Saturday, July 11, 2009

Progress made and more freaky weather delays

Hello again everyone! We have been having some very bizarre weather this year and we've got another freak storm to tell you all about. There has been an unusually high amount of thunderstorm activity in our area for the past couple of weeks and this culminated in a very strange storm the likes of which we have never seen in our area than anyone on our team could recall.

The crazy weather has kept us really busy and we were unable to get online last week with our usual update. We are getting caught up and things should be back to normal quickly.
It all began last week we were minding our own business building and testing our rockets and we were actually trying to take advantage of the weather pattern because the conditions that cause thunderstorms tend to produce very favorable launch conditions in the hours before storms form. This can lead to spectacular cloudy vistas and scenic panoramas from the rocket. The conditions were perfect for test launches and we had conducted several experiments in the days before the freak storm hit.

We are happy to report that we have narrowed down the problems we have been having with rocket spin to an issue with our fins. We have not exactly confirmed the cause of the problem but we were able to change the design of our fins and correct the spinning to a very acceptable level.

Our success was interrupted by a freak series of storms that rolled on through over the course of several days and caused a lot of problems for local property owners and members of our team. The conditions must have been very unusual in the upper atmosphere, causing marble sized hailstones to form high in the sky. Hail of this size is very rare in this area, where we typically see hail the size of a pea if we see any at all. You can see the size of the hail as compared to a U.S. Quarter coin in the image below. However, the size of the hail was not the only strange thing...
In addition to the unusual size of these hailstones is the amount of them! Look at the image below to see just hod dense the accumulation of hail had gotten. This amount of hail is really unusual and it caused a lot of damage to the trees in the area which were sprouting new growth for the year. The pummeling of hailstones really devastated a good portion of the new growth and brought down a lot of the leaves and needles on the trees. A lot of small branches came down along with the leaves, so there was a lot of cleanup work to be done.
Along with the hail storms also came severe lightning as well. The home belonging to one of our team members was struck by lightning and the discharge destroyed some of the lighting fixtures and appliances. With all the cleanup work and repair work going on so that we could celebrate our annual the 4th of July Holiday party, we got a little behind schedule on our update.
Now that things are all cleaned up, we have resumed our testing activities. This past week we were able to test a new idea to provide a new camera "view" from the rocket that nobody has ever obtained before. Unfortunately, the new idea malfunctioned on the first test and needs a few tweaks before we are ready to go live with it. With the weather pattern the way it has been, we have been very lucky to have made a lot of test launches for fun new ideas like that.

We are currently also working on an idea to help stabilize the rocket when it descends on the parachute as well as when it goes up. This should help make our videos sharper and remove the blurring induced by the spinning and swinging motion of the rocket on the parachute.  We will be bringing an update in the future showing our progress with these experiments. We are taking advantage of the weather and have not had much time to document the breakthroughs.
That's all for now. The unusually good launch weather is forecast to continue for a while yet, so we are getting in several launches each launch day and this has really advanced our progress well ahead of where we planned to be at this time. It has afforded us the chance to run some additional experiments and we have learned some great things about our current fin design. When the winds pick back up we should have the time to compose a complete report.

We're glad to be back! See you next week!

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