The core motor roared to life.
The Saturn V slowly rose, and when it was two inches off the base, a lift
switch started the airstart timer. The model accelerated slowly, small
pieces of frozen condensation falling from its sides. Not bad, for dry ice
The noise startled the shore birds, which took wing just like they do down
south. It was a picture postcard moment, the smoke and the rocket and the
water and the birds, until a startled dove swerved directly into the path
of the Saturn!
"Got your back," I heard from behind me somewhere.
"In season?" asked the same voice.
"Affirmative," the LCO replied.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
A volunteer state trooper had come all the way from New Mexico to see the
launch. They always carry their 9 millimeter service weapons (you never
know when you might encounter a fugitive from New Mexico). This guy was
also a pretty good shot--the dove, neatly quartered, fell well clear.
"Stay, King. The range is closed."
He'd brought a retriever, too.
I made a mental note to never, ever, speed in New Mexico. I struggled to
concentrate on the Saturn.
All four outboard C6s lit simultaneously, and the model accelerated
briskly. The strong winds had died down a bit, but the big rocket still
struggled in the breeze. Through the autotracking binoculars, I could see
that the nozzle vectoring system was working furiously to maintain a
vertical trajectory, but it was getting the job done.
The wind-driven salt spray lashed my face. A pity all those people had
stayed away from RATS, all on account of a measley Canadian cold front
with fresh gale force winds. All-weather model rocketry is not for the
faint of heart. Nor for the thin of wallet.
I heard faint metallic clicks as the State Trooper reloaded.
There was a brief instant of silence signaling the end of the burn for the
SIV-B. It kicked itself away perfectly, and three chutes opened in a
coordinated disreefing dance. It was glorious.
Three fins kicked out of the upper stage, and then five more C6s caught fire.
I started to wonder whether luck would hold, and I'd avoid a CATO. A CATO
wouldn't _necessarily_ be bad, though--a guy flying a Comanche at Tripoli
Southern Minnesota earlier today had the D12 CATO badly, but it lit the
upper stage and he got a recovered flight out of it. I'd flown Tethys on
a J350 a bit later; it went 3950' vertically and over a mile horizontally,
and still didn't clear the field. But it was close.
It could have been closer, but it wasn't, and a great time was had by all.
My opinions only.