flight logs      
  Livermore Moments Styrofoam Sputnik  

(Note: because LUNAR's Livermore waiver was reduced to 1500 feet in December 2001 and only F motors and smaller sizes may now be flown, some of the following information is outdated.)

When I got back into rocketry in mid-life, I started flying on the field at the Berkeley Marina. The field, of course, has a trillion-dollar view: the bay, both bridges, San Francisco, etc. However, it soon became apparent that the highest motor that could be flown here was an F, at best. I lost a lot of rockets in the drink.

Then I heard about Livermore and attended my first launch at LUNAR in 1995. LUNAR (Livermore Unit of the National Association for Rocketry) flies at Robertson Park, which is next to the rodeo grounds. On the west side of the park, there is a large undeveloped patch that makes this an excellent field for H motors. The club is very organized, and this adds to the fun--as did discovering that a childhood acquaintence, Ed Armani, also flies at Livermore.

I find that attending one launch a month is just about right for me and allows me time to build projects. But lately (1999-2000), we've had many rainouts, so I've been frustrated.

LUNAR is a great testing ground for me and helps me develop flying skills for the Blackrock Desert. Our waiver is usually 4500 feet. Attendance hovers around fifty flyers each month, with sometimes many more Boy Scouts. We average about 250 flights a launch. The high-powered pads are definitely the crowd's favorites.

I recommended to Jack Haggerty, current LUNAR president, that we hold a night launch, and this has become so successful that I don't like to fly at the night launch anymore--too many spectators make me nervous for safety reasons, although there have never been any accidents and the club has an excellent safety record. Maybe the real reason is that I've lost several high-powered night-flying rockets, including a Thoy Nighthawk and a Cluster-R Sergeant. Stomping around a suburban neighborhood at 10:00 at night, looking for rockets, is a real drag, and I have a theory that some of the kids in the neighborhood have scarfed all the errant rockets.

Livermore could almost handle hosting a NARAM, but the field is just slightly smallish, and hotels and other accommodations aren't conveniently located nearby. I'm sure that, organization-wise, LUNAR would do an excellent job. But we don't really have any club members who take NAR competition seriously, and our point totals are apparently the lowest in the nation.

I've flown many H motors at Livermore, and huge numbers of G motors, especially the G-125, which seems perfect for the field. I once flew a Silver Streak H-232 in broad daylight, and boy did that get the crowd's attention. I'm known for spectacular flights--in the sense of "spectacle," not necessarily perfection. Pictured at the top of the page is my 29 mm Sputnik, a favorite homebrew design from my youth: a large styrofoam ball with a motor tube epoxed into its butt and four long wooden dowels and a lug jammed through the sphere. It has a "featherweight" recovery (I was flying these long before the Vaughn Brothers' little shrimpy ones). Sometimes it lands on its feet. Sometimes it falls over. It sort of has personality, and people seem to like cheering it on.

I really like scale model rocketry, and I find these kits do better at Livermore than at Blackrock. My most recent flight (May 2000) was an Edmonds Gemini Boost Glider, 24 mm, which flew on a D-12-3 and performed much better than I expected. It boosted strong and straight to about 1500 feet, separated into two gliders, and spit the spent motor. One of the gliders glided clockwise, the other anticlockwise, and both landed some distance away from the pad, in the rodeo yard. This is the sort of kit that would get lost in the shuffle at Blackrock.

Saturn 5Atlas MercuryPictured here are my Saturn 5 and Atlas Mercury, which each flew once before I retired them.

Another thing I like to fly at LUNAR are plastic model conversions. One of my favorites was a 148 scale F-104 Starfighter, and another was an 18 mm conversion of the USS Missouri battleship. The battleship flew rather well, so I upscaled the battleship project by building the Yamato by Tamiya.

  Here's a link to the official LUNAR website.

  Here are mp3 sounds from the windy June 2000 launch at Livermore:
Low-power launch (121K)
High-power launch 1 (97K)
High-power launch 2 (126K)
High-power launch 3 (103K)
People caught unaware (835K)