JL Rockets
Showcasing rocket projects by Judy Lubin
Past Launches


JLRockets Past Launches and Rockets

Table of Contents (Click on an entry below to read about past rockets)
LDRS 32, summer 2013
Thunderstruck 2013
Aeronaut 2012
Thunderstruck 2012
Midwest Power 2012
LDRS 2011
Last Flight of the Original Dark Star
Jackson's Jr Level 1

 Summer 2013:  Hot time on the Playa!

It was hot, hot, hot in Nevada's Black Rock Desert at LDRS 32.

G-o-o-o-o-o  for O!

Jackson launched his first O-motor rocket – his  Ultimate Dark Star on a CTI O3400.  Traveling at mach 1.8, the rocket flew to 21,300 feet.



Jackson has now launched the alphabet A through O!  (Ok, technically, he completed this the weekend after LDRS when he launched an H motor at Eat Cheese or Fly.  Somehow he skipped H.  Go figure.)



Judy launched Stratosphere, a 98mm minimum diameter rocket flying on a 6XL grain CTI N2900 Classic.  The press molded carbon fiber fins were made by Wildman Rocketry.  They had a diamond airfoil and radial taper.  Because of their manufacturing technology, each fin weighed only 4 ounces.  The fully prepped rocket minus motor was only 11 pounds.  With motor, the rocket was 43 pounds.  This was not a lot of weight for the 17,000 total Newton seconds of impulse that the motor delivered.  Predicted top speed was mach 3.

Stratosphere left for its namesake from Manny Ballestero's tower.  We really appreciate him bringing the tower all the way out to the Black Rock and letting us use it.  And, we appreciate the extra bit of excitement that it's design inadvertently added to the photos.  However, we still suggested that Manny redesign the blast deflector (or flame thrower as it was in this case) so as not to bathe the rocket in flame just before it generates intense heat from the friction of high mach speed.

Unfortunately, Stratosphere never made it to the stratosphere.  She lost fins at mach 3.


Video by Alex from UROC, aka AKSRockets




 Thunderstruck 2013, Indiana Rocketry
Jackson attended this launch with Tom, since Judy was in Paris with Emily.  Jackson launched his Ultimate Dark Star on an M1719 sparky.  Unfortunately, recovery required tree poles!

Jackson also launched his Wildthing Extreme on a M1160 Green.

Photo by David Reese

Photo by David Reese

 Aeronaut, August 2012, hosted by AeroPac, Black Rock Desert, Nevada
JLRockets Takes on the N5800

Above Photo by Tom Rouse

In August 2012, Jackson and Judy launched Jackson's minimum diameter rocket on a CTI N5800 C-Star.  

For our non-rocket readers, the N5800 is an exceptionally powerful motor.  It can lift the weight of a car.  Jackson's rocket weighed just over 8 pounds without the motor - less than a bag of groceries that might be sitting in the trunk of the car that the motor can lift.  If successful, the N5800, with 20,146 Newton-seconds of total impulse, would have sent our 8 pound rocket to 70,000 feet - about 30,000 feet higher than the current record for this class of motor.  But, for a rocket that light to withstand such high thrust, all of it delivered in just 3.5 seconds, it had to be built strong.  The rocket would reach speeds at the extremes of hobby rocketry.  This would push the standard building materials to their limits - and maybe beyond.  

At the time of our attempt, no one had yet succeeded at this task.  Many had tried.  All had failed.  It was just the type of challenge Jackson loves.

The first 3.4 seconds of the flight were a sight to behold.  Worth every minute of the 60 hours driving it took to get to the Black Rock and back.  Notice how the flame beneath the rocket is larger than the rocket itself.  Truly awe inspiring.

Just at or after motor burnout, when the rocket reached maximum velocity, there was a slight wiggle.  We all knew something was up.  This was the point where all others before us had failed.  The rocket continued up for a few more seconds.  Then, it arced over and began coming down – in pieces.  

We believe that the nose cone began to disintegrate from the excessive heat generated by high mach flight.  The nose cone failure threw the rocket into an adverse angle of attack which pulled the fins off.  We believe that the rocket was travelling at speeds close to mach 4 at the time of failure.


(We did recover the titanium tip intact, although it is not included in this picture.)  

So, we tried and failed, like all the others before us.  Was it worth it?  Yes!  This quote, first introduced to us by Sather Ranum, sums it all up.

THE MAN IN THE ARENA by Teddy Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 


While we were in the Black Rock, we launched the Space Cowboy to a speed of mach 2.6 and a modified minimum diameter Wild Child to a speed so fast that the fin tips delaminated.  Both survived.

The trip to the Black Rock was a project in and of itself - 60 total hours of driving.  Only a month after receiving his driver's license, Jackson shared equally in the driving.  We spent about two weeks on the trip and made stops at Lake Tahoe (a bit out of the way, but worth it), Mt Rushmore, the Badlands.

And, we made a stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats, home to the Bonneville Speedway and numerous land speed records, now including the speed record for a minivan driven by a 16 year old:

 Thunderstruck 2012 (Indiana Rocketry)
Mach Madness!

