Competitor 4

Competitor 4
Length:92"Status:Active / 16 flights
Motor Mount:76mmBuild Dates:2005-06-01 to 2005-11-24

This was purchased during the original (first round) of ROL auctions that Curtis had put up. Shipping was timely (I know, right?) and I put the rocket together over the summer between high school and my freshman year at USC. I originally built it stock, but later added some carbon on the fins after it lost one during an avionics failure. It's currently with me in Indiana, awaiting its next mission.


Event: FAR September 2016

Date: September 3rd, 2016

Motor: TDK L1100

I had been itching to mix ever since moving back, and I finally got around to collecting all the bits and pieces needed to give it another shot. Turns out you can just barely fit a 3 grain 75mm motor in a small mixer, along with a couple of 38mm grains to make a test motor from. Back-of-the-envelope figuring put the motor at an L1100 or so--perfect for the Competitor in almost any conditions. Since I was the first to fly this morning, I also had to collect all the bits and pieces of the launch system and hook it all up. Once that was done, we got everyone's attention, counted down, and hit the button. The motor lit right up and hauled the Competitor into the light breeze. Deployment was on-time, but the main shook loose at apogee (really gotta go to 3 pins on this one), leading to a slightly longer-than-planned walk in the desert. No matter--the tracker led us right to it!

Event: Midwest Power 12

Date: November 1st, 2014

Motor: AMW M2200

Apogee: 15,999 ft

Gus offered me an M2200SK as a graduation present, and who am I to turn him down? The only problem was I was still out recovering my V2 when the big 4"/3" drag race was scheduled to happen, so at first I didn't think I'd get to fly. But just after I got back, they were gathering the entrants, so I started prepping feverishly and managed to get 95% of the way there before they finished at the pads. Chuck Haskin helped me thread the shock cord around the 7600 case (the trickiest part of prep), and finally I was ready to go. But I'd missed the race. Luckily, Kittell had misfired on the previous round, so I was able to have at least one racing partner! Chris and Jason helped me load up on the pad and after a quick happy snap we retreated into the field for a better camera angle. Gus's igniter worked magic and I beat Kittell off the pad, but he ended up besting my altitude by a few thousand feet since he had a special 98mm demo motor from Dr. J (lucky dog!). Many seconds of fire, brimstone, and fury later, we began the recovery hunt, finding the rocket across 1850 E not too far into the field. Two Ms in one day? Not too shabby!

Event: QCRS April 2014

Date: April 19th, 2014

Motor: PPL L800

Apogee: 13,325 ft

I was pretty much prepped when I arrived on-site; all I had to do was pack the main chute, turn on the tracker, and pound in the shear pins. After these final steps, I headed to the pads and set up next to Frontpage. We were going about the same altitude, so I was hoping I'd land next to him. He went first, weathercocked a little bit, and landed about 200 yards upwind. I went second and flew absolutely straight up, and disappeared at burnout. Oh well. The tracker was still beeping and confirmed drogue deployment, so I began the hunt; things ended a little over a mile away when I found it laid out in a field with the ARTS beeping out 13,325' and the Raven beeping out 23' (wat?). Excellent flight!

Competitor 4 on a PPL L800

others: liftoff | recovery

Event: Midwest Power 11

Date: November 3rd, 2013

Motor: PPL L1960

Apogee: 12,456 ft

I wanted to make a batch of blue for a few rockets, and the Competitor 4 was the first recipient of the new propellant. I elected to up the copper a bit, using Alex McLaughlin's old Alumaflame formula. As a result, I backed off on this motor a bit (I like my nozzles tight), running it at an unusually easy 201-215. I wrote "Duck Duck Tim" on the flight card, trying to stick with the theme for the launch. After recycling the pad battery (thanks Wayneo) and checking my tracker (thanks Roger), Tim announced the flight and called out the count. The motor lit right up and the rocket cranked off the pad much faster than I had anticipated. It's been a while since the Competitor has been up on more than a 2550 and it definitely got up and boogied. I was holding my breath as the motor burned out with a little wiggle, but all was smooth and the rocket began an invisible coast to apogee. Dual deploy landed me two fields over, just across a waterway. In the process of tracking, I found a Gizmo XLDD (with chute) and a mini Eagle Claw (without one; it had clearly seen better days). Creighton picked me up next to the horses on 2300N and that was that. Not a bad Lucky #13 for the old bird!

