USLI -- Launch and Reflections

Where I last left off, I was in Huntsville, Alabama with the Iowa State USLI team. The launch had been postponed to Sunday, which was pretty disappointing because it meant we were going to have to leave early in order to get back to Iowa in time. We woke up on Sunday at 4:30 to check out of our hotel and drive to the launch site. We were one of the first teams there, and got started prepping the rocket before the sun even rose. Things were going fairly smoothly, and we got our rocket ready by the first round of launches.

The launches started, and stopped frequently because of cloud cover. Our rocket sat out at the pad for awhile while we waited. We were a little concerned about the GoPro camera. Technically it's good for 4 hours on 1080p, and it was a fully charged, relatively new battery, but you never know for sure. While we were waiting, we got interviewed, which streamed live over NASA TV. That was kind of fun. (The video cuts out to ISS stuff before our rocket launches).

I don't remember exactly what time it was, but it was roughly 9:00 when it was finally time to launch our rocket. Everyone was pumped.

Launch looked good! But then a couple seconds after motor burnout, something quite disastrous happened. Some altimeter fluke fired the drogue charge, and the flight terminated early. The rocket zippered, the payload mangled itself... it was a nightmare. The payload recovered about half a mile away, and because of the early deployment, we only reached half our intended altitude.

On the long walk to recover the payload, I said that it might still have been worth it just for the onboard video. But of course, lo and behold, video cuts out about 10 minutes before launch! Events like these challenge my optimism.

Even so, it was a great experience and I learned a lot. Everyone on the team benefited.

Next year I will not be leading Iowa State's USLI. I will most likely participate, however. Time to move on to some new projects!

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