W. The extra grain of the 1315 gave me an additional 1700 feet of altitude. The 5-grain motor just fits and I had to remove 25 feet of the nylon shock cord in the drogue compartment to accomodate the longer motor case. No worries though as the Moe put on a mighty display for the assembled crowd.

After the main deployed, it looked like Moe might actually end up landing on the crowd. Thankfully, a slight breeze pushed Moe back to the north a bit, and he settled down just a couple hundred feet past the eastern perimeter of the launch area. It was an awesome sight watching him touch down so close.

I used two PerfectFlite HiAlt45k altimeters for dual deployment. For some reason I have only one altitude listed in my log book. Below are the readings from the two altimeters I had onboard:

1 - Primary HiAlt45k: 5940 ft
2 - Backup HiAlt45k: ???? ft

Flight 3

Flight #3 was at our March 2010 club launch at Rainbow Valley. This was a drag rage between the Mighty Moe and Dwain's L3 cert rocket "Good Grief." We were originally going to race at last month's ARG launch on February 27th but the weather didn't quite cooperate. Additionally, Good Grief had some airframe damage that Dwain needed to fix and the repair parts weren't delivered in time. We decided to postpone until March 13th.

I prepared Mighty Moe in the days leading up to the launch. I had already prepped the chutes for the ARG launch, so they were ready to go. I assembled and tested the e-bay on the Wednesday before the actual flight, and my daughter and her boyfriend helped me build the M1780NT motor on the Thursday. On Friday I stowed the main chute and loaded the rocket in the truck. When Saturday arrived all I had to do was install the motor, pack the drogue chute and put Moe on the pad.

Saturday the 13th was a great day for flying. A slight breeze in mid-morning had us concerned the winds would pick up but Mother Nature did us right. I helped Mark W. set up his L3 pad while Dwain set up Terry O's pad for the drag race. We got the rockets ready, called in the waiver for Dwain's (he was expecting to go over the 6500 AGL standing limit) and got ready to fly. At "Launch" Mighty Moe came up to pressure and blasted off the pad with much authority atop the "New Blue Thunder" propellant while Good Grief didn't budge an inch.

Mighty Moe put in a great flight from launch to touchdown. Drogue deployment appeared to occur right on time at the top, and seeing the main deploy on time was a welcome sight. Mighty Moe drifted to a landing to the northeast of the launch site about a half mile out. I waited to recover Moe until Dwain got Good Grief off the ground a few minutes later. Good Grief put on an equally impressive display to about 7200 feet...well above the waiver...good thing we called it in. When we finally went out to recover the rockets, Mighty Moe was in great shape while Good Grief suffered a nasty zipper to the main chute compartment. Dwain deduced the shock cord got tangled around the "Fire Ball" anti-zipper device and that's what most likely caused the damage. It should be repairable. I got to the Moe and listened for the altimeter beeps: The one I first listened to indicated an altitude of 5,516 feet...not bad :)

Mighty Moe was the only rocket I flew that day...why gamble with success? Besides, I was helping out other club members with their flights as well. When I got home and took the Moe apart, I found that one of my ejection charges hadn't fired. Now this is something I should've verified at the recovery site but I failed to do. Mental note to self: VERIFY ALL CHARGES FIRED! I normally do this but for some reason I felt pressed to get the rocket back in the truck so I could pick up Dwain, Joanna, and the Good Grief. Thankfully I'd safed the charge switches anyway but you never know what can go wrong. The charge that didn't fire was the Primary Main chute recovery charge. Thankfully the Backup altimeter did the job...proof that redundancy pays off when it comes to altimeters. I immediately decided to trouble-shoot to narrow down the exact problem. For one, the battery for that altimeter showed less than 3 volts. (On Monday, I re-checked the voltage and it was back at 9 volts...maybe I did something wrong when checking it late Saturday.) It was good when I loaded it, and I got continuity all around at the pad. In hindsight maybe I didn't pay attention to the voltage beeps from the Primary altimeter during power up at the pad...another mental note to self.

