Steinhoff Rocket Launch

Malcolom Steinhoff rocket launch 01-25-2015Grandson Malcolm needed to launch some rockets for a school science project. There’s something about the possibility of seeing something blow up that is deeply embedded in the Steinhoff genes (check out Dad blowing up a bridge), so Son Matt, Son Adam, Carly, and Grandsons Graham and Elliot assembled on what passes for a hill in South Florida – a landfill that has been turned into Dyer Park. Across-the-street-neighbor Cheyenne came along. She and her sisters practically live at Malcolm’s house, so she is almost an honorary Steinhoff by osmosis.

Highest altitude

Malcolom Steinhoff rocket launch 01-25-2015These rockets aren’t the cardboard tubes that my buddies and I stuffed with gunpowder: the engines are made to produce consistent results. An Estes A8-3 engine, for example, produces eight seconds of thrust, pauses three seconds, then sends a blast out the other end of the engine to cause the nose cone to come apart, pulling out a parachute.

 Returning to earth

Malcolom Steinhoff rocket launch 01-25-2015Instead of an old-time fuse you lit with a match, these have electrical igniters to set off the explosives. That’s where I came in. When I climbed to the top of the hill, I found the launch team deep in contemplation after several failed launch attempts.

When they said they had run connectivity tests to make sure there was loop current, I suggested that there might be juice present, just not enough. Of course, there was no spare battery.

Then it came to me that I had left a camera bag in the van that contained 9-volt batteries for my wireless mike. That solved the problem. I refrained from swaggering up and growling, “Failure is NOT an option.”

The white smoke in this photo was caused by a burning piece of wadded-up paper towel that served as wadding to protect the parachute when the backblast blew off the nosecone.

Recovery team in action

Malcolom Steinhoff rocket launch 01-25-2015Malcolm and Cheyenne race to recover the falling rocket. Well, Cheyenne races to recover the rocket.

Malcolm isn’t the kind of guy who feels the need to demonstrate his alpha maleness if it involves the exertion of energy. That’s another Steinhoff trait.

Wife Lila informed me that Malcolm isn’t loafing: he’s conserving his energy for a soccer match. He didn’t want to take a chance on pulling a hamtwitchit or whatever it is that causes athletes to get carried off the field.

Another Cheyenne capture

Malcolom Steinhoff rocket launch 01-25-2015That gal has serious wheels. She was great at getting under the rockets.

Record the results

Malcolom Steinhoff rocket launch 01-25-2015After each launch, Malcolm would write down the stats recorded by a gizmo that blasted into space inside the rocket. It tracked all kinds of variables.

For example, I’m pretty sure it was the rocket on the pad in the photo below that set the record for the day: 264 feet altitude; 83 mph top speed; 26.3 seconds of flight time.


Malcolom Steinhoff rocket launch 01-25-2015I saw a park ranger car pull over at the bottom of the hill. Somehow or another, I got the feeling that the ranger wasn’t there to enjoy the launch event.

Sure enough, a very nice woman ranger came up and said that rocket launches weren’t allowed in the park “because the air space over the park” was controlled by a model radio-controlled club on another hill a tenth of a mile away.

Matt explained the science fair project and said they needed to do three launches of three different rockets to get the results Malcolm needed, and there were just two more to go, with one rocket ready on the pad.

Go for launch, then get gone

She said to go for launch on the last two, then get out of there.

After it was over, Matt said he had checked to make sure the FAA wouldn’t have problems with the location and altitudes, but he never thought they would run into a problem with “controlled air space” in a park sitting on top of gigatons of garbage.


Contrail Brings Challenger Chills

Rocket launch 05-16-2014The Road Warriorettes and I had a great day touring Florida. I’ll be sharing some of those stories and some neat things we discovered in Georgia in the future. Getting along toward sunset, I said we should take a look for gators at Nubbins Slough on the northeast corner of Lake Okeechobee.

When we got to the top of the dike, we met a pickup truck parked looking east, but didn’t think anything of it. Curator Jessica got out to shoot the clouds turning orange on the north side of the lake. When I went to swing the van around to get it out of the road, I froze.

Flashback to January 28, 1986

lake Okeechobee sunset 05-16-2014In the rearview mirror, I saw a contrail that brought back that cold morning on January 28, 1986, when I climbed on the roof at The Palm Beach Post to see the corkscrewing smoke left over from the Challenger explosion.

I called Wife Lila in West Palm Beach to ask if she knew if there had been a rocket launch at The Cape. She said one was supposed to have gone off at 8:03, but she didn’t know if it had any problems.

My photo was taken at 8:07, assuming the time programmed into my camera was correct.

It wasn’t until I got home that I read that a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket carrying a $245 million Global Positioning System satellite was launched into space Friday after a 24-hour weather delay.

Shortly after I turned my attention away from the rocket trail, the sky came alive.

Warriorettes are leaving me

Anne Rodgers - Jessica Cyders at Nubbins Slough 05-16-2014Anne Rodgers, Texan, former newspaper colleague and bike riding partner, is moving back home to Texas early in June. Curator Jessica Cyders, from the Athens Historical Society and Museum, will be heading back to Athens, Ohio, next week to her husband and cat. She hopes that neither has starved to death in her absence.

I hope the pictures they shot at Nubbins Slough this afternoon will bring back fond memories of our meandering.

Y0u can click on the photos to make them larger.