The Road to Level 2 Certification



    You’re not seeing things, there really is snow on those mountaintops.  A cold morning was waiting for me after a drive late into the morning hours of November 1st.  After a few hours of sleep, it was off to Monterey, Virginia, a small town of about 150 in Highland County.  My hosts for this event were three members of Valley Aerospace Team http://www.valleyaerospace.com/ (VAST Section 687), Chuck Neff, Mark Miller and Walter Krohn.  Much like our section, they spend a good portion of their time providing support and outreach to students who are interested in rocketry. 

    Not sure of what type of rocket I was going to use for my certification flight, I checked for NAR sections within three to four hours that had a waiver of at least 5000’ AGL.  There were a few in Ohio, but I didn’t receive responses from them and their websites had not been updated in a while.  With the winter rapidly approaching, I was figuring that quite a few sections might be closing down for the winter.  Much to my surprise, Chuck answered back the next day and said they would be more than happy to supervise my certification attempt.  I left myself about three weeks to finish a rocket kit and get everything ready for the attempt.  Even though the site has a 10000’ waiver, I was advised that much like our field, 3000’ is a better altitude to shoot for.  With the rocket kit I was using, that meant setting up dual deployment, which was not something I was planning on doing originally.

    Chuck and Mark were very helpful in the few weeks time leading up to the launch.  Any question I had was patiently answered, and Mark even crafted some ballast that would slip onto my AV bay to increase the overall weight without affecting stability.  Many emails were exchanged, with Mark wanting to make sure that I was comfortable setting up for dual deployment and had all the answers I needed.  As with most things rocketry related, I finished up on Thursday night and broke down my supplies and loaded them in the car and left after a Halloween party, arriving in Marlinton around 1 AM. 

    Morning came, and I packed my dad and all my equipment up and headed about fifty minutes northwest into Monterey.  My rocketwas assembled except for the black powder and e-matches that would be used by the altimeter to fire off the ejection charges.  Walter helped me prepare the ejection charges and a few tips for packing the chutes to maximize protection.  A CTI J-285 reload would be used for this certification flight, and simulations showed it would hit around 2800 feet with the Talon 3, unlike the almost 6000’ with the WildmanJunior that I have been flying recently.  After attaching the parachutes, we tested the altimeter arming switch only to find out that even though it has worked the day before, it was no longer working.  This necessitated a removal of the switch and carefully connecting longer wires together once the rocket was on the pad to arm the pyrotechnics.  With temperatures barely above 40, working with cold hands was not easy, but finally we were ready for launch.



    Walter handled the launch duties so that I could concentrate on trying to get some pictures of the rocket leaving the launch pad.  A testament to the difference between an “H” and even a baby “J”, the photo above and the photo below were taken on the fastest speed setting (action) that my DSLR could muster.  Within two and a half seconds after liftoff, the rocket was traveling over 400 miles per hour.



    After a beautiful liftoff, we heard the sound of the drogue charge going off and the rocket was coming down quickly under the small 15” drogue.  The main was set to 500’ and the second bang got me very excited, this was actually going to work!  Dual deployment made the recovery very easy, as the recovery was not much more than 100 yards away from where it launched from.  After inspecting and finding no damage, paperwork was readyto be filled out and sent to NAR HQ.  I would like to once again thank Chuck, Mark and Walter for taking the time to help make sure everything went as smoothly as possible, and I endeavor to “Pay it forward” and help those who want to learn and spread the joy of rocketry to others.

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