In Rocket Parlance, it’s Called an “Event.”

Rocket science has its own language. For those raised in the decades of the space race, we had one-, two-, or three-stage rockets. A booster is still a booster, but the second stage is now called a “sustainer.” Whatever.
BoosterfallSUN_8454A rocket flight “event” simply means that the status quo has changed. It’s a way for the P.A. announcer to draw the crowd’s attention to what’s going on in the sky; what to look for.

When the rocket streaks skyward and the booster falls away, that’s an event. Same when a drogue parachute appears. Usually an “event” is a scheduled part of a flight, but sometimes the event, while amazing to watch, is an unhappy situation for the builders.

The Miners’ flight yesterday came off the rail at a different angle than expected. We are not sure if that was an “event” but it was noticed by the HPER team. Hyperion’s next action was to separate the booster and release the sustainer to climb to the missile’s 23,000+ feet apogee.

That event didn’t go quite as planned. The booster separated but its parachute tore loose, drifting on the breeze while the booster tube tumbled straight down. Worse, the sustainer didn’t ignite and it continued just on momentum. Without another event to indicate that the sustainer ‘chute deployed there was no way to see which direction it went. Or where it eventually augured into the ground.

Last night’s search party did find some clues in the form of a few shreds of blue fiberglass, nearly a mile from where the booster, uh, landed. Now that flight operations are over they’re rehydrated and back out wandering the desert for the remainder of Hyperion’s payload. While it’s an unhappy ending there’s still much to be learned. If they can recover the University of Sydney’s on-board “satellite” they’ll be able to retrieve some data about the flight and the G-forces that payloads need to withstand. They also think their vacuum chamber is strong enough to withstand impact and be usable for next year’s flights.

Keep in mind that just as in NASA’s early years, these are experiments and failure is common. Some rockets misfired. More that one came in as ballistic; very fast and very dangerous to those not paying attention. Our friends at Mizzou, we are told, lost a fin on a Mach 2 launch attempt. Their rocket tumbled out of control and tore itself to pieces.

The worst luck struck one team right on the launch rail.Fire in the skySUN_8359 Seems all their rocket motors fired at once, spewing flaming motors and payload components all around the launch towers, setting the weeds on fire. Clean-up operations further delayed the remaining launches, but aside from wounded pride, there were no injuries or other damage.