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Onboard rocket photos - Collection 2

The following onboard camera shots have this humorous story behind them.

The Opportunity

My partner, John Nissen, had just finished his PML Quantum Leap 2-stage rocket (modified to carry an onboard camera) and didn't have the patience to wait a couple of weeks for the monthly launch date to test it out. So he drove way the hell outta town till he found some suitable early spring farmland, loaded the rocket with an Aerotech I-211, set up his onboard gizmos (Vivitar family-style camera & his homemade Rube Goldberg Manual Shutter Triggering Device).

The Quantum Leap is a 5-way modular design and he just needed the low-end single-stage w/payload configuration to test out the a) camera, b) camera housing and c) his Rube Goldberg contraption. He was breathless with excitment as he rigged everything for launch.

Of note! This launch satisfied ALL rocketry safety codes (airspace permissions, private land use permissions, etc)...well, except for one, as you will soon read.

The Problem

After lining out his 50 foot launch wires and making all the connections - he discovered his launch controller's battery pack was dead. In his haste to get out into the field he had forgotten to bring along his fully-charged backup battery pack.

Now what?

The Solution

His nearby sports car's 12V battery and 6 feet of jumper cables!

I don't know of a single Launch Safety Officer that would allow anyone to stand less than 30' from an I-211 motor launch. But we are talking about a rocketeer in heat here! He backed up his sports car to his launch pad and happened to have a couple of large bare-wire alligator clips in his field kit. He attached the clips to the igniter, the jumper cables to the few inches of bare wire and, when he was ready, completed the circuit by touching the other end of the jumper cables to his car battery.

The Result

Standing less than 5 feet away from an I-211 launch would be something to talk about...and it is. We've got the pictures to prove it! John still talks about the event to this day...and we never tire of hearing about it. As he tells it, "I no sooner touched those battery terminals when all hell broke loose!" The proof is in the puddin' - see the glorious event recorded by the onboard camera below. I've provided 6 frames for your viewing pleasure. The camera & prism unit took a split frame shot every second (look-down/look out) - I've only included the full frame on one shot - you'll see why. This is an absolute "by the book" rocket flight that achieved perfection - verified by the photos.


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1 Second : "Bond...James Bond." What the hell else would you attribute an I-211 launch to...from a sports car? 2 Seconds : "Houston...we have stability!" The thrust explosion is history, but this puppy is a long way from apogee.
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8 Seconds: The I-211 smoke trail is toast as the PML Quantum Leap nears apogee. The thrust plume is still visible at the sports car powered launch site. 12 Seconds: Gorgeous shot at apogee! You never know what you are going to get from onboard shots till you develop the roll of film. The full look-out + look-down split frame here provides for a very nice panorama.
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13 Seconds: Perfectly timed deployment 1 second after apogee - ya gotta do your homework for this type of textbook performance! 16 Seconds: Nothing more beautiful than a full chute when precious cargo is aboard...such as a camera with precious photos like these.
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