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Reno's 2020 Rocket Launches

Reno's 2020 Rocket Launches

Cadet Master Sargeant Aaron Goff, CAP
Cadet Aerospace Officer, Reno Composite Squadron

On 2/15/2020, Reno Composite Squadron cadets launched their first model rockets of the year. After weeks of hard work, this marked the completion of the CAP model rocketry program for participating Reno cadets.

Those who have completed everything up to this point in the rocketry program have been exposed to a variety of learning opportunities. In the first of three stages, we learned about great rocketry pioneers and the origins of the rocket as a weapon. Then, we studied model rocket safety, basic rocket physics, and model aerodynamics. Finally, we learned about rocket motor composition and performance classifications, further safety requirements, and how to calculate and track the altitudes of our rocket launches. After each of these stages, we were tested on our knowledge obtained. This gave us a great understanding and sense of preparedness for the launching of our rockets.

Arriving at the Stead dry lake bed at 08:30, we were glad to see light winds and dry ground, as it had rained the week before. After participating in a safety briefing, all I could think of was launching my rockets, so I quickly prepared them for flight. My Generic E2X rocket was the first to fly as I engaged the engine igniter and watched it soar to over 400 feet AGL and land safely! It became clear that my choice of metallic grey paint was ill-advised due to a rapidly converging marine layer of clouds. Throughout the day, we launched our rockets several times, with several crashes, and had an immense amount of fun. Even the flights that could be categorized as failures left smiles on our faces. To give an instance, my two-stage rocket had, by far, the most extravagant failure of the day.

On its second flight, it rose from the launch pad properly, but the stages separated violently due to a buildup of carbon almost fusing the two parts together. This caused all of the lower fins to be jettisoned from the rocket in one spectacular fashion! Even with this near-catastrophic failure, the parachute deployed, leaving the rocket recoverable. By evaluating our mistakes after each problematic launch, we learned how to ensure successful rocketry flights and went home at the end of the day satisfied with our experiences gained.

Most of the participating cadets agree that “launch day” was their favorite part of the rocketry program, as it was an engaging payoff for all of their efforts. I have mixed feelings regarding this prevailing belief because some of my favorite experiences involved the building of my rockets, as it gave me a practical understanding of how they worked. Throughout this program, we spent seemingly countless hours building our models. After assembling my first solid-fuel rocket, it became apparent to me that I could improve upon its design to make it fly higher and with a lesser probability of failure. As I built more, my rockets went from looking rather shabby in build quality to clean and well thought out.

After finishing my fifth and final rocket, I had gathered much experience in making quality models and understanding how they function. Overall, this was one of the most informative parts of the rocketry program for a hands-on learner like myself.

Reno cadets have large aspirations for participating in the advanced rocketry courses at the earliest opportunity. These lessons expand upon the normal rocketry program and introduce participants to High Power Rockets. We are eager to observe these models traveling thousands of feet with over 38 times the average thrust of our previous D-motor rockets!

With many of our newer cadets interested in the Rocketry Program, we are hopeful for another successful set of launches shortly. I have great expectations for future fun due to the design of this program and how it enables cadets to easily utilize their new knowledge to further their pursuit of model rocketry. With the popularity of civilian rocket hobbies, the opportunities for cadets to achieve this seem to be endless. This low-cost, great learning, and fun-filled event perfectly lends itself to introducing cadets to the fascinating hobby of model rocketry.

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