Held on Saturday, April 13, 1996 at the Barrens Test Range in Manchester, Tennessee
The following text was taken, with permission, from an article by Larry Scarborough, which was published in the May-June 1996 issue of the Southeastern Space Supporter, newsletter of HAL5.
Of the ground launch of the HALO rocket at Manchester on April 13, some have said that the loss of the fins and nose cone soon after launch means Friday the 13th came on Saturday in April. Some have said that the non-christened rocket should have been called the Anne Boleyn.
But I saw open-mouthed amazement in the spectators who had become a little jaded by the several spectacular launches that preceded ours. For even sans fins and nose cone, our rocket just kept going, having developed enough spin to stabilize its flight, fins or no. It went straight on up out of sight.
This rocket could have done with much smaller fins. But one goal of this launch was to test the performance of the gondola (pronounced gon-DO-la). Would these big fins, required for the high altitude lift off, get tangled in the framework that will carry the rocket to its 20-mile-high launch site?
Thus, this ground launch started from a huge triangular gondola (also called the launch tube since it was sitting on the ground) that was built to accommodate those fins.
Even though the construction of the gondola was my primary involvement in this undertaking, it was hard even to notice the thing once the rocket lit up. Tim Pickens' rocket team had produced a truly remarkable machine. But once it was out of sight, I did survey the wooden framework that had guided the rocket's initial movement.
Once the smoke cleared and the dust settled, there sat the gondola looking a little like that tower in Italy. As I walked closer I saw that it now perched on the edge of a crater; the lower half of the gondola was plastered with mud.
A later review of a videotape of the launch revealed the steps involved in this reorientation. As the rocket launched, it carried the gondola along in its wake for a few inches. When gravity pulled it back to its starting place, it no longer had a flat cornfield to rest on, but settled into a crater dug by the rocket's fiery plume.
The good news is that the gondola had done its job of guiding the rocket skyward during launch. From the standpoint of the gondola, the ground launch had been a total success! I would like to thank Tim Pickens for his design guidance, and Ron Creel for his construction assistance in helping me to make the gondola's first test a success.
As I watch the video again and again, and see that finless, noseless wonder punch a hole right through the sky, I have to repeat the assessment of the crowd of rocket enthusiasts that witnessed our ground test. Wow!
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