OK - here's the deal with the charge not firing. I was over at Dwain's today watching him cut me some fiberglass fins (THANKS DWAIN!!) and we decided to troubleshoot. We think we found the problem. The charge holder was not COMPLETELY full when we took the tape off of it. I didn't used the little yellow foam ear plug they come with. The probable cause is that when the forward portion of the rocket was descending nose first under drogue, there was just enough of a gap between the nichrome in the charge holder and the powder that it didn't ignite. We tore apart the charge holder and found the nichrome had burned. Pretty sure that was the culprit. So, yet another note to self: MAKE SURE THE CHARGE HOLDER IS COMPLETELY FILLED UP WITH A COMBINATION OF POWDER AND SOMETHING TO KEEP IT IN PLACE!

- Mighty Moe lifting off on an Aerotech M1780T "New Blue Thunder" 75/5120 motor.
- Nice blue flame and Mach Diamonds are evident in this photo.
- Climbing out and arcing to the north a little bit.
- Nicely splayed out on the Rainbow Valley desert playa.
- View looking south/southwest towards the flight line.
- Charge on the left did not fire during the flight.

Below are the readings from the three altimeters I had onboard:

1 - Primary HiAlt45k: 5516 ft
2 - Backup HiAlt45k: 5534 ft
3 - RRC2 Mini: 5509 ft
Average of the readings: 5519 ft


Below is a table of various sources for materials and resources utilized during construction of the Mighty Moe



My Dad:
The pointy end
and the graphics

Estes Industries
The original design

Ye Olde Rocket Shoppe
Estes Mighty Moe plans

Apogee Components (RockSim)
Design Software

National Assoc. of Rocketry
Level 3 Paperwork

Public Missiles Ltd.
Airframe components

PerfectFlite Electronics
Primary/backup altimeters

Missile Works
Secondary altimeter

Newton's Third Rocketry
Arming switches and charge holders

Main Recovery 'Chute

AeroTech Consumer


What's Up Hobbies
75mm Fwd Seal Disk
1" nylon shock cord

Giant Leap Rocketry
Recovery components

Model Rocketry
Reviews & Resources

You name it!

JimZ Rocket Plans
Lots of cool stuff

CW Graphics
Reno, NV
Mighty Moe vinyl decal

Sticky Stuff Sales
External glassing

Nylon shear pins

The Home Depot
Misc. hardware

Granger Industrial Supply
Forged eye nuts / bolts

Radio Shack
Misc. electrical

Lowe's Home Improvement Center
Misc. hardware

Just Rockets:
The business end
Thanks Scott...Its been fun!!


I want to say thanks to Scott of the now closed "Just Rockets" of Las Vegas, NV. Scott is going through some turbulent times in mid-2008 and he's no longer able to regularly attend our launches. Scott was there for us at Rainbow Valley for countless launch events and was always a hoot to interact with. I bought my 75mm motor hardware from Scott in February 2008 after I started this project. Word is he'll be at the GHS launch so hopefully he may get to see the Mighty Moe fly in October. I just want to wish Scott Godspeed.

And lest we forget the members of the
Superstition Spacemodeling Society for their invaluable advice and assistance during the project, particularly Gerald, Geoffrey, Dwain, Mark, Scott, Darrel, Bob and Terry. If I've forgotten anybody, I'm sorry!

And finally, I'd like to thank my Father and dear departed Mother for their unwavering support through the years. Their unconditional love has undoubtedly guided me along a path leading to personal success. Of course, I'd be remiss if I forgot to give a big hug and kiss to my little "Bear" for putting up with Daddy's little eccentricities. Thanks Mom, Pop, and Bear!!

Moe's Rocketry Pix Webpage

Moe's Rocketry Fleet Webpage

Moe's Rocketry Launch Log Webpage

Moe's Main Rocketry Webpage

Moe's Main Webpage