GeekDad Rocketry on Steroids

Geek Culture

My son and I have discovered nirvana in the desert.   Geekdads congregate from around the world and launch big rockets.  The kids launch mid-power rockets.  Day and night.  And about 20% of the time, something goes completely out of control, and that is even more exciting, when it’s not your own rocket of course.   It’s also great for photography.

We just got back from a RocketMavericks launch weekend in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada.  We launched everything on display here:

Maker Faire BoothMaker Faire Booth L3 BirdL3 Bird

and a whole lot more.  The horizontal rocket on the table was my L3 Cert flight, and she flew perfectly and came back on two huge parachutes unharmed:

Prepping at the PadPrepping at the Pad L3 Cert FlightL3 Cert Flight A Very Welcome SightA Very Welcome Sight

You can hear the roar of the launch in this distant video.

My favorite photo this year was my second night launch, where the motor failed, and broke the rocket in two, but the avionics computer survived in the upper section, popping the parachute as programmed, and the blinky-LED nose cone drifted back to the playa like a spiral candy cane in the sky:

Light PaintingLight Painting

But then there were the really big rockets. Gene drove this big machined aluminum baby out from Missouri:

Gene Machine – 2 of 4Gene Machine – 2 of 4 Gene Machine – 3 of 4Gene Machine – 3 of 4 Gene Machine – 4 of 4Gene Machine – 4 of 4

His Q motor was insanely huge, about 4x the total thrust of a cruise missile booster, or 64,000 Estes rocket engines.  But he had an airpocket in his home-brew propellant, and it ruptured under pressure.  Last year, this rocket delivered videocameras, GPS, x-ray sensors, and RF telemetry into space… and all was recovered – the prize we dream of:

Space, the Final FrontierSpace, the Final Frontier

For an intro to rocket science, here is my earlier GeekDad post, as well as one on video rocketry.  Also, here’s a collection of photos from this past weekend.  Oh, and if you want to see a short 3-minute slide show on rockets that I gave at TED, you can see it here.

If you want to catch some of the extreme rocketry action this year, I would recommend BALLS in late September.  My peeps are working on using that gold rocket in the GeekDad MakerFaire booth above on a P motor.  But that’s just the upper stage.  There would be a Q motor booster too.  Yeee-ha!

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