655 miles on a J270! (A story about getting a lost rocket back)

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

Kframe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2022
Messages
103
Reaction score
161
Location
Minnesota, USA
Earlier this month I traveled from MN to KS for Airfest 29 near Argonia.
I had just completed building a rocket that would have its maiden flight there, my version of a 3-finned Sidewinder missile that I dubbed the TriWinder.
IMG_1340.jpeg
Some people say it's bad luck to paint a rocket before its first flight, and maybe it is, but I always put a ton of effort into making them look nice from the get-go.
Why three fins? Well this fiberglass tube was scavenged from a rocket I got free at a club picnic, and it was already slotted for three fins. I took off the old ones, cut bigger slots and made do with what I had. Plus, it's different!

Anyway, got down to Airfest and man that was overwhelming! So many people, cool rockets, vendors, and WIDE OPEN SPACE - it was awesome! By the afternoon of the first day my nerves had settled enough to decide to launch this rocket. As built, it can fly on 38mm motors from about an H115 up to a J500! Well, go big or go home I decided to stick a J270 in it for the first flight.

I figured that there was so much recovery space, plus I had an Eggtimer Quasar in it, there was no risk of losing it.
Skies were cloudless, winds were S to N at about 8-12mph and almost all the fields were bare (except a bean field to the NE).
tempImagej0eEYS.jpg
Upon liftoff the rocket took a BIG lean to the WEST, so much so that the LCO was heard saying "well he's got a long walk ahead". I quickly lost sight of the rocket, plus I wasn't trying to track it visually too hard since I was relying on the GPS telemetry.
The speaker on the GPS receiver was announcing the ascent, and the compass direction - however at over 4,000 feet the receiver suddenly told me that the rocket was on the ground, and 3000 feet to the EAST!
I started to worry. Still hoping that it was right I headed to the indicated LZ, which was right in the middle of the road and of course there was no rocket there. I searched in a big radius around that spot but after a couple hours in the 103F heat I was frustrated, exhausted and gave up for the day.

The next two days I spent a few hours checking the lands to the west of the launch area, but didn't find it.
Airfest concluded on Monday and I returned home to Minnesota.
I was so bummed out. I hate losing anything whether it's expensive or not, and in this case it was. Between the tracker, the camera, the recovery gear and the parts there was at least $500 into this, not including my time and effort building it. But I had to just let it go. Or try.

Sitting at home the next day I got a phone call and I didn't recognize the number and I usually don't answer those, but for some reason I did. An ag worker that was spraying a field found my rocket!!!
I asked him to grab it and we'd talk later about how to get it back to me. I was so excited I couldn't think and he also needed to finish his work day.

This is a screenshot he sent showing where he found my rocket (the red 'pin') and the yellow dot is approx where the launchpad was. From the scale you can see the rocket landed about 3,000 feet WEST.
IMG_1603.jpg
Here it is in his farm implement:
IMG_1318.jpegAll I can say is thank goodness I label all my rockets in multiple places with my name and number!!!

As far as getting it back to Minnesota, I wanted to figure out a way that was the least hassle for this helpful stranger that had no obligation to do this. A member of my local Tripoli club does a lot of shipping & receiving and suggested that he could print a return label and ship a box of the right size to the home of the helper, and he could just put it in, seal the box, slap on the label and UPS could pick it up again. So generous and unexpected! (Thanks Carsten!!)
PERFECT!

I asked the guy from Oklahoma if he'd mind sending me a pic of him holding my rocket, and he said sure this was kind of a fun project. I also got to see that it appeared undamaged!
IMG_1328.jpeg
Yesterday the box arrived back in Minnesota and I nervously opened it.
Nervous, because UPS is as gentle with big boxes as United Airlines is with guitar cases.
My cat was helping with the initial inspection.

