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BIG - Esteas Commanche 3 stage - Jeff Taylor

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MaxQ

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Some of you may have seen this really nice upscale 3 stage Commanche fly 16 years ago at the July 1 2000 at Orangeburg SC.
Appeared on Earl Cagle Jr's Point 39 productions video "Blast From the Grass - LDRS XIX"
Andy Shecter did the voice over as pad/launch director...and was on the mike during that outrageously long burn sustainer with the famous "Look at that baby cruise!"
I got hooked on doing staging after seeing that video.

The builder and flyer was Jeff Taylor, well known for the motors and motor systems he created for his company Loki.
The Super Commache was 11 feet tall, 2.6 inch dia. flew on a H242 to an H242 to a long burn H45.
Yes, there have been many bigger staged flights and rockets since then, but this one made a huge impression on me.

I acquired this from Jeff at a Red Glare launch many years ago.
I'd love to know more about it, how many flights, and in particular how the staging worked.

Jeff - if you are out there we'd love to know more about this project.

It apparently was set up for an ALTAAC...(see the decal in post #2) but when I bought it only had some wiring from a mysterious looking set of circuit boards on a sled/platform attached to the nose cone.
I think Jeff said it had a horizon detector of some type.
May have been a fail safe for third stage ignition ?

Sometimes I wonder where some of these cool projects in model rocket history end up.
I think some of these really nice projects should be restored, maybe even flown again.

I'll post some pictures of the design features.
The picture on the right is next to my garden shed...you can't hardly see the Estes Commanche 3 next to it on the left.


commanche 1.jpg commanche A.jpg
 
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MaxQ

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This is the nose cone.
The nose cone was attached to a extended electronics bay/sled frame that went into the sustainer airframe.
There were quite a set of electronics that were tailored to fit within the confines of the rather narrow body tube diameter.
This was sixteen years ago, when there wasn't near as much about high power rocketry techniques, either online or on the internet, so people in the hobby had to be inventive and create the things we take for granted now.

There are numerous wire leads with alligator clips, and what appears to be a mounting plate for an ALTAAC altimeter.
I have an unused vintage ALTAAC - might even mount my ALTAAC on this for historic accuracy if I can figure out what is going on with that remaining circuitry that is in there.

Commanche - Nose Cone Avionics.jpg Commanche - electronics 1.jpg Commanche - ALTAAC.jpg Wire leads.jpg
 
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MaxQ

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The separate sections - second stage and third stage sustainer - there are two areas that would need repair:

- the forward portion / front end of the second stage appears to have been sheared or broken off, which is why I haven't assembled the three stages.
- crimp in the midsection of the third stage sustainer body tube.

Commanche 3  A.jpg Commanche  - crimp in airframe.jpg
 
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MaxQ

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The interstage that plugs into the third stage sustainer.
Very clever arrangement how the narrow body tube and slotted coupler allows for the thru the wall fin attachments on the next stage - this thing was built like a tank...probably needed to be.
Lot of epoxy of some sort on the extension of the motor tube aft.....there may have been a repair after a flight or hard landing.
It appears that there were no recovery devices in the booster and second stage.....maybe they were tumble recovery...? there simply wasn't much room.

Overall, this appears to have been set up for dual deployment on the sustainer, and from the looks of that flight on the video, it sure needed it.
The third stage was an H45 long burn white lightning, from what I gather - that was a single use motor with six seconds of burn time.

There were wiring conduit openings in the sustainer, and second stage bulkheads, so the ignition wires probably connected through these to the alligator clips on the wires in the sustainer.
Interesting - I did not see standard commercial motor retainers in the booster fin can, or anywhere else. Friction fit?

Commanche 3 interstage.jpg Commanch 3 - Booster.jpg
 
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MaxQ

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Motor choice in both the booster and second stage the Aerotech H 242 Blue Thunder

I've placed an Aerotech H 242 motor next to the second stage for size comparison...the H 242 did their job well, really got this thing moving.
But note there is not much room to fool around with due to replicating the scale length of the first two stages, this was originally a BP staged model after all.

How all this fit together and worked is a testimonial to design and building skills.
It appears that a possible weak point might have been right about where the top of the motor case is located on the second stage...so, on a hard landing it might have crimped or broke there....which might explain the break at the end of the second stage body tube.

H242 A.jpg H 242 B.jpg
 
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dixontj93060

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MaxQ are you going to try to rebuild this? Or is it a forensics project? I hope not the former as that would be a extreme amount of work. I'd keep a few key parts for posterity's sake, learn from the concepts, but build fresh.
 

JoeG

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I remember seeing that flight in Earl's video. It's nice to see the rocket in more detail. Thanks for posting this.
 

ksaves2

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Why don't you contact Scott at Loki. He might be able to advise you on Jeff's current status. Kurt
 

marcusSRG

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Very cool! My first and only LDRS that I've attended. I remember this distinctly from both the Earl Cagle video and the HPR mag reporting on the launch. I was only there the last day, did not see it fly. But talking to the legendary Bruce Lee about his Bomb Pop was a major highlight of that day.

The Freedom Phiter was also awesome!! 3 Kosdon Fast Ms in parallel...YEAH!

