High Power Rocketry: L1 Certification Flight

Finally! According to the National Association of Rocketry, I now officially have my level 1 certification in high power rocketry.

rocket launching into the air with fire and smoke below

I finished building my first high power rocket, the HyperLOC 835, back in December, but getting certified requires a successful flight and recovery of the rocket. But clubs don’t often host launch events in the winter months, and those that do are still subject to weather conditions (e.g., snowstorms). It’s helpful to have a club host a launch because you need (a) access to a large suitable area of land, (b) a waiver from the FAA to launch up to a certain altitude, and (c) launch equipment, such as launch pads and rails and an electric ignition system.

Clubs often start hosting launch events in the spring, but in spring 2020, COVID-19 hit, and things were cancelled or postponed.

I was finally able to attend a launch in June in south central Washington, about a 4 hour drive from where I live in the Seattle area.

I ended up launching the HyperLOC 835 on an Aerotech I-140 motor. The rocket is capable of dual deploy using a flight computer, but for this L1 certification flight I wanted it to be as simple as possible, so I didn’t use electronics. The recovery system was a parachute that deployed when the rocket separated using the motor ejection charge.

white and red rocket on launch pad
maiden flight

The weather looked ominous: it was cloudy, and we felt a few raindrops hitting us periodically, but it seemed to be holding steady.

The rocket launched, the parachute deployed, and it landed without a scratch in the tall grasses. The only tricky part was locating it. But since I was able to see the general area where it landed, it wasn’t too difficult to find.

yellow parachute in a sea of green tall grasses
a sea of tall grasses

Luckily the bright yellow parachute was pretty easy to spot from a distance, even though the rocket had sunk into a sea of tall grasses.

white rocket with text "improbable ventures" lying in tall grasses
a venture most improbable

Overall, it was a textbook launch and went as smoothly as could be expected! I’d estimate the rocket went about 1,700 ft in altitude, but as mentioned above, I didn’t use electronics for this flight so I can’t say for sure.

Immediately after this, I took the level 2 written exam, which is required prior to the level 2 certification flight, and I passed that (not difficult considering I’d had six months to study). It started raining more heavily, though, and we weren’t sure if we would need to call it a day and head out. But we waited another 30 minutes for the rain to stop, and then the skies cleared up and the sun came out. Perfect timing for my L2 certification flight, which I’ll summarize in my next post!