Sit back, pop a cold one, and allow me the pleasure of bringing to you my
(long) account of my first Saturn V flight.
Well, after a couple of months, the Saturn V was finally rolled out of the
VAB (my apartment) to the launch pad! (my modified camera tripod).
It was late in the day. 6:15 PM. Winds were almost non-existent and the
thermometer showed it was 53 degrees. The sun was setting, but still
slightly above the horizon by about 20 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.
It actually made for a very dramatic backdrop. We didn't have much time and
so there was only going to be one launch.
Time to get the ball rolling. The Saturn was prepped, the E-30-4T loaded
with the igniter poised to bring this beast to life sat on the pad. You see,
it's not your stock Estes Saturn V. This bird was really beefed up and
weighed in a tad over 24 ounces. Expanding foam filled unused voids in the
air frame. Even the fins and bell housings were filled. It was VERY sturdy.
My first altimeter was in the upper section. An RRC I have just bought. I
wanted to see how high my modified Saturn would go. (assuming it would go at
I manned the video camera because my launch partner lacked the skill to
record a flight of this importance, so I gave him the launch key. He plugged
the car battery into my Estes Pro series controller, inserted the key, and
turned it on.
My anticipation was growing. I heard the familiar beeping of the controller
telling me that we had continuity. For the sake of the video, I gave a short
narration and gave George the go-ahead to start the countdown. Both the sky
and the range were clear. As Houston would say, "We have a GO for launch".
George started the countdown from 5 in a very slow and methodical manner.
The butterflies were now giving me my own private airshow in my stomach as
the seemingly hour-long countdown brought my apprehension to a climax.
Apollo 11 rushed into the sky with a thing light gray trail of smoke
indicating a successful launch! So far, so good. The motor didn't CATO, the
rocket didn't do flips in the air, the body wraps didn't peel off, an anvil
didn't fall from the sky and crush it as it left the pad. (I get nervous
about the darndest things).
The pad apparently had a little bit of angle to it despite my best efforts
and the rocket arched over about 400 feet in the air. Now my heart was
pounding with both e***ment and fear. Time seemed to stand still as I
watched the nose pointed toward the horizon... and it kept going! When the
escape tower was angled about 25 degrees pas the horizontal, the ejection
charge blew and separated the space ship.
Not bad. I've had less desirable separations. In fact, it was close enough
to level for me to call it "almost perfect".
Looking through the camcorder lens zoomed in on the arial display, a streak
of fear surged through me as I saw the lower section coming down fast! One
or more shroud line broke and the parachute fluttered in the wind above
it!!! Weighing in at the better side of a pound, I knew it would hit hard
the ground hard with it's "streamer".
I was now worried about the upper section manned by my altimeter. Did it's
chute deploy correctly? Panning up with the camera, I saw the familiar shape
of the canopy as it drifted down. The fear was leaving my body.
Both pieces made it to the ground about 30 feet from where I was standing.
George ran over to make sure the astronauts made it ok.
Upon examination, there was very little damage to the lower section despite
it's rough landing. Beefing it up paid off. A cracked fin and two small
cracks on the bell housing. Very easy to fix. WHEW!
Oh no! The altimeter was not beeping!?! Then it hit me. I forgot to arm the
silly thing before the launch.
Good thing I wasn't depending on it for deployment! A very important lesson
learned today. Don't let the e***ment of an important launch make me
forget any details. I was careful about EVERYTHING except that, and in
different situation, could have been disastrous. :-(
Even though I made a mistake, and had a slight failure, I still count this
as a successful flight. It was exciting and a LOAD of fun!
On it's next flight, it will go on an F-24 and the silly plastic parachutes
will be gone. Hemispherical (for effect), nylon (for strength) parachutes
will be seen*** this rocket in the air next time.
Sorry if this post is too long. I'm still pumped.
I have vid caps added to my page if anyone cares to see the flight. The pics
aren't great, but what the heck.