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By Kyle Cornelius

This is me!Part One

I am 14, and had just become a member of the NAR's Junior program. I was attending Southern Thunder 2005 and I was itching to fly my L1 bird for a test flight before I certified. I loaded up the double dipped pyrogen Estes igniters into the drogue and main side of the electronics bay. It carried a PerfectFlite Alt-25k. It seemed to take forever, prepping this rocket. I used Aerotech ejection charge caps to measure how much black powder to put into the ejection wells. I then loaded the purple 12 inch drogue chute onto the wide, red seat-belt material and clipped a Quick-Link onto the end, then onto the stainless steel eye hook connected to the electronics bay. Slowly, I got out of the chair, and reached out to get the lime-green 36 inch main parachute. Prepping was slow…the longer it went on, the slower it took. My face started getting cold. The rest of my body is burning. Dehydrated, sun-baked. Despite the sun-baked skin, and the burning body, I had to get in the sun. My face is freezing. I pull out a Gatorade from the cooler. I drink two sips and I have to stop. I lie down in the truck and take a long nap…

Part Two

I am awoken by the sound of a K-185, making its way into the layers of the atmosphere. I remember the sudden urge to fly my rocket that I had just three hours before. I already had most of the prepping done, so I made the decision to finish up and fly this thing. I put screws in the payload bay and friction fit the nose cone to the payload bay with the correct amount of tape. I carried the 38mm-29mm adapter in my hands to the rocket, and inserted it into the "business end" of the rocket. My dad has already made the motor for me and pushed it into my hands. The motor fit perfectly into the adapter. With some tape wrapped around the motor and adapter, I was finished.

Me again...sickMy dad took pictures of me with the rocket. Keep in mind that I was sick, that's why I'm never smiling in any of them. After the picture-taking session, we head out to the pads.

We check in with the RSO, and he does the check on the rocket. He didn't really do much, just kind of held the rocket and looked at the fins. He gave us a rail pad assignment, which happened to be my dad's pad. We waited until the pads were clear for us to load up. Since I had electronics, I waited for the area to clear before I turned the power on, then arm it. The altimeter did it's usual self check list for a couple of minutes. When that was done, I turned my head away from the rocket, and armed the altimeter. Ok…it's ready to go. After a few nervous moments, it was my turn. They called out the motor designation and the electronics on board. I could hear the altimeter beeping from where I was standing. They asked if I was ready…I quietly said "yes". They gave a countdown and…

Part Three

My dad's homemade igniter started smoking, the dense, white smoke pouring out of the nozzle of the motor. The wind was carrying the smoke to the north, gently blowing, like someone blowing out a candle. I knew it would fly, the motor started mocking the igniter, dense smoke being pushed out the only opening of the motor. Then, the terrifying but satisfying sound of the G-64W carrying my $200+ rocket into the sky. The flame of the motor, only a partial size of the rocket, with a tiny cloud of smoke in between the flame and the motor. This has been my dream, to fly a rocket with an altimeter. Well, here it is. Here is the flight that separates my dreams from the reality.

My #1 goal in rocketry, achieved at such a young age. But it wasn't achieved yet. I may have flown the rocket, but getting it back intact was another thing. Getting my altimeter back intact was yet another thing.

The G-64 was still carrying the rocket very slowly to apogee. At motor burnout, my rocket started coasting. But not even 2 seconds later, it was tail-sliding down. Then, the altimeter popped the drogue. That moment was a very joyful moment to me. I heard the LCO say something to me, I think, but I was too wrapped up in my thoughts like a blanket to even notice. I just stood there, with my dad's hand on my shoulder. I was too much into my thoughts to notice anything. After a 1-2 second delay after the drogue deployed, the main can out. That is when it hit me, that I had successfully built and painted a dual-deployment rocket.

However, my 3 inch diameter, Public Enemy Performer rocket was struggling to open the parachute. I fell over, unaware of my surroundings. I once again think that I am alone, too involved with the subject of my Performer. The parachute is being dragged behind the rocket, flapping in the air, much like a fish on dry land. However, the fish found some water, and the parachute opened at about 150 feet in the air. The rocket was still traveling very fast, due to the small chute size. I was very happy now, and I could let go of my thoughts and pay more attention to the people around me. There were a few claps and a few hands to shake. The rest of the rack of rockets went fairly quickly.

Part Four

PMy dad and I left the launch site to go retrieve my rocket. When we got there, the long, sprawled out components were in the shape of a "P". The payload bay was lying right next to the main booster, with the nose cone being the length of the cord away from circle of parts. To me, it was beautiful. The silver tip of the nose cone glowing in the sunlight. The electronics beeping, which I promptly found out how high it went, the turned it off. The total altitude that it had achieved was 392 feet. Weighing in at 3.5 pounds, I knew it wouldn't go high.

I packed up the chutes and Nomex protectors into the rocket, and headed back to the E-Z-up tent. My dad cleaned out the motor and dis-assembled the parachutes and cord and put them in the box with the other cord material and parachutes. This was the first day of a two day launch.

The next day, I got sick half way thru the day, and laid in the truck and slept until we were home. Wear sunscreen, and lot's of it!

Part Five

These next two parts are about my dad's two rockets that he flew at Southern Thunder 2005. My dad has a scratch built, 38mm diameter rocket with G-10 fins and a 29mm motor mount. He calls it "White Lightning Jr.", because he has a 54mm version at the house that lawn darted at a previous launch. He fixed up the last of our 9 year old F-52 reloads that we had. He put the drogue chute from my rocket in his as his parachute. He loaded it up on the rail and let her rip. Well, about 25' off of the pad, the motor CATO'd and came down and stuck in the ground. You can see the damage from the picture of it.

Part Six

LawndartThis is my dad's L1 rocket. It had a beautiful paint scheme on it, and the rocket was built like a tank. It had G-10 fins, a whole bunch of paint and primer and epoxy in and on it. It carried a PerfectFlite MAWD and a HyperTech I-222. They filled the tank and we were ready to launch. It ripped off of the pad to an approximate 1250'. The rocket has flown before, the only new things in it were the altimeter and shock cords. I'm still not real sure on what went wrong, but his altimeter failed to deploy anything, and it decinigrated the rocket when it "landed".

You can see from the picture that the damage is pretty severe. The white thing sticking out of the ground is the nose cone. It used to be red. The crash stripped all of the paint off of the nose cone. The HyperTech tank was not damaged at all and the parachutes are fine. The Nomex heat shields have cuts in them from all of the stuff traveling at high speed. The only other thing that we kept was the back end of the rocket for memories.

I think that the reason that the crash occurred was because he had just gotten the altimeter that morning, and he didn't have time to test it. I still think that it should have worked. I don't know. My dad is now in the process of making a new one, just like it, just an inch taller. He's trying some new things on this one.

Happy flying!

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