Flight Summary Motor Curve Flight Curve

Event: Indiana Rocketry May 2013

Date: May 4th, 2013

Motor: TDK K850

Apogee: 7,229 ft

With wet weather on Saturday and windy weather on Sunday, I only got off one of two planned flights at Red Glare. Luckily, the wet ground also let us fly at Ash Grove one more time this season, providing the perfect opportunity to bang off flight #2. I showed up on Saturday morning without any rockets to fly, as it was a bit overcast. But throughout the day, the clouds cleared, so (twist my arm) I went back and grabbed the Competitor and buttoned it up to fly. Richard Cash donated shear pins and loaned me his tracker to speed prep along. By the time I got it ready, some big puffy cumulus clouds had showed up to darken the sky a bit and make the liftoff photos more dramatic. Richard, Tom, and I were the only ones there, so the flight went off without much fanfare -- a quick five count and the Competitor was airborne once again atop four feet of red shock waves. The photos don't do the flame justice -- but you can see how trashed the paint job is, I really need to repaint it. It turned into the light breeze and headed up to apogee; descent was a bit tumultuous on the drogue, but the main appeared on cue at 700' with the backup charge firing shortly after. The Perfectflite beeped out 7229', consistent with other 2550 flights -- we'll see how it does at the end of the month at mini MWP!

Flight Summary Motor Curve Flight Curve

Competitor 4 on a TDK K850

others: preflight | shocks!

Event: Indiana Rocketry February 2013

Date: February 10th, 2013

Motor: PPL K900

Apogee: 7,479 ft

I had prepped this flight for January but never got around to getting it in the air due to the rain on the second day of the launch. Jen Dadson helped me carry it out to the pad and get it on the rail; everybody beeped out happy beeps so it was back to the rangehead to push the button. I had installed a Pyrodex pellet at the head end of the port, so when Richard Cash counted down, the motor lit up quickly and the rocket headed nice and straight into the sky. Kittell had loaned me his tracker since I left mine at home, but he had a visual on it the whole way down; the main appeared on cue and Creighton and I made a long trek through the muddy field to get it back. Nice flight.

Event: Red Glare 13

Date: November 16th, 2012

Motor: PPL L900

Apogee: 7,270 ft

I had run out of AP doing a few big motors earlier in the year, so I had nothing to mix with before Red Glare. Rather than attend rocketless, I dug around in the scrap propellant bin and managed to cobble together a 54-2550 load to fly in the Competitor. Prep was simple on-site, and after one misfire (don't set the motor on the igniter leads, they'll short out), the motor lit up smoothly and sent the Comp on a nice flight into the light breeze. Dual deploy worked nicely and the bird landed in Tommy's backyard. The only hitch was that the previously developed crack (see flight 4) finally opened up enough to allow the bulkplate to be shoved inside. I'll actually have to fix it now...

