Launch 98


From: Ian Kluft (
To: (Silicon Valley Linux Users Group)
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 20:20:55 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: [svlug] Win98 launches and crashes

I'll update the "Launch Win98" web page shortly. Here's the description of what happenned today.

We had to take the press people aside and begin the event with a press conference, since the crowd was big enough to get in the way of BayNAR's normal rocket-launching operations.

We had three flights that were close to the forecasted altitudes for the engine sizes we used. In addition to the previously-announced Win98 rocket with halved Win98 CDs for fins, another BayNAR member decorated an existing rocket of his as the "Internet Exploder", an obvious spoof of the similarly- named browser software, with its name and a decal of Slashdot's "Bill Borg" icon.

The first flight of the Win98 rocket used a "B" size model rocket engine. It was just a test flight. All non-MS flight hardware functioned flawlessly on this flight. After shooting up a bit less than the forecast 250 feet, the parachute was properly deployed. But one of the Win98 CD-ROM fins had a small piece chipped off in the landing. The rocket was still flyable.

The second flight of the Win98 rocket used a twice-as-powerful "C" engine. (Each letter doubles the power.) The flight to over 500 feet resulted in an uneven deployment of the parachute. The descent was still adequately slowed down but it impacted on the engine clip, bending it into a position that would have been in the way of engine thrust on future flights. The clip was repaired by using pliers to bend it back.

While we prepared for the third flight of the Win98 rocket, the "Internet Exploder" rocket had its turn. It literally exploded on the launch pad, with pieces flying in all directions. Nobody was hurt - they were standing at a safe distance because, though rare, this can happen. It was unclear to us if the explosion was intentional on the part of the rocket's builder. But the irony was not lost on anyone.

The third flight of the Win98 rocket used a composite-fuel (like the shuttle boosters) "D" engine. The launch took the rocket to about 1200 feet in altitude where a series of catastrophic failures caused the vehicle to begin to disintegrate.

Post-accident analysis indicated that the rocket's elastic shock cord, previously expected to be strong enough for flight on a "D" engine, had been weakened in the previous flights and was no longer strong enough to withstand this much more powerful ejection charge. When the shock cord broke during the ejection, the parachute and nose cone separated from the rocket body near the apogee of the flight at 1200 feet.

The parachute and nose cone couldn't be recovered, and probably didn't land on the DeAnza campus.

The rocket body fell back toward the parking lot launch site. The shiny CD-ROM fins made it easy to follow visually on its rapid return to Earth. It impacted in the gutter just across the road from the other side of the lot. The sound of the impact was audible from the launch site.

That's a half mile round trip, straight up and down.

Investigation of the crash debris indicated that the fins were all still attached until the time of impact. Two of them took the brunt of the force of the impact. It scattered a few large and small pieces around the impact point. After an extensive photography session, all pieces were recovered.

The rocket body tube and engine mount were undamaged. All the parts came along on display when the SVLUG members in attendance convened over pizza to discuss this second public display of Windows 98 crashing. (The first was at Comdex. :-)

The pieces will be available for viewing at Wednesday's SVLUG meeting.

Yes, as it turns out, the people who wanted to see a crash ended up getting what they wanted. And they got it in more spectacular fashion than we could even have planned. Although most readers robably hould haveuessed the outcome from the message subject, it was not obvious to those in attendance. Some of them expressed concern after the first two successful flights that I might have built the rocket too strong.

Ian Kluft  KO6YQ PP-ASEL                                  Cisco Systems, Inc. (work) (home)          San Jose, CA
 [As usual, any opinions expressed here are mine, not those of my employer.]