Jackson's Rocket Screams to Mach 2.26
to Run Away with the Thunderstruck Mach Madness Trophy!
Clocking in at Mach 2.26, more than double the speed of sound, Jackson took first place in Indiana Rocketry's Thunderstruck 2012 Mach Madness competition with his Space Cowboy flown on a CTI K1200 White Thunder.  The rocket broke the sound barrier less than a second after lift-off.  Top speed was 2490 ft/second, or almost 1700 miles per hour.  Eventual altitude was 17,800.  Photos by David Reese

 Midwest Power 2012
Princeton, IL, Quad City Rocket Society

AP Soda was relaunched at Midwest Power on a sparky N motor!

 LDRS 2011
Argonia, Kansas hosted by Kloudbusters

At LDRS 30, our build and launch of Lubin's AP Soda was featured on the Science Channel show.  Click here to read more about it.

CATO on the way to 10K

We regret to inform our viewing public that the Ultimate DarkStar was decommissioned by the CATO of an N5800 during the Science Channel Fastest Rocket in the World Competition.  Unofficially, we won the "fastest rocket to a pile of embers" competition, with a time to failure of 1.5 seconds after motor ignition.  For those of you who are new to the game, a CATO is a Catastrophic Motor Failure.  It is a motor problem and not a rocket issue.  In our case, the motor manufacturer diagnosed the problem as a cracked motor liner and accepted responsibility.  (liners insulate the motor case from the heat of the combustion)  Due to the failed liner, the motor case actually melted enough to free the forward retaining ring.  Flames burst from both ends of the motor tube.  It was a spectacular sight.  And, lucky for us (sarcasm) the TV cameramen captured the WHO-O-O-LE thing.  Can't wait to see that on TV (more sarcasm).

The N5800 is an incredibly powerful motor - the best it gets.  Look at the size of that flame both before the CATO, and after.  We are taking the CATO as a challenge.  We will tame that N5800 yet!  Photos by Sather Ranum.



Photo by Neil McGilvray/Rockets Magazine:

Photos by Sather Ranum:

 Happy Birthday Jackson, and Last Successful Flight of the Original Dark Star
We celebrated Jackson's birthday this year with another rocket launch.  We launched the Ultimate DarkStar on an M3700.  As part of the birthday celebration, Jackson managed the whole flight from start to finish.  He did a great job.  The flight was beautiful.  The white thunder propellant has quite a kick to it.  It took my breath away at lift off.


Below is the video from the on-board camera.  Its HD, so you can watch it full screen.  Perhaps I’m paranoid, but it really does look like the rocket is deliberately choosing the very best tree to land in as it falls that last 1000 feet.  The rocket did land in a tree, but it was a small tree.  The booster was hanging about four feet off the ground, and the nose cone and main parachute were on the ground.  It was the easiest tree recovery on record – except that we had the good fortune of being joined by a park ranger who just happened to be in the vicinity when the rocket landed.  We have included some of the footage of his helpful comments.  



 High Power Staging!
The Wildfire is a two-stage version of the Wildman 3 inch rocket.  It has two 54mm motor mounts, 2 avionics bays and as many as three flight computers.  We used to call this a joint project, but with all of Jackson's hard work, particularly on our record breaking 20k flight, we now consider this to be Jackson's project.


This is the rocket that took us to our maximum altitude of 20,850 feet AGL.  We used an L935 6XL-grain Imax in the booster and a K260 6-grain classic longburn in the sustainer.  We had three altimeters - 2 in the upper stage and 1 to control deployment on the booster - because both top and bottom motors are plugged.  The flight was not a full success - we sustained some damaged from the motor burning back into the sustainer tube from a faulty forward closure, and additional damage from ejection charge gases entering the av bay.  But the rocket will soon be fixed and ready to fly again to high altitudes.  Thanks to Tim Lehr of Wildman Rocketry for replacing the parts. 

We got some great data from this flight.  The motor took 7 seconds to pressurize, which meant that it coasted for 8.5 seconds after burn out of the first motor - a bit too much because it had begun to arc.  Data from the altimeters show that 5.5 seconds of coasting was optimal.  We'll be launching again with these motors and using the optimal coasting time.   From now on, we will control staging with a Raven flight computer, which allows for velocity-based ignition.  In future flights, we will be striving to find the "sweet spot" for the ignition of the second motor - the very point at which the rocket has gained the most possible extra altitude from coasting, but just before it begins to arc over.  We expect to beat our current altitude record. 

Thanks to Don Frieders for this video.  Here's the 2 stage on a K940 White Thunder in the booster and a H225 White Thunder in the sustainer.  We were testing the Raven altimeter's optimal coasting feature.  The sustainer lit at 400 feet/sec, or about 6 seconds into the flight.



The rockets first flight was on a pair of blues: a 4-grain K630 Blue Streak in the booster, and an air-started 2-grain J293 Blue Streak in the sustainer.  Max altitude was 7,699 feet.    The second flight was on a 5-grain K1200 White Thunder in the booster with an air-started 3-grain sparky(!) J360 in the sustainer.   We achieved 10,856 feet in altitude.  The third flight was a cloudy day drag race with Tim Lehr on a J430 White Thunder to an I120 Imax.  Altitude was 3,751 - which shows that this monster can be a low ceiling rocket!  Photo by Roy Hippert.

