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The X-Wing fighter at Plaster Blaster 6 this weekend got all the glory. But the model rocket with the biggest heart/size ratio goes to the underdog of a space bomber based on the Y-Wing fighter. Ion cannons? Check. More torpedoes than the X-Wing? Check. Fewer parts to tear off on liftoff? Check...not that it lived to see a second flight, but at least it finish in a better form and had a longer voyage. This reel has a bit of friendly yet competitive smacktalk about the X-Wing, the liftoff, and even a bit of in-flight camera salvaged from the fake black box the team rigged up. Let's face it together, Star Wars nerds—as much as it gives us a giant collective nerd-boner to imagine real, flying Star Wars vehicles, buzzing the air traffic controllers at JFK Intl' airport, these things were designed by Lucas's film masters, not aerospace engineers. Video and reporting by James Lee and Jesús Diaz. Interview:
- Why the Y-Wing?
Since the local rocketry club had decided to do the giant X-wing for the 30th anniversary of the original release of Star Wars, my building team decided on the Y-wing. Personally, I like the shape of the Y-wing better. It's more interesting to me. I like all of the exposed "junk" all over it.
- How did you power it? What kind of engine?
The rocket was propelled by a motor composed of APCP, ammonium perchlorate composite propellant. It's the same fuel that is loaded into the SRB's on the space shuttle. Most people have experience with the small Estes black powder motors, with each letter designation doubling the power of the motor. Estes motors run from A-E. This motor was a L! Roughly 400 pounds of thrust!
- Did it had any kind of autodestruct control (in case it was
headed to the crowd)?
- Was the parachute RC controlled?
- What did it have inside? Apart from the cameras, any
We had two electronics packages installed in the Y-wing. Our primary package to deploy the parachutes was an altimeter that sensed barometric pressure. When the altimeter stopped sensing a pressure drop (when the rocket stopped going up) it was to record the altitude and deploy the parachutes. Our backup in case the altimeter failed or in case the rocket started to go off course was a radio controlled "chicken switch" that allowed us to manually deploy the parachutes. The RC backup seems to have been the source of our premature parachute deployment. I was the one with my finger on the button, so to speak. I had my thumb on the safety guard to avoid accidentally pushing the button, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't pushed, but the ejection charge went off about halfway through the motor burn.
- What are you planning for next year?
We've been tossing around several ideas for next year. There have been comments ranging from doing themes of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5 to Star Blazers. We haven't settled on anything yet. We have to take a look at what theme has a variety of ships that can be built safely as well as kept under a reasonable budget. (This year the G4 network sponsored our motor and Polecat Aerospace helped us out with some donated parts.)