Event: Red Glare XI

Date: November 19th, 2011

Motor: Infinity M1700

Apogee: 15,092 ft

Since everything came back in one piece, I dragged everything into the hotel room that night to re-prep the bird with a red test load. This was from a bigger batch that included Carb, Nitrate, and Chromate, and ended up making a 10k and a 4 grain O for Ryan's latest project, so we were eager to see how the effect turned out. The propellant was in six shorter segments (versus the usual five) due to casting tube limitations. Other than that, though, everything loaded up as normal. I pulled the camera-less camera mount from the payload section, and buttoned the rocket up early with help from Todd, Andrew, and my old friend Chris Lam. We were to the pads early, but two misfires (one bad igniter, one bad battery) delayed the flight until about 1 PM. Finally, the Competitor boogied into the air on a long red tail, quickly disappearing from sight. We heard the apogee event occur, and a few minutes later the tracking signal disappeared, indicating that it was on the ground somewhere - no trees, yay! I piled into the car with Dan and Kahli Patel to go searching. Even a mile and a half from the site, though, I still had no signal - my thoughts immediately jumped to something having gone wrong. We headed back to the site so I could hop on top of Wildman's motorhome and try and get a beep, but to no avail. Todd and I headed back out and started aimlessly driving the back roads of the eastern shore; as it was getting dark, the receiver suddenly twitched, and then squawked to life as my call sign came blaring through in morse code. It was alive! We quickly acquired two intersecting bands of probability and noted the GPS waypoints from which they were taken; after it got dark, we headed back to the hotel and plotted our likely search area using Google Earth. That night, I talked to Bob Utley and Tommy Higgs to get clearance, and we planned our approach for the next day. At about 10 AM, Bob performed his diplomatic duties most excellently and gained us access to the property; 20 minutes later, Todd and I stumbled onto the rocket in the field, intact, beeping just shy of 15,100'. Quite the recovery adventure, and a new altitude record for this battlehorse!

Competitor 4 on a Infinity M1700

others: ignition | in flight

Event: Red Glare XI

Date: November 18th, 2011

Motor: Infinity M1600

Apogee: 14,228 ft

After arriving on Friday morning, I quickly headed over to Wildman's RV to make sure CJ had put my rocket in -- and was gratified to see the yellow-and-pink fin can happily tucked between a pair of Extreme WM kits. I retrieved it and hoofed it back to Todd's SUV to start prepping. Though I hadn't cleaned the 6000 case at Midwest Power, Todd instantly had the old motor apart (having the liner come out in one piece is always helpful) and filled with a new green propellant load. Meanwhile, I worked on getting the avionics package assembled and ejection charges built. Andrew Diehl also showed up with a sweet HD video camera and 3D printed mount, which we promptly bolted to the payload section. My PicPac has been acting up lately, and I elected to leave out the beacon in lieu of a simple BeeLine RDF tracker. Buttoning up the airframe happened shortly thereafter, and we headed to the pads. Neil was on LCO (as always), announced the flight, and called out the count. The green motor was a little slow to pressure up -- likely due to the somewhat undersized igniter - but as the first chartreuse flames licked the blast deflector, the rocket quickly got down to business and roared into the air. The rocket made a fantastic, smooth boost, but after burnout we heard a quiet whistling sound; this would later turn out to be the camera re-entering the launch site after disassembling itself from the mount as the vehicle passed through the sound barrier. The rocket ignored all of this mayhem and continued its planned flight, reaching apogee at just over 14,200 feet and performing a nominal dual deploy recovery. The tracker signal never died (indicating we ended up in the woods), but we managed to quickly locate the rocket hanging just at the edge of Tommy's woods. A quick yank on the shock cord freed the nose cone from the trees, and all was recovered intact, ready for another flight. Awesome green motor - the P should be unreal.

Event: Midwest Power 9

Date: October 28th, 2011

Motor: PPL K400

Apogee: 3,496 ft

After spending most of the day catching up with everyone, I decided to try and get in a flight before the range closed for the evening. I spent a few unsuccessful minutes debugging my PicPac TNC; Chuck Haskin and Dennis Watkins both volunteered to watch the flight and let me know the landing coordinates. I intended to fly a 2550 white, but forgot the recovery eye attachment for it, so I swapped it out for a 1750 blue load. I was the LAST one on the pad; David Kittell and Richard Cash ran it out for me while I filled out the flight card, all while being accosted by Tim. The Thermalite wire wrap igniter lit things right up after a five count, and the rocket lifted gracefully off the pad and into the air on a long tongue of blue fire. The motor shut down smoothly and the rocket coasted silently to apogee; drogueless deployment occurred, and the main a short while later. The R7 was tangled into a neat looking mushroom-esque bundle, but provided a soft enough landing in the corn next to the Boy Scout food tent. Chuck and Dennis had no troubles telling me where it landed :)

