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Trickle - Space Exploration Edition

October 13, 2008 - Brian Ferry
The 2008 Beaty-Warren Middle School Eighth Grade Rocket Launch was, as always, a great event. Such an event is, of course, a great place to find good information for a column like the Trickle. (Photos from the event may be seen at

Payload restriction

During a recent rocket launching event, some students blamed the poor performance of their rocket on its passengers. This intrepid group had put some kittens on board the 2 ounce craft. Because the rocket was too small to actually fit a kitten inside (and because the sticker wouldn’t show as well there), they (the stickers) were affixed to the outside. The launch technician blamed poor aerodynamics for a piddly launch. The stickers must have started peeling near the end of the other launch tech’s very successful flight immediately before. No real kittens were harmed during this launch. No animals of any sort were harmed during the construction of this rocket, though it's possible that a number of unfortunate bugs were impaled by the nosecone, fried by the engine and squashed by shoes, though it's very unlikely any bug went through all three of those unpleasantries.

How soon we forget

It was a beautiful weekend — three days of temperatures in the 70s. On Friday, some 200 students from Beaty-Warren Middle School went outside for an event. “It’s too hot out here,” one student said. Might as well enjoy it. Soon enough, the complaints about cold, snow and ice will begin.

Silver lining

There were several teams of rocketeers who experienced a launch failure of one type or another. Only one of those teams got on the front page of the Times Observer. (A launch failure is a great photo op - don’t have to worry about the quickly-accelerating rocket being blurry, but plenty of smoke from the engine.) While talking about their vehicle’s performance, one team member emphasized the positive. “We had a very bright rocket.” That works well in photos, too.


Many times, the students who launched a rocket could run down the field and catch their re-entry vehicles, if the parachute deployed correctly. But, sometimes aerodynamics problems, chute failure, or overperformance led to the escape of the vessel. Some rockets would fall from the sky, chuteless, and stab nosecones in the earth. Others turned downward while still in the thrust phase, driving the nose even deeper into the ground. At least one of those had a proper, but late, chute deployment — the rocket popping into two stages and the innards flying out expecting a rush of air to open them up. Several rockets just went too high, got caught in the wind and went astray. Toward the end of the event, as the people in charge started authorizing the use of increasingly powerful engines, some rockets got stuck in trees and other ou-of-reach places. A helpful passerby on Conewango Avenue collected a rocket that had landed on the yellow line and handed it to the launchers who were walking up the hill to find it. At least one rocket was lost at sea - the aerodynamics and wind conspired to carry the ship into the middle of the Conewango Creek.


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