IMG_2246.jpeg
IMG_2244.jpeg

As feared, there was a little damage but nothing awful. One of the canard fins had snapped off, and overall the rocket was fairly scuffed up, but again, much better than never getting it back!
IMG_2272.jpg
The next thing I did was to connect the Quasar to a fresh battery (the attached LiPo wouldn't charge, I think it got too depleted) and to pull the flight data.
IMG_2249.jpeg
Very cool!!! To that date, I had not flown a rocket faster or higher (I'm still an HPR newbie).
I'm a data nerd so that was cool to see. If I'm correct, 0-592mph in 2.25sec means it pulled about 12 G's max.
Also, Rocksim had predicted about 5,700 feet on the J270, so clearly my rocket spent a lot of its energy traveling west since it only reached a tad over 4,000 feet! I wish I knew what the speed at drogue was!

Next was to get the Astrocam out of the brand new Inverted Pursuits Labs camera shroud that had been screwed to the rocket about fifteen minutes before liftoff.
The video is neat but dizzying to watch, for some reason this rocket spun very very fast as it ascended.
View attachment TriWinder Liftoff.mov

But, through the magic of the pause button I was able to lift some great stills!
Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 10.56.58 PM.jpeg
Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 10.42.52 PM.jpeg
Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 10.40.47 PM.jpeg
Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 11.31.23 PM.png
Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 10.55.38 PM.jpeg
Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 11.30.56 PM.png
Screenshot 2023-09-19 at 11.33.17 PM.png

So that's the story on how my rocket that had a J270 in it traveled 655 miles!
Shipping him a box plus return shipping cost a little under sixty bucks total, and I Venmo'd him what I felt was a decent reward once I saw that UPS had picked it up from his home.
A little repair and this bird will fly again! (Maybe on just an I motor next time, lol).

Regarding the Quasar, what we think happened is that due to the massive number of fliers at Airfest I must have been on the same frequency as another rocketeer and when my rocket got high enough the receiver started 'listening to' someone else's closer Eggtimer transmitter. My confidence in the Eggtimer was a little shaken by this experience, but the odds of that happening again are very low.
Plus, I used this to justify to myself the purchase of a Featherweight system so I can fly with redundant tracking in the future.

Kris
 
Last edited:
thanks for sharing this with us.
I definitely made some mistakes that day, and I try to learn from them.
One was putting so much confidence in the tracker that I didn't really look for an event which should have been visible if I kept looking west. I watched it launch and then was looking down at the tracking receiver and completely ignoring the sky once I started hearing the 'bad data'. Instead I should have ignored the LCD screen and doubled down on looking for an event - and maybe asking others around me to help look once I started losing confidence in the audible data.
Another was flying this rocket on one of the biggest motors it can take for the first flight.
I don't know if it wind cocked or if the build made it want to hook, but had I used a smaller motor, like an H550, it wouldn't have gone as far and I could have learned how it flies before going big.
 
Launching anything like that, we have one person with binoculars to follow it. The same binoculars which my wife got through a free points reward through work has a SD card that records so that you can review it for landmarks. A cell phone will do the same.
 
Launching anything like that, we have one person with binoculars to follow it. The same binoculars which my wife got through a free points reward through work has a SD card that records so that you can review it for landmarks. A cell phone will do the same.
That’s a great idea!
I was down at Airfest by myself, but people were so friendly that I’m sure if I asked one they would be a spotter for me.
 
I just had somebody ask about Eggtimer trackers because their "other" GPS picked up somebody else's rocket at a launch (don't know if it was Airfest, though). I think that just goes to show that no matter which tracker you have it's possible that somebody else is on "your" frequency/code/etc. They really need to start doing frequency boards at these larger launches... and if your project is really big, two trackers from two different vendors can't hurt.
 
I just had somebody ask about Eggtimer trackers because their "other" GPS picked up somebody else's rocket at a launch (don't know if it was Airfest, though). I think that just goes to show that no matter which tracker you have it's possible that somebody else is on "your" frequency/code/etc. They really need to start doing frequency boards at these larger launches... and if your project is really big, two trackers from two different vendors can't hurt.
Agreed. On my dual deployment rockets there is plenty of room onboard for the Eggtimer and the Featherweight.
 
I think that just goes to show that no matter which tracker you have it's possible that somebody else is on "your" frequency/code/etc. They really need to start doing frequency boards at these larger launches... and if your project is really big, two trackers from two different vendors can't hurt.
Agreed, but also the makers of these devices need to start using spread spectrum techniques that are more tolerant of shared bandwidth.
 
Back
Top