Competitor 4 on a PPL K400

others: ignition

Event: NERRF 7

Date: June 25th, 2011

Motor: Infinity K1700

Apogee: 4,462 ft

Todd had eight UV grains left over from the last Shake Weight batch, so we elected to divide them up as one 1750 and one 1050 load. Since we'd never got actual accelerometer data on the 1750 by itself (as opposed to just in the cluster), I decided to put it in the Competitor, since it could fit an accelerometer and a baro package. In addition, Todd's ARTSes were acting strange on the last SW flight, so we elected to fly one in the Competitor to see what was up. After pad prep next to CJ and Wildman, Wayne Anthony counted down and hit the button. The boost was snappy, with a loud, pronounced shutdown from the fast-burning propellant. We lost sight of it on the way up again, as it passed between large clouds, but regained sight during drogue descent; the ARTS never fired the main, so the PerfectFlite had to handle its usual duties at 400 feet. The booster and payload section stuck the landing in the bean field, making for an easy recovery, since it was visible from the rangehead; thanks to the person whose name I forgot at the moment for picking it up for me on their way back in!

Event: Red Glare X

Date: April 9th, 2011

Motor: Infinity M4500

Apogee: 14,510 ft

Todd wanted to put up Shake Weight again on a cluster of UltraViolet, but he wanted to make sure that the 6000 version of the motor (which had never been fired before) would hold together. I volunteered my Competitor, figuring that the success of a 10k load back in November augured well for a good flight. As soon as the weather cleared enough to allow high altitude flights, Bob Utley called in the waiver to its full extent, and I was the first one to try and use it. Crazy Jim gave me a motor initiator to use as a test (look for the "middle-un", coming soon). Todd, Ryan, and Andrew helped me load her up on the pad, and Neil pushed the button. The Competitor ROCKED off the rail, pulling 52 Gs on its way to over 14,000 feet. After the flight, me, Todd, Ryan, and Andrew took a few minutes to pick our jaws back up off the ground before looking over to the GPS system; just as the rocket came back through 1000 feet, we picked up a visual on it due north of the flying site. Main deployment was on time and recovery was easy 0.6 miles from Todd's car on the flight line.

Flight Summary Motor Curve Flight Curve

Event: USLI Demo

Date: January 30th, 2011

Motor: PPL M1400

Apogee: 14,864 ft

The M1400 motor had been prepared back in December for a flight in Dark Energy, but the weather conspired with GPS problems to prevent that flight from happening. Flash forward to the end of January; we're projected to have a windless day at Ash Grove on Sunday, so why not put it up? I swapped over to flying the motor in my Competitor 4, to give me an excuse to fly it again. Since the weather in winter seems to have a pattern of clear mornings and cloudy afternoons, I prepped the entire airframe the night before, and so on-site prep was once again minimal; I turned on the BRB GPS, hooked up the quick links, and put her on the pad. GPS lock was quickly achieved, and so after perilously balancing on Vic's trunk to arm the avionics (no ladders today?), installing the igniter, and alerting the prepping SLI team of the impending M flight, we were set to go. The sky was blue and there was not a breath of wind, and following a five-count, the motor lit cleanly and the Competitor 4 roared into the air atop five feet of orange shock diamonds. (MAJOR h/t to Tom Feldman for letting me pull an all-nighter last month making the nozzle on his lathe; check out the Mach disk in Allen Yan's awesome photo!) Shutdown was absolutely clean with neither a hiccup nor burp, and the rocket began its silent coast to apogee. I hadn't installed a smoke grain, so I gave up hope of visual tracking, turning instead to the GPS receiver for information; it regained lock on the way up, reporting apogee at over 4000 meters, and the continued readings indicated that recovery was in progress. After we lost signal, Vic offered me a ride to the landing site just down the road. Recovery was successful, though it appears the avbay crashed into the booster at some point during the descent, smooshing the aft bulkhead into the coupler and causing some hairline cracks. Oh well, nothing a little fiberglass can't fix. And not bad for a quick flight to over 14,800'!

