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Day 157 - Thunda Down Under - Polaron G2 flights
12th March 2015
Location:Westmar, QLD, Australia
Conditions: Mostly clear skies, winds 15-25km,
Team Members at Event:PK, GK,
Paul K, John K and AK
Thunda Down Under 2015
WOW what an event. Before we go any further we have
to say a big thank you to
Australian Rocketry for organizing this
There were many people involved behind the scenes to
make it a memorable event. Special thanks goes to Blake
Nikolic and most of the
QRS crew who managed to get everything set up and
make things tick like clockwork. The event had been in
the planning stages for 3 years and has certainly lived
up to the expectations. We want to also thank all the
fliers that attended from all over the world and
launched their amazing rockets, without whom it would
have been just a dusty paddock. We also want to thank
the Coggan family for allowing this event to take place
on their farm.
from ROC did an
outstanding and professional job as LCO that really
helped top off the great event. Thank you also goes to
David Reneke and his crew for opening up the night
skies with their telescopes and sharing their knowledge
of our little corner of the universe.
Lastly we would like to thank
Homer Hickam and his wife
Linda for making the trek down under and being a great
inspiration for many of the fliers there. Unless you've already
seen the movie
October Sky or read his book Rocket Boys, I would
highly recommend them.
Congratulations go to everyone who certified to their
next level of rocket obsession. I believe there were in the
order of 15 certification flights from L1's to L3's. It was also
great to meet a lot of the fliers, both old and new. It was also
great to meet Jeremy, a fellow water rocketeer from Brisbane.
For me personally there were many highlights including:
Nic's high altitude, blisteringly fast
Mad Max II
rocket. Congrats Nic on the new Australian and Tripoli altitude and
speed records. It's not every day you get to witness a
rocket do Mach 3.5 to 66,000+ feet.
full scale V2 rocket.
Pictures on a computer screen don't do this rocket justice.
A Herculean effort to get it done in time and launched at
Thunda. You have proved a lot of people wrong who doubted it
could be done successfully. Congrats guys
on a successful flight and entry into the records books.
Oz Area 51
on O-2645 BL powered goodness. Awesome and loud flight Ari!
Top marks for the spot landing.
Crazy Jim's sparky drag race. Crazy Jim smoked them all!
Peter Lam's N-to-M 2-stage flight. Very nice flight
Meeting Homer Hickam.
Raptor. The air force called and want their bird back.
1/2 scale patriot. Beautiful flights Dave, and congrats
on doing your L3 in style.
SunSeeker on a O3400 IMAX. Sorry to see it not go quite
according to plan Mathias. No doubt you and your team will
New Zealand's flying BBQ aka 'Buckyball' and the N2000W
powered Frenzy. Very nice flights, and hats off for sticking
the landing with the BBQ.
The Dust Storm
Banquet under the stars. Great food!
Too many other flights to list here.
this thread for photos and videos from the event.
Here are just a few of behind the scenes photos.
Giant V2 rocket
Although the event took place over 4 days, I will split up our flights at Thunda into two instalments
- Day 157 and Day 158.
Getting to Thunda
The Westmar launch site is about 900km (560 miles) from home,
so because there were 5 of us travelling with all our gear
we rented a motorhome. I was a little worried that we may be
overloaded as we had to bring everything to the site. There is
no power or water, and with Polaron G2 being quite thirsty (16L
per launch) we had to bring extra water. We ended up bringing
about 180L of water for the 5 days. We brought along a big tent so that
we could unload the motorhome and store the equipment in it. We
also brought tables and gazebo so that we could set up near the
flight line where we would spend most of the day. We also
brought a 120W Solar panel, and battery so we could charge
laptops, cameras and iPods. All up we had
about 750Kg (1650 lbs) of people, food and equipment to load.
Westmar is literally in the middle of nowhere, with the last
15 minutes by dirt road. The site itself is flat as far as the
eye can see and mostly devoid of any trees. With a ceiling
clearance of up to 120,000 feet ( 36Km ) it just doesn't get any
better than that for rocketry.
Entrance to property
Nothing but sky and fields
That's the best the GPS can do
Around 100 campsite allocations
Our camp. 2 tents and motohome
The tent became a storage shed
Sunsets don't get much better
... than this.
Polaron G2 - Phase 2
The Polaron G2 - Phase 2 rocket has been in development for a
long time, and Thunda was the perfect opportunity to get it
finally finished and launched on its inaugural flight. In this
configuration the rocket is our most complicated yet. Between
the launcher, boosters and main stage there are around 900
straight forward with no issues getting it assembled on the pad.
We used the cluster launcher's extension legs for more stability, and we also put down a tarp
first because in Mullaley we learned that putting the launcher
directly on the ground causes a lot of mud to be created around the pad.
This can then get into fittings. The tarp worked really well
in keeping the mud to a minimum.
We pressurised the rocket to 200psi, although we suspect it
was lower than that because air was still flowing into the
rocket even though the pressure gauge read 200psi. This is a
large volume rocket and so it takes a lot of air.
The LCO gave the countdown and we launched the rocket. The
boosters and main stage all released the rocket simultaneously.
The rocket pitched over a little due to the strong breeze, but
soon after the boosters all dropped away, and the main stage
corrected somewhat and powered down range. The uMAD triggered
the backup parachute at apogee followed shortly after by the
main. Due to the strong wind the rocket did a lot of horizontal
rather than vertical flying and only reached an altitude of
around 568' (173m), but landed around 300m down range. Part of
the pitch over also may have been due to a stability issue with
such a small nozzle in the main stage there would have been a
lot of weight near the tail for longer.
When we inspected the rocket post landing it had come apart
in a couple of the 22mm tornado tubes. This would have been from the
impact with the ground, however, there was no damage done to the
spliced quads or the bottle necks. The fairing near where the main backup
parachute was attached was buckled because the shock cord slid
down the rocket during the parachute
We straightened it out and screwed the bottles back together.
One of the couplings where the rocket came apart though kept skipping over
the bottle thread so we replaced it. Otherwise the rocket was
re-assembled for a second flight.
Setting up launch site
Setting up launcher
Full size boosters
Had to bring lots of water for
4L goes into each booster
2 more boosters to go
Boost was mostly vertical
A little "squirly" during
You can see the flight line in
View from ground level
Shadow during boost
Climbing (camp on left)
Backup parachute deployed
We set the rocket up again in the afternoon, but the breeze
was quite strong and near the limit of what we would normally launch
in. We figured with such a huge flat range and no trees, we
could launch the rocket and even if it drifted a long way there
would be no trouble recovering it.
We pressurised it to 200psi again, but this time waited a lot
longer to make sure the rocket pressure was really closer to
When launched, all the boosters and main stage were again
released simultaneously, but you could feel this was a more
powerful launch. The rocket flew well, but again the wind
pitched it over, and the rocket powered a looong way down range
towards the camp. Luckily Phil at the camp spotted it descending under
parachute into the field and retrieved it for us. The rocket
must have flown close to 450-500m down wind from the launch pad.
The rocket and boosters were all recovered safely ready to fly
In the excitement we forgot to turn on the on-board camera
on the second flight but at least we got ground footage of it. The rocket only flew
to about 520 feet because again it flew mostly horizontally.
On review of the first on-board video we could see that at
least one of the boosters clipped the fin on the main stage, but
luckily did not do any damage.
On flight 2 the reverse video angle showed a leak in the red
booster nozzle. Something we didn't see from the flight line but could
hear. The booster was fine on the first launch, so perhaps it
was the higher pressure of the second launch that finally made
Despite the not quite vertical launches we were really happy
with the flights, All the components worked as designed.
We used the zLog mod 6 altimeter on these flights, but I have
not been able to get a connection to the altimeter from the
computer so I can't quite download the flight profile. The
altitudes I only recorded from the display once the rocket
landed. I have sent off the altimeter to Hexpert systems to see
if they can download all the data off the unit.
We will try this rocket again in calmer conditions to see how
We discovered the source of our
Magic fuel - bubble bath and
Screwing in the top section
GoPro ground view
further into the boost
Here is a highlights video of the full size Polaron G2
The tarp worked really well in keeping mud in check.
Having the checklist worked well with someone reading it
out and me doing the checks. On the second flight I had to
read the checklist myself and didn't pay close enough
attention and missed a step in turning on the onboard
The red booster nozzle leaked at higher pressures so the 100psi
check we did previously did not show up the leak. We will
have to investigate the reason.
The rocket looked marginally stable at burnout. We may
need to add fins to the boosters or make the main nozzle a
little larger to drain the water faster. We can also look at
using a jet foaming spacer in the lowest chamber to move the
water further up the rocket in order to move the center of
gravity further up.
The boosters again impacted with at least 1 fin as they
separated. It would be good to come up with a technique
where the boosters separate cleaner from the rocket. Perhaps
aerodynamic nosecones or winglets that tend to push the
booster away from the rocket. Perhaps the winglets only
deploy after separation to reduce drag on the way up.
We also flew a number of the boy's model rockets. I had
replaced the plastic parachutes in these with small ripstop
nylon ones as we always had issues with the plastic ones
sticking. The ripstop chutes worked well and opened cleanly. With the higher
wind conditions the rockets drifted further. Paul's "Flygon"
(Aspire) flew well on a D12-7 and drifted over 500m into the
field. 15 minutes later we found it.
Next week we will post the second instalment from this trip
with more photos and videos. ... stay tuned.