The Incredible Melting Rocket
I had been waiting to fly my scratch-built MATRA Mica Missile for over six months. I took my first chance on Sunday, July 30, 2000, in the Blackrock Desert.
I used one of Aerotech's most-recent run of I-132-10W motors. My calculations and comparisons with computer programs indicated that this would be the best motor to use with my Mica Missile, which was 5.2 feet long, weighed 5.5 pounds, and had a 3-inch diameter Quantum Tubing from PML.
Unfortunately, when the launch button was pressed, nothing happened for a few moments . . . Then there was a little "poop," and the nose cone and the Skyangle Drouge chute came out prematurely, while the rocket just sat there on the pad.
After pulling the rocket, I examined the unspent I-motor to see what was up. The end ejection charge area was broken/blown, and a crack had split the casing horizontally around its diameter. I showed the motor to Karl Baumann, and he immediately expressed great concern because he had sold other motors out of the same batch. I volunteered to try another of the I-motors, even though he told me it was potentially catastrophic. I said, "What the hell, we've got to test them. Maybe it won't blow up." And Karl said, "I like that; you're game."
When the button was pushed, the same thing happened. The chute ejected and patootied out. And . . .
The I-motor ignited BACKWARDS, looking like a high-tech torch of blue flame sitting on the launch pad. The flame shot up about three feet, and the rocket started to melt in every direction. Whee!
Karl advised me to return all the I-motors I'd bought from him, and he reimbursed me in full for them all, including the two totally destroyed ones. I like Karl. He's a swell guy--everything a rocketeer should be.
Karl gave the motors to Garry Rosenfeld, the founder of Aerotech, and told him to investigate the manufacturing problems. In the meantime, I had a melted rocket on my hands. The Quantum Tubing was cooked and twisted--rather neato looking destruction.
Brent McNeely, the editor of Extreme Rocketry, came by and introduced himself. He told me that he was starting a Wall of Fame (Shame) for exploded rockets. He plans on sticking the rockets through the wall of the magazine's editorial office, and he wanted my melted rocket for the collection. I gave him the rocket in exchange for a year's subscription to Extreme Rocketry.
As you can see from the pictures, the meltdown was rather bizarre. The two metal Black Sky rail guides were still in the rail, the screw having melted out. The red paint on the rocket was barely scorched. The strakes were also in fine condition. But the top of the rocket and the small bit below the strakes and above the fins were totally Acmed.
All in all, an impressive mess. I think it looks rather fine perched on the hood of the Cadillac--but I bet it looks even better in the Wall of Fame.