Flight Summary Motor Curve Flight Curve

Event: Red Glare IX

Date: October 24th, 2010

Motor: Infinity M3000

Apogee: 13,219 ft

I had shipped my Competitor 4 to Indiana back in January of 2010 with a partly finished repair job following its fast return to earth after the last flight. It sat around my apartment until mid-October, when I realized that I could put it back in the same crate it came here in and mail it to the eastern shore for Red Glare. So after a few days of frenzied filling, sanding, painting, and prepping, it sat ready to go on the pad at Higgs Farm with one of Todd and Ryan's M3000 SuperBlue motors in it. It was ready to fly on Saturday, but a finicky tracker forced us to hold the flight until Sunday morning. I gave it the internet meme name FTFY, since it had finally been fixed after nearly three years. Neil gave a five count and pushed the button, the motor lit up, and the rocket was GONE on a big blue flame. Though there was no smoke grain, the apogee event was visible, and the rocket was returning to earth drogueless. I lost sight of it by the time the main chute deployed, but we had a track on it, and so after getting permission from Tommy to go look in the corn, Ryan, Steve Heller, and I set off after it. We had looked for about 45 minutes when the tracker signal started moving; Heller (out of the corn at this point) called Ryan saying someone had appeared out of the field with my rocket, heading back towards the rangehead. A few minutes later, we had it recovered, beeping out just north of 13,000 feet. Nice flight. Thanks to Todd and Ryan for the motor, Darren for the hardware loan, Todd for the igniter and e-matches again, and Heller for the recovery help.

Competitor 4 on a Infinity M3000

others: preflight | liftoff

Event: Perchlorathon August 2007

Date: August 12th, 2007

Motor: Kosdon L1860

Apogee: 8,439 ft

After my last flight was somewhat, um, underpowered, I decided to turn the knob all the way to the other end of the spectrum. I traded in one of my remaining L850S reloads for an L1860F, and put together the Competitor to take it. We got the rocket on the pad in record time, Todd called out the count, and hit the button. Instantly, the motor screamed to life and blasted the rocket into the air atop a seven foot ratty orange flame. LOVES IT. After just over a second, the thunder suddenly ceased, and the rocket began a long, quiet coast to apogee. We were greeted with separation, and the rocket began its long, drogueless ride down to 1000 feet for main deployment. But 1000 came and went, and the Competitor came smashing into the lakebed floor, busting off a fin and cracking the nose cone shoulder. Post-mortem indicated that the ARTS browned out at apogee, resetting it and removing any chance of firing the main charge. Hm. Lower current e-matches or two batteries next time.

Event: Turkey Shoot 2005

Date: November 25th, 2005

Motor: Kosdon L630

Apogee: 10,314 ft

I had prepped the Competitor 4 the night before in the hotel room. Unfortunately, while prepping, I had bumped the nose cone tip into the ceiling, which caused it to shatter (yay gelcoat!). I figured with an L motor behind it, it wouldn't really matter, the rocket would go in the general "up" direction. The other issue was that I hadn't quite finished the avionics bay, so I stole the altimeter board from my Apache, stuffed a towel in the payload section to act as a spacer, slid the board in, and put the main chute in the booster. Boom, done. And it added stability margin to boot! I was ready to go as the first flight of the morning, and after some confusion getting the leads to the pad sorted out, we were ready to go. Kendall called out the count quickly and off we went on the 3 grain L motor. The motor burned smoothly for almost 5.5 seconds, providing a gentle ride up. At apogee, the R9 chute appeared, and the rocket came gently to rest in the bushes just off the lakebed. Nice first flight!

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