I hope you get this thing flying again! Good luck.
 
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MaxQ

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MaxQ are you going to try to rebuild this? Or is it a forensics project? I hope not the former as that would be a extreme amount of work. I'd keep a few key parts for posterity's sake, learn from the concepts, but build fresh.
I've actually got a few too many things in the build que to attempt a thorough rebuild to flight status on this one.

I would like to know what this project used for staging, recovery deployment, and what the extra electronics boards were about.
Maybe a bit of flight history.
At the least I'd like to repair it for proper display, which would be manageable, w/o getting into the flight worthiness concerns.

You know, the scale model car guys have a museum for the classic car model projects some of us remember from the craze in the early sixties.
Many of the national winners that appeared in the car model magazines were located in rather bizarre places like in crawl spaces under houses .

Some of them are being restored and are museum pieces ...real nostalgia.

I did see a really nice Bob Bierdon/John Langford Argo Javelin in the National Air and Space Museum once.
Kind of makes me wonder where some of the early High Power rocket projects that started this hobby ended up.
 
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ksaves2

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Return to flight status without knowing the exact functioning of the custom electronics would be foolish. Modifying so something like a Tele-Mega or Easy-Mega could be used for tilt detection and to safe an off-trajectory path would be smart.
The other thing would be to simply clone it and use the above electronics and save the original for display. I'd still make the attempt to find Jeff and find out how it all worked for posterity's sake. Kurt
 

MaxQ

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Return to flight status without knowing the exact functioning of the custom electronics would be foolish. Modifying so something like a Tele-Mega or Easy-Mega could be used for tilt detection and to safe an off-trajectory path would be smart.
The other thing would be to simply clone it and use the above electronics and save the original for display. I'd still make the attempt to find Jeff and find out how it all worked for posterity's sake. Kurt
Yes, - obviously that would not be the way to go...I'd rather let it just continue to sit in the corner of my work shop.....always a conversation piece.
Any intention to fly it again w/o hearing from Jeff on the functioning of the already installed circuit boards would've meant not hooking them up, and probably going a whole other route for all of the electronics.
Knowing how Jeff accomplished what he did on this project would be educational though.

While I've done two stage composite motor flights - going with a third stage ignition adds a whole other dimension/concern, which he resolved over decade ago.

I've used Adept products since my first dual deployment and considered their Adept dual sequential/electronic stager for handling a third stage ignition with some safety assurance, locking out a third stage ignition, if the second stage event fails and it goes off track.
https://www.adeptrocketry.com/ES236.htm

Not that interested in pursuing this one at the moment.
Too many irons in the fire, and I'd rather do a smaller size Argo Javelin if I ventured into a three stage project.
Thanks for the tip. I'll look into these guys,....
https://altusmetrum.org/index.html
 
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MaxQ

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I passed the questions about this project to Scott at Loki, and he personally passed them onto Jeff.

Happy to say Jeff took the time to respond and give us some information about the project, and agreed to let me post on his behalf.
Here is what Jeff recalls about this great project:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Scott passed your note on to me and I’m really tickled that you still have my Super Comanche 3.
Here’s what I remember about the Comanche 3 model.

The design is a 2.6X upscale of the classic Estes kit. I tried to keep the scale exact.
The Estes kit used 1” diameter body tubes and I had lots of 2.6” HPR tubes on hand, so that set the scale.
The two booster stages are tumble recovery and the top stage had single deployment (? Actually not sure about that, maybe I added dual deploy later).
I even scaled up the decal sheet.

I flew the sustainer alone many times while testing the electronics. I only made about 6 full-up three stage flights and the best one was the one at LDRS captured on Earl’s video.
How ya gonna top that?

Staging and deployment was handled by a flight computer that I built myself following a design by Paul Campbell.
Although my flight computer worked well, it did fail to deploy correctly once, so for later flights I added a BlackSky AltAcc as a backup.

In addition to firing the 2nd and 3rd stages, and deployment, my F/C was able to log data from other devices that I was experimenting with.

Off-axis accelerometers and horizon sensors were two of the things I was working on at the time.
I’m not sure what you have there, but it is likely the remnants of those experiments.
The electronics payload was way up at the top of the model, so I had long wire conduits running back to the lower stages for the ignition wires.
The alligator clips were used as “break-away” connectors to allow the booster stages to drop free.

The booster stages were meant to tumble recover, just as the Estes kit did.
This worked fine for the first stage which tumbled beautifully and never took any landing damage.
However, the second stage tended not to tumble and instead streamline in, resulting in the damage that you see (repaired multiple times).
If you look closely in the photo you posted of the second stage and motor case, you can see a dark section near the fin tip to the right of the “B26-02” decal.
This is where I added some lead weight to encourage tumbling.
It did not work, and the second stage augered in for the last time at a METRA launch.
-Jeff Taylor
 
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ksaves2

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Excellent! I'd save it for posterity and if wanting to clone it, I'd look into changing the dimensions of the second stage to see if one can get it to tumble safely. With modern electronics would likely be a bit easier to safely pull off but
I suspect, wire conduits would still have to be used. Nice of Jeff Taylor to respond and hope he's doing well. Kurt
 
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