Monday, November 30, 2009

Atlas? 5

I was surfing for the X37B and landed on the Atlas 5 which
is going to be the X37's launch vehicle soon. I didn't know
much about the Atlas 5 and admittedly, I still don't know
enough.  Research will continue though.  I have a few
points to make in this post, more may arise in the future.

As near as I can tell, this is practically a new vehicle, it
bears so little commonality with the Atlas that I know,
it hardly deserves the name. Atlas always had  3 liquid
rocket motors in a stage and a half arrangement. It took
off on 3 motors, then later drops the outer pair,
continueing on the center motor alone. A sweet solution.
This new bird has only 2 liquid motors.
More important than the name, L-M adds the older Atlas
launch success rate in with the new one, claiming over 600
successful launches. Most of those flights were made by
the original Convair later renamed General Dynamics.
Marketing hype that doesn't fool anybody who cares.

The pics above are from the recent launch of the Intelsat
14 satelite. Reading about the flight, I found that it used
3 strap-on motors. Scrolling through the roll-out pics,  I
was struck by the sight of 2 of the strap-ons side by side.
Typically 3 strap-ons would be attached equidistant around
the booster. Further through the pics I find the third strap-
on on the other side next to an empty mounting pad for a
fourth. The Atlas 5 is outfitted for only 4 strap-ons mounted
in 2 opposite pairs. I would've designed the booster with 6
mounting pads, which would allow any balanced combo of
2,3,4, or 6.  It's a pure guess on my part that they didn't
want to rebuild the launch pad. The umbilical tower is a
bit too close to allow strap-ons on that side.

These days, strap-on motors are about as likely to have
inward canted nose cones as traditional concentric cones.
The Atlas 5 strap-ons have a cone style I've never seen
before. They are canted inward but the tip is full width
and flattened next to the main booster.
Wonder what they call it?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

French Rubber

pics by KeithAlanK
This is a Coupe deHiver called the Coupe deVille.
Coupe deHiver is French for Winter Cup. We all know that a Coupe deVille is, or was, a top end 2 door Cadillac.

In rubber power competition the king of competition categories is Wakefield  It's been around since the 1930's or longer, and as a consequence, is packed with rules and dominated by guys who've been flying them for decades, or the occasional young aerospace engineer who still has the ability to innovate after 6-8 years of college.  Coupe deHiver has been around since the 1950's or so, and while it has some tight rules of it's own, they still fit on one page.  After going to a few contests, I knew the event I wanted. I bought a 2nd rate kit called Slats and set it on a shelf straightaway.  Not long after, Blue Ridge Models introduced the Coupe deVille and I was hooked.  A truly great kit for it's day. All the rib sets were milled, the propellor blades preformed, and all the wood was 1st rate and appropriate to the task. Another nice feature is that with a couple quick adjustments it can be loaded with as much rubber as desired and flown in Unlimited event as well.  I built it immediately during July-August 1977.  I finished the decorations the night before the first day of my senior year. Too nervous to sleep, I stayed up finishing it by about 3am. The name and shark mouth are all cut tissue, both based on my own sketches. The color on the tail used to be a very nice royal blue.

I had started collecting all the support equipment back when I bought the Slats kit, so I was ready. I took it out a few times that fall and it flew great.  A real pleasure to watch. In October I got my own car.  The car and girls quickly pushed everything else out of mind.  Occasional flying still took place now and then, but weeks long bouts of steady onstruction projects were at an end.  

When I moved back to Texas in 1981. the Coupe deVille made the trip, but the box full of ground support equipment and supplies didn't.  By then I was a mad biker, and flying was even farther from my mind.  I thought about getting the ground support together but it didn't happen soon enough.  Consideration was even given to doing a sacrilegious electric conversion.  By 1990 the tissue covering was already too old and brittle.  It's made 6 moves over the years, and hung from a lot of walls and ceilings, but this is the end of the line.  Now that it's finally digitized, it's headed to a viking funeral.  Like most rockets, the build time far exceeded the total airtime.  This model may have as many as 35 hours construction time, another 15 hours or so invested in the ground support.  At most, the Coupe deVille probably amassed no more than 20 minutes in the air, with only one flight making a full 2 minutes and having the dethermalizer triggered by the fuse.   Pure magic to watch though.