I arrived on site with Anthony Haynes, Malcolm Mitton and Neil Garfield just after 06.00. We went to check over the area and select the launch and control positions based upon the conditions of the day. We decided to place the pad on the last section of cliff top on the peninsular, this is above Lagvag point and slopes gently to the east. It was also decided to designate the helicopter pad as the viewing area and place the launch control point on a rock outcrop approximately 10 metres downhill towards the launch pad. The sky overhead was clear with cloud cover visible on the mainland and slight groupings apparently down wind.
The 1st stage contained one 28” Skyangle parachute, one SeaPro automatic life jacket, one G-Wizz LC400 deluxe parachute controller and one parachute charge. The G-Wizz was tasked with igniting the 2nd stage motor directly after the inertial detection of 1st stage burn-out and deploying the parachute and life jacket at apogee. The G-Wizz was prepared in a plastic tube with key switch which was intended to be slid in with the fabric components, such that the key switch was accessible through a port. This proved impractical and the switch was removed in favour of trailing twist wires. These were left fully insulated until installed in the pad.
Both stages were equipped with three Daveyfire igniters sandwiched in a block of additional propellant. This was then glued together and the propellant block provided an interference fit in the motor port to support the igniters at the top of the motor. The motors were then installed in the rocket by screwing an eye-bolt through the thrust bearing bulkhead into the threaded motor cap. The slight play around the motor case was removed by shimming the motor with cartridge paper.In the meantime the launch pad and ignition system were assembled in the horizontal position by Mark Gilbert, Angela Gilbert, Evlyn James and Brad Crowder.
As they were completed all three modules were carried down to the launch site. The 2nd stage consisted of the 2nd stage propulsion module and the payload module, a 20” drogue parachute and SeaPro life jacket were packed in the top of the motor module and a 60” Skyangle main parachute was packed in the rear of the payload module. The payload module contained the experimental electronics and an RDAS rocket controller with GPS and Telemetry modules. The RDAS was intended to relay GPS data to the ground and ignite the drogue parachute charge (deploying both the drogue and the life jacket) at apogee and the main parachute charge at 200 metres barometric altitude.
The parachute charges were all identical, 2 grams of black powder contained in plastic pots over-wrapped with layers of tape and ignited by a single Daveyfire igniter. This was primarily evolved for the high altitude 2nd stage drogue parachute charge, but was used for the other two charges as an effective package. The 1st stage was connected directly to the G-Wizz, the two second stage charges were passed through the instrument bulkhead and connected to the RDAS.
The level of preparation required pushed our readiness back to just after 10.00 and an extension was granted by military ATC.
The 1st stage being connected to the installed upper stage.
The payload module and 2nd stage propulsion module were joined next to the launch pad and slid into the horizontal guide. The 2nd stage igniters were connected to the G-Wizz contacts protruding from the 1st stage propulsion module and then the 1st stage was slid (with a paper shim in place) onto the 2nd stage motor. The whole assembly was then slid into the launch pad. The launch pad was raised and in the absence of wind profile data was simply aligned to be within one degree of vertical. In the absence of a bracket to support the rocket off the ground it was lifted by the team to permit the connection of the launch control, this was done by means of a ceramic terminal block. The rocket was placed back with a screw driver to keep it off the ground, but the launch control showed no continuity. So the rocket was lifted again for disconnection.
The launch control was found to have good continuity and was supplying voltage to the pad, the bulb was found to be in error. The rocket was reconnected to ground control and the G-Wizz armed with the twist wires. The RDAS had been armed before rocket elevation as it was not controlling propulsion.
After addressing the spectators and press the launch team proceeded to clear the site and the 1st stage was returned by the recovery boat. The life jacket had successfully functioned as an automatic floatation bag, though the parachute itself appeared to have tangled and not deployed properly. Given the relatively high design descent speed of this stage it had not significantly deviated from the expected landing point.
The 2nd stage motor was found without any life jacket or parachute implying that the payload section retained the drogue, life jacket and main parachute. This section is significantly lighter than the combine 2nd stage and would drift much further eastwards if it was on the parachute alone. The construction, and indeed the manner in which the 2nd stage motor was found, of the payload section should enable it to float even without the life jacket. Given the addition of the life jacket and the parachutes it is hoped it will remain afloat for some considerable time and present a highly visible object likely to be recovered.
CRTB simulation of flight with launch day wind, note 1st stage path in red.
As demonstrated by his frequent appearance in the text and images of the day, Malcolm Mitton was a key member of the launch day team; sadly he passed away only just over a month later. Malcolm was a retired Aerospace Engineer who later in life started his own company which worked on many different things from furnaces, to powder coating systems and industrial solvents / paint strippers. I was fortunate enough to work with him briefly when he first volunteered for Starchaser 8 years or so ago. He continued there and worked with Anthony on a large bi-liquid engine, monopropellant thrusters and a SMART awarded funded peroxide hybrid. He could pretty much get his head around any engineering problem, loved chemistry and playing with making / machining bits in his workshop at home.
When he heard about the upcoming launch of Black Streak he volunteered to help, turning up with his own supply of spare igniters, and made a massive difference to the success of the launch. He will be sadly missed.
A night out with Malcolm (read the label, that wasn't medication...)