Images of this event were posted with permission of Paragon Astronautics.
|Stratofox Team at this launch|
Ian Kluft KO6YQ
Justin Rocha KG6SGU
|Stratofox 2||Dave Masten KG6FNL||4x4 SUV|
|Stratofox 3||Ben Woodard KG6FNK||2WD car|
Nate Dietrich KG6ESJ
|Stratofox 5||Karl Gross N7MXO||airplane|
|Stratofox 6||K Mark Kaviezel AC0AK||4x4 Jeep|
The previous attempt to launch Dragoon II in Sept 2003 had weather and technical difficulties which led to missed launch windows on all of the available days. The rocket was still on the pad at the end of the last launch window, forcing Paragon to pack up and re-schedule another launch attempt for 2004. That's what this launch was.
|Sunday, June 6||Arrival and wind storm||30|
|Monday, June 7||Sunrise and countdown rehearsal||10|
|Launch and flight||17|
|Search and recovery||31|
Paragon's Kevin Sagis hopes to develop this rocket design eventually into a commercial launcher for suborbital research payloads, and probably eventually more from there. But at this stage, Kevin's family and other rocket enthusiasts are just volunteering to help. Everyone hopes to see this help develop experience and equipment as part of a commercial space launch industry with much lower costs than in current practice today.
The ground operations and rehearsals went exactly as planned. The new launch pad and rail performed flawlessly. But unfortunately, the flight didn't go well. Immediately upon iginition of the rocket motor, the nozzle failed and was left in pieces on the ground at the launch pad. The rocket did lift off. But any rocketry enthusiast or rocket scientist can tell you that without a proper nozzle in place, the fuel pretty much just burns instead of producing any meaningful thrust.
In the case of the Dragoon II, the fuel from the motor large enough to carry it to space still flew it tens of thousands of feet into the air. Stratofox downrange observers - Ben Woodard on top of Mormon Dan Peak, and Dave Masten on top of Black Rock Point - estimated the rocket reached about 20,000 feet. That's pretty good since experts have been surprised it got far from the ground at all without its nozzle.
The rocket impacted the ground several miles from the launch pad. Here's the part which could potentially have been a bit embarassing for Stratofox. We followed the still images of the impact and started hiking in the hills searching for the rocket. Meanwhile, BLM Ranger Corey Smith got there first and put out a small fire which had started in one bush at the impact point. Other BLM staff then brought the Paragon crews to the impact site. Stratofox continued hiking until the first row of hills could be ruled out. Then we were last to arrive at the impact site. However, our late arrival was forgiven when we arrived with an extra shovel and ice chests full of enough cold drinks for everyone.
Anyone into aerospace as a hobby or occupation knows that some of your experience in reaching challenging technical goals is gained through lessons learned the hard way. Best wishes to Paragon to recover from this and make a successful space launch in the near future.
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