Article 2499
By Peter Schurke, April 2011

SLI/USLI Ingraham Launch Report 2011 Huntsville, Alabama

Greetings from Huntsville, AL!

Launch week has been a thrilling ride once again! This year, we had the added element of severe weather thrown in to add to the excitement!

Thursday and Friday’s tours of Marshall Space Flight Center were fantastic. We got to see a couple of new things we didn’t see last year as well as some of the same stops from last year–old historical things that were really neat.

Friday’s rocket fair was conducted under the threat of a Tornado watch. Luckily the tornados split and went far around Huntsville, so we never had to abandon the building and head for the shelters. The tornado watch was lifted with about half an hour left in the fair. My students impressed a lot of people with their vehicles and their payloads, and had several NASA folks stop by and spend a good amount of time chatting with them.

The NASA folks were particularly impressed with Team Adams: They had to concede at FRR that their rocket design was so fundamentally flawed that it could not be made to fly correctly, but came down to Huntsville anyway and showed off what they had done and what they had learned. Their poster was a detailed failure analysis of their vehicle and why it was doomed–including a plan for how they planned to fix it and have a flyable vehicle ready to go for FITS. What remains to be seen is if they can pull it off…

Saturday’s weather was 15-30 mph winds from about 10:00 am on. The NASA folks rightly decided to move the launch to the alternate weather day on Sunday. We got the kids all dressed up for the banquet on Saturday night (they clean up real well!) and had a fun time eating dinner under the hanging Saturn V at the Davidson Center.

Sunday morning we had all eighteen teenagers out of bed and on a bus at 5:00 am CDT (that’s 0300 our time)…no mean feat!

Team Olympus diligently ran through their checklist–which helped them catch a major error during flight prep…LOVE them checklists! They had wired their charges backwards–main charges to the drogue side and vice-versa. The Safety Officer caught it when they were trying to put the bay in upside down because the coding on the tape flags attached to the charges said to put the bay in one way and the arrow on the bay said to put it in the other way!

They finished getting their vehicle prepped for flight, got themselves through the RSO tent and made it out to the range for the second rack of flights at 9:00 am Local time (7:00 am PDT).

Their flight went almost according to plan. The only deviation was that they dumped their main at apogee. I have theories as to why…but I’m waiting until the kids either figure it out themselves or ask me before I’ll say. It turned out to be the best possible accident, however. Their experiment was collecting data on ambient radiation vs. altitude on their descent. By dumping the main at the top, they came down slower and more consistently, therefore collected a ton more data!

There was almost no wind that early in the morning, so the rocket came down in the geographic center of the field. No harm, no foul on the early main! Went down in the books as a successful flight.

The Northwest Indian College and UW teams were not as lucky. Both suffered major failures. I don’t know the full particulars about what caused either one, and out of respect for them, I will not speculate–rather I will let them post (or not) their own flight reports.

We’re tired and looking forward to making it home for a well earned spring break. Then it’s time to start cracking the whip on the kids to get their individual projects ready for FITS!

BTW, for those interested, one of our parents found the following clips:

Launch video:
UW announcement at 5:50
IHS launch at 19:30 – 23:00

ending and clips:
Science fair
IHS countdown @ 43:36
IHS euphoria @ 44:33

Peter Schurke
Science and Engineering Teacher, Lead Advisor
Ingraham Aerospace Sciences Academy
Ingraham High School
1819 N 135th St.
Seattle, WA 98133