 Jackson's Level 1 Cert

Read the whole story in Jackson's article in Sport Rocketry!
Sport Rocketry is a national magazine, and the most widely distributed in the hobby.  Click here
, or on the thumbnail below to read Jackson's article about his Junior Level 1 Certification experience.

Jackson had an exciting 14th birthday!  Jackson certified on his 14th birthday - the very first day that the cert was available to him!  The all fiberglass Wildman Junior from Wildman Rocketry is 58 inches tall, 2 inches diameter and has a 38 mm motor mount.  Jackson did his Level 1 cert on a Cesaroni I800 Vmax.  The Vmax motors have high velocity, and maximum thrust at ignition.  The rocket flew off the pad!  It was a perfect flight, with a perfect deployment. 

Unfortunately, the search and rescue mission wasn't as perfect.  We searched for about two hours before deciding to redirect our efforts towards a guaranteed cert.  Jackson loaded up the Liberty 4 with a Cesaroni I470 White. 

The Liberty 4 is a 4 inch diameter, 6 foot tall phenolic rocket with G10 fins from Giant Leap, with tip-to-tip glassed fins for extra strength.  Her first flight was on a Cesaroni I223 Skidmark.  This is a much smaller motor than her 54 mm motor mount can handle, but the ceiling was low and we preferred the 1700 foot altitude that the 4 grain sparky could acheive.  The I470 White is also a pretty small motor for this rocket (we didn't want another search effort), but has good kick off the pad. 

Just as we were about to begin the countdown for the Liberty, the magnificent Diane Dorn returned with the Wildman Jr.  She had been out searching, even as we had been prepping the second attempt, just to help Jackson out.  So, the cert was earned on the Jr!  Many thanks to Diane Dorn!!! 

And good thing, because the Liberty CATO'ed in glorious style.  (CATO means Catastrophic Motor Failure, usually a motor defect.) We found out later that there was a defect in the inner liner of the motor.  The nozzle kicked out, cutting a perfect hole in the cap of the Aeropack retainer.  Needless to say, the ejection charge did not fire, and the rocket did a dramatic lawn dart, obliterating the body tube.  Fin can is re-usable, nose cone is potentially salvageable, but the rest is history.  What used to be a 6 foot rocket is now about 2 feet tall!

So, for the record, Jackson not only achieved a birthday cert, but also a CATO on his first day of high power rocketry!  Quite an achievement.

Wild Child
Jackson's father, Tom, also joined in the fun with the launch of his first midpower rocket.  What's more amazing is that we caught it on film.  Below is Tom's WildChild on an F240  VMax.  The F240 has about a one-quarter second burn time!  Not easy to get with the camera.

Jackson's Blackhawk
Jackson loves his 29 mm minimum dimension all carbon fiber Blackhawk  from Wildman Rocketry.  Our first launch of the Blackhawk was almost our last.  It shot out of the tower launcher on an Aerotech G80 Blue Thunder and was out of sight in less than a second!  We only got it back because it was found inadvertently, well away from the launch pad, by a fellow rocketeer looking for his own rocket. The next launch was much the same - a full day left in the woods where we couldn't find it!  Since then, we have launched and recovered it successfully on an H87 G-grain IMAX, the picture below.  Needless to say, this rocket requires a tracker!

Judy's Level 2 Rocket
The all fiberglass Wildman Dual Deploy from Wildman Rocketry is 90 inches tall, 3 inches in diameter and has a 54 mm motor mount.  Below is my successful Level 2 cert flight on a Cesaroni J381 Skidmark at Midwest Power.  I love the sparkys!  Thanks to Randy Millikin at Tripoli of Indiana for this great action launch photo!



The video was taken and posted by Manny at Midwest Power.  16 Wildman rockets, just like the one above, launching all at once on L motors (except mine - it was the day before my L2 test, and so I used a CTI I540 White Thunder).  My rocket is the 4th from the right, and it looks like Manny had his camera right on it!  Below, my rocket is above the second smoke cloud from the right.

Pink Sumo
Emily joins in the fun sometimes with her pink painted Sumo.  Here, she launched it on a sparky Metalstorm G.

Judy's Level 1 Rocket
Judy's did her Level 1 cert with a Madcow Patriot - 4 inch diameter, 53 inches tall, 38 mm motor mount.  The successful L1 flight was on an Aerotech H123. 



Cluster Mania!

The 429SS can cluster either two or four 29mm motors at a time.  So far we've launched it successfully on 2 Cesaroni G118 Blue Streaks (159 newtons each!) and on 4 Cesaroni G54 Red longburners (also 159 newtons each!)  The 429 spent about 5 months in a tree after taking a bad turn on two Cesaroni H87 Imax motors that did light at exactly the same time.  It has been freed, but did not survive the ordeal.  We have salvaged hardware and electronics and plan on scratch re-building. 

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