Held on Saturday,May 27, 1995 at the HALO Rocket Motor Test Facility
The following text was taken, with permission, from an article by Ronnie Lajoie, which was published in the July-August 1995 issue of the Southeastern Space Supporter, newsletter of HAL5.
It was Saturday, May 27, and we were ready for a full day of rocket testing. We had plenty of rocket fuel/motors (both HALO and McDonnell Douglas) and plenty of nitrous-oxide (N2O). The team had worked hard the previous week preparing for the tests. Tim Pickens and Steve Mustaikis had converted an old green 3000 psi tank into our new test stand oxidizer tank. The sturdier tank would allow us to safely handle it while under pressure and allow us to keep the tank pressurized between firings. A new 50-pound postal scale, purchased by HAL5 member Peter Ewing, would allow us to weigh the tank before and after each firing, thus enabling us to determine how much N2O was used during the test.
And boy did we have a lot of firing . . . attempts! By the end of the day, Steve Mustaikis and Alfred Wright had become expert oxidizer tank fillers and weighers. Unfortunately, a new oxidizer injector, designed to increase the flow of N2O into the motor chamber, did its job only too well.
In take after take, the N2O flow rate was so high that it completely blew the still-burning igniter completely out of the motor. After four attempts with a HALO asphalt motor, we switched to one made by McDonnell Douglas Dr. David Dean, also a HAL5 member. Since the same injector was used in the test casing, the results were not surprising. Two failed attempts later, with darkness rapidly approaching, we gave up for the day. We decided to switch back to the original smaller injector for the next test day.
Even in failure, more so perhaps, there are lessons to be learned. Herman Pickens grew increasingly apprehensive as he watched Steve and Al apply rather large wrenches to tighten valve fittings while filling and weighing the oxidizer tank. One wrong turn and a fitting might have broken, allowing sub-freezing N2O to spew forth under high pressure directly at Al or Steve. After some discussion, the group agreed to go with a remote loading and weighing capability, which would be faster